Jul 31, 2008

Point - Counterpoint

Just another point of view

That horse just moved! Hit it again!

In true horse flogging style, we are going to stick to 4e just a little bit longer. This time, lets look at the GOOD things about it...Okay, that was fun!

Okay, okay! Sorry, couldn't resist a little "funnin". Seriously though, 4e really does have some good things going for it. Here's the list I can come up with, based on my first read through. Feel free to chime in on any of your personal likes, please refer DISLIKES to the previous post.

1.)LESS HOMEWORK - Only a true masochist can say (with a straight face) that 3.5 was easy on DM's. In fact, it was a step backwards (or forwards) from the tedious bookkeeping that 2nd edition was - to me, anyway. This was more prominent in homebrew games, as the plethora of DUNGEON magazines, as well as the scores of other one-shots and adventure paths on the market helped a LOT in this regard.

Still, how long does it take to sheet up a fully statted and equipped Cleric12/Monk6/Paladin2? About 2 hours, depending on what splatbooks you have to reference and so on. I don't claim to be a prep ninja, or sloth for that matter. I take a thorough approach, and double check my numbers once, at the end. 2. Hours. That's a long time, when the kids are going crazy, the wife wants help with dinner, and you only have 5 of them after coming home from work. Sure there is a certain sense of accomplishment you feel when you are done...but by then the house has burned down, and the kids are in college!

4e was designed very well from this aspect. It is a variant of 3e's "core modular" concept taken to a logical extreme. K.I.S.S. taken to new heights of you will. The reviews aren't kidding when they say that you can flesh out a character in HALF the time. Monsters? Smaller stat blocks, similar abilities across variants and power levels. It REALLY is a streamlined system.

2.)FASTER PACED COMBAT - Notice the word "paced" in there. This is important, as I'll explain. One has to be careful how they explain combat in 4e. It is neither better or worse than 3rd edition in most categories, MINIONS is where it gets it right. It's a no brainer that heroes want the bad guys to go SPLAT! when they hit them. It is also a gospel truth, that in 3e, having lots of minions in combat was a great way to get yourself committed. With one small "tweak" 4e fixed one of the biggest complaints of all the previous editions.

Here is where we split hairs on the wording. In my experience, and I am evidently not alone, combat tends to be LONGER in 4th edition. I blame this on a design choice that is pervasive throughout the game. INSANE amounts of hit points. An in depth mathematical analysis/playtest of 4th edition over at http://www.thealexandrian.net/ refers to this as "Padded sumo suit fighting". This can be found in part 2 of the July archives. The low damage dealt by the PC's added to the immense amount of HPs granted to monsters makes one feel like a battle involving whiffle bats.

The caveat to this, is that combat FLOWS better. There is something happening every round that alters the battlefield dynamic. The rules are built upon cooperative action, so it lends very well to teamwork. Unfortunately, the bookkeeping is still just as big as issue as it was before.

3.)HEALING SURGES & RITUALS - This is a bit of a give/take for me. IMO, these both are murder on immersion. This is not to say that they are bad. I seem to recall a similar mechanic at work somewhere in 3e that allowed you to get your CON bonus back in HP for every round you did nothing but move or take a 5' step. The source is irrelevant, however, and we won't dwell on it here.

This is a big departure from canon. Clerics, even heal-bot clerics were a staple of the game for decades. They still are, to an extent - just not like they used to be. This one gets a pass because it is squarely in the realm of "good for players". Getting greased is no fun. Especially when it's because you were doing your job. The ability to heal a fractional amount of HP a few times a day serves to stretch the adventuring day out a bit. This can only be construed as good for all involved.

Rituals are a different bag altogether. While I disagree as to their content and implementation, allowing a party to succeed without being forced to have a wizard in it is a good thing. While allowing a fighter to cast raise dead "feels" hokey, in game terms, it doesn't break or ruin anything.

4.)PERKS AT EVERY LEVEL - This is another split decision for me. As a player, "dead" levels are lame as hell. Getting the neutered 1/2 feats that 4e has been populated with is...a mixed bag. This DOES, however, fix the power creep issues, as the party gains overall power much more slowly. I am curious as to how this will pan out after the first 3 or 4 splats drop...we'll have to see, but once again, if it makes the players happy - so be it.

5.)STREAMLINED SKILLS - Overly so, IMO, but still a pass. I say this because the skills system needed an overhaul. While I disagree as to the extent it was taken, that is a bit like whining about not getting enough birthday presents.

All in all, there are quite a few thing to love about D&D. There are still warts, but there always will be. I will save the rebuttal until later, but rest assured, there will be one.

Jul 30, 2008

4E: An analysis of sorts - "The tyranny of balance"

I've been thinking more about D&D lately than I have in years. As an active player, that is to say A LOT! The more discussion and discourse that I see and involve myself in, the more evident the divide becomes. I have taken positions on both sides of the debate. 4e has merits, yes. But so does 3e. This post will address the WHY of my 3.5/PFRPG preference. If that doesn't appeal to you, no harm done, if it does - read on.

THE TYRANNY OF BALANCE

This is loosely based upon the flawed "tyranny of fun" argument put forth with great gusto from RPGpundit. Highly recommend checking out his thoughts, there's some good stuff there. At first, I was a supporter of his view, but that has changed a bit. More on that later.

Is balance a bad thing? Not necessarily. Too much red meat in your diet = colon cancer. So a balanced diet is good, balanced checkbook are also good. Like so many things, though, it can be taken to unwelcome extremes. Communism is one such extreme - of democracy. Fascism on the other end of the spectrum. No, I am not calling the great poeple working for wizards communists. It is simply an example - an allegory of "too much of a good thing".

I'd love to throw a "it's that simple" quip in there, but there's more to it. I think that wizards tapped a nerve here that they never even knew existed, and appear to be struggling to understand. In changing the dynamic of how the game actually works, they have exposed a rift between the way people play. Imagine for a moment what would happen if it was announced that in 4.5 (it's inevitable) that the role-playing elements have been found to disrupt the tactical balance of the game...and have been removed. Yeah, it's kinda like that.

From http://www.thefreedictionary.com/

dy·nam·ic
adjective.
1.
a. Of or relating to energy or to objects in motion.
b. Of or relating to the study of dynamics.
2. Characterized by continuous change, activity, or progress: a dynamic market.
3. Marked by intensity and vigor; forceful. See Synonyms at
active.
4. Of or relating to variation of intensity, as in musical sound.

noun.
1. An interactive system or process, especially one involving competing or conflicting forces.
2. A force, especially political, social, or psychological: the main dynamic behind the revolution.

I am referring, primarily, to the first noun definition. I will open myself up to critique by taking a firm stance on my "take" of what this single sentence means to my gaming experience.

In all previous editions of the game, the action centers around the individual player. Each character a unique (for better or worse) living, breathing concept, that if done properly, becomes part of a dynamic group of other unique individuals. In a discussion on www.chattydm.net/ I called this a "lone wolf" character. This was the dynamic that the game was built around. The concept of the group of adventurers. With the new edition, this has at it's most fundamental level, it is now less about individual character, as it is the role the character fills in the "Heroic Team". (I can only wonder how this will work out for a party of chaotic evil characters - you know, the every man for himself types?) essentially, the dynamic is between having a unique identity within a group, as opposed to being a required piece in a 5 part mathematical formula.

This is where things start going south for me. IMO the "Tyranny of Balance" is the problem here. It is such an issue in this edition, that the classes are nothing but flavor to sprinkle a little bit on the "role" that needs to be filled.

role
noun.
1. also role A character or part played by a performer.
2. The characteristic and expected social behavior of an individual.
3. A function or position.
4. Linguistics The function of a word or construction, as in a sentence.

Here we see the problem with this design philosophy. The word EXPECTED. This is where I lost all desire to play an adult campaign in this edition. I make a character to fill an expected role or position within a homogeneous team. Instantly all thoughts of playing out of the box needs cease to preserve "balance" as a core mechanic. We won't even get into how broken the multiclassing mechanic is...and it IS indeed broken, unless you like your sauce weak and useless, that is.

I can only wonder how non geeks would appreciate being told that their care is in the "role" of commuter vehicle, therefore it will conform to the balanced aspects of said role. That is; low horsepower, small size, static options, etc. BUT HEY! you can still pick the model and color right!? I can see and feel the nastiness trying to creep back in, so I'll tone it back down.

I do not like being TOLD how my character SHOULD be played. It's just like that. The great peoples (no sarcasm) over at Wizards have taken this edition WAY too far down the path of one-size-fits-all. The "tyranny of fun" argument was misplaced with the stupid cave slime example, THIS is where it lives. It is right at the heart of the system, not in some silly little table, buried in the middle of a book. Want to play a ranger? Good, you're the striker. Just. Like. That. Even worse, where's the customization? Everything that has been set aside for you in terms of powers are designed specifically to reinforce that role. Even within it's own framework this has problems. You cannot fill any other role. Sure, THAT particular angle can/will be fixed...after another parade of splatbooks. And thus, the cycle begins again...

I don't claim to speak for anyone but myself, my mileage has certainly varied, so I can only expect that yours has as well. I can't help but wonder where all of the 3E haters were hiding all these years. You know, the same years that brought a "renaissance" to the industry? I've also never had anyone exploit a rules loophole. I hear there are oodles of them, does this make me blind? Maybe soft headed for not realizing my game was little more than a series of "broke-suck" held together by hopes and prayers? Most of them seem to me, to be a bit over-reaching. Pun-pun? How many hours do you think it took one dude to figure that out? I'm digressing, but if you make a hobby of looking for rules exploits, I doubt you will ever be disappointed.

IMO, 4th edition came about, because they got into the same trap that TSR did, namely - bloat. No matter how cool your product is, and no matter how hardcore your audience, they aren't going to shell out 30 bucks for a product more than say 1.2 times. (the .2 covers replacement copies, just an estimate) Simply put, they were running out of products that they could reasonably sell. This, IMO is why we got a bunch of tiny hardcovers that could EASILY (some say should've) been merged into one - Elder evils and Exemplars of evil, half the Complete series, most of the FR splatbooks...you get the idea.

This is why the new edition came out. Anyone who can prove me wrong is welcome to, I'll eat crow if it's the right thing to do. It wasn't a cash grab, it was a desperate leap out of a painted in corner. Now we start anew, but the pattern can already be seen repeating themselves. Heck! The "Core" books are even being release in splat style! Don't believe me? Try playing a Barbarian today...ooohh! Too easy!

Jul 29, 2008

...Cant....resist.....angst.....Ah heck, here you go!



It takes a pretty "enlightened" person to do something like this.

I take credit only for finding it and hiding your...

OOOHHH! Bad donny!

God I love these motivationals!

Oops...n00b mistake!

Todays post was a draft I did some work on, and as such has decided to insert itself on it's original start date...the 25th. Anyone know how to fix that?

Jul 28, 2008

One word contest...Why do you game?

If you are here reading my pontifical postings, you are either a lost glutton for punishment, or a gamer. Hopefully the second, right? So, assuming you are a gamer, you obviously do it for a reason...what is the reason? Better yet,

Can you break it down into one word?

DM's - Why? Why do all of the homework - kid yourself not, for it IS homework. Enjoying it is no excuse ; ) Why put up with flaky gamers, drama, rules lawyers, and all the other stereotypical crap? We won't go into the mint you spent on your supplies, if it's anything like mine, you could always sell it for the down payment on a hummer.

There is a personal enrichment in DMing that is elusive to say the least. Is it the narration? Does it tickle the storytelling bone left over from the caveman days? Is it a power trip? Do we just enjoy seeing a long plan come together?

My personal motivations: I am a natural storyteller. My group refers to me as "the Pontificator" whose razor sharp prose has come back from the future to...wait, wrong story. See, told ya so! As I said, I love to tell stories. Stories with their own self narrating characters is just a natural destination. I enjoy it all unfolding, from the fear on a players face during a certain death encounter, to the players whooping and celebrating when it all goes right. It is a sense of...not quite community, but close.

On reflection, a part of it is also the shared experience. The ego punch you get when 6 people decide that they would rather go to your house and eat crap food in uncomfortable chairs just to hear you tell your story. It is a good feeling to have in this busy day and age when you can have relationships like that. For just a few precious hours, we can get beyond the petty things that conspire to tear us down, and just hang out - laugh, yell, and even sometimes cry, with friends. In a word, FULFILLMENT.

Players - What motivates you to spend a goodly chunk of your precious free time sitting at a table eating crap? Trusting someone (usually) not of your blood with your part in an elaborate fairy tale? Why do you endure the geek label, and stigma that still seems to follow D&D players even to this day? Why do you put up with:

http://thingsihate.org/article/123/the_worst_dungeon_master_ever_part_one

My personal motivations: Life sucks. Sure there are plenty of awesome fleeting moments, bit it seems that it usually comes down to the old wake up, go to work, be bored/miserable/unappreciated, go home, be tired, kill time, go to bed - repeat. Do it long enough, and you can take a couple of days off, then back to the grind. Is this all there is? Living in a world that tells you that you can be anything, you get used to disappointment. Escapism is why I play. It's like pretend, only for grownups. I get to imagine, just for a few precious moments at a time, that nothing else matters. For crying out loud, a honest to god king needs MY help! I get to save people and save the world! What's not to like?

In a world where it is SO easy to be lost in the faceless masses, escaping into the realm of Heroic fantasy is a no-brainer. I honestly believe if folks would just stop criticising D&D and PLAY it, WotC would be a fortune 500 company. Who cares if the stories are endlessly regurgitated? How many times have you watched the Lord of the Rings? And that was a static film production! With D&D, I can BE frodo, and make all the big calls myself. Live, die, it's MY choices. So for me, this is a cross of ESCAPISM and EMPOWERMENT.

So...I guess that makes me either an EMPOWERED ESCAPIST, no other combo rolls off the tongue. What are you?

The circle of dice...of the Elton John variety

I just checked out a post @ http://www.stupidranger.com/ titled:

It's The Circle Of Protection 10' Radius, And It Moves Us All.

I must say I am amazed. I have never really looked at my gaming years quite like that before. Though, I have one small bit to add. See, The first game I ever played was a HEAVILY homebrewed 2nd edition game that had been running with the same group for nearly 8 years at that point. High magic would be a SEVERE understatement, as Power word: KILL was a granted power at first level to followers of Abyssia the goddess of murder (among others!). I know, I know, sounds hokey - but it worked! And IT was FUN! I can see, according to this list, he was cusping between Monty Haul and Hardcore models. It was a great game, and I have some awesome memories of the two years that started it all.

That said, I think it behooves us DM's to think a moment about how we play the game. I hadn't given it a moment's thought before now, but WE influence the gamers we play with in fundamental ways. After gaming with this group as a player for two years, I was able to lure about half of the group over to a side game (in the same world with my DM's blessings) on a different day. To this day, I don't know how they survived my ineptitude! Fortunately, I had some excellent coaches that kept me on the rails, so to speak, and I was able to polish my skills to at least a dull sheen.

This brings me (in true Donny roundabout fashion) to my point. Your players learn from your example. Some are DM's taking a day off, but being the rare breed that we are, most of our players haven't DMed before (some may never) but the ones that do, are learning everything they know fron US! What kind of example are we setting?

I learned the game under a DM that played the high risk = high reward model. He allowed us to wander anywhere we wanted on the map, and was always ready to bring the pain. The massively overpowered characters were tempered by massively overpowered enemies that would make their 2nd ed. Monstrous compendium counterparts wet themselves in terror.

Where do I see his influence 13 years later? I always add 40-60% to any critters HD + max hit points. Save DC's are always +2, BBEG's are always no less than 4 levels higher than the party. In exchange, the party usually gets about +25% treasure across the board. Is it monty haul? Probably, does it matter? Not usually.

My advice would be to treat your group like they are all you're little cousins and nieces (minus the patronizing). Some of them are just there to kill monsters, and get away from real life for a few precious hours. Others are learning the ropes, and may very well be running the games your kids are going to play in.

And the moral of the story is: Bad DMing is contagious, while good DMing is often underappreciated. I wish I could find my old DM, I'd like to shake his hand and tell him that he gave me a good start.

Jul 25, 2008

Constructing a campaign...top down.

SO you want to start a campaign? Allow me to share my preferred method of campaign creation with you. In my experience, the best way to do it is to start at the top. this will be the first installment of a series showing how this particular DM would go about fleshing out a full adventure path for my group.

NOTE: The first three posts will be mainly brainstorming or "fluffing". The crunch will begin around post 4 or so.

Step 1 - The endgame scenario - Simple question, what is the party trying to accomplish when all is said and done? Let's stick to cliche for simplicity sake. The end of the world is nigh! So how will it go down? That is a choice unique to the DM and his group. When designing a campaign, I try and solicit a little bit of info from the group (they ARE after all, the audience) mine tend towards epic adventure, so we'll just have to satisfy them won't we?

Let's start with some of the better tropes in that vein:

a.)World altering catastrophic event
b.)death of a god
c.)rebirth/awakening of a terrible evil

Sweet stuff there, truly the stuff of legends! One of my favorite endgame scenarios involves a often seen, but seldom fleshed out bit of Core game legend. Tharzidun. Yes, Tharzidun. The destroyer himself, the mad god, he who will devour all. THAT Tharzidun. IIRC, He was imprisoned "somewhere" by the other gods for the good of all. Obviously, any deranged worshippers of his would be seeking his release right? There we are! the beginnings of an epic adventure!

So how is it going to happen? A ritual sounds right...an epic ritual of some kind. Mining the EXEMPLARS OF EVIL & ELDER EVILS (in all their flawed glory) lessee...epic ritual, epic spells...ah yes, EPIC INGREDIENTS! We'll get back to that later though.

Step 2 - The BBEG - In true Top down style, lets decide on a BBEG, a nemesis behind all of the travails that the party will suffer through. It is important to remember that in true fantasy gaming style, they will not confront him directly for quite some time. Instead of the cumbersome create, then constantly level up vein, we will simply make him epic to begin with. 25th level would be perfect. As his god is imprisoned and very weak, we'll say that true clerics (cultists) of Tharzidun are limited to 3rd level spells or lower until the seals of power on his prison begin to weaken. To compensate for this, we'll use the Ur-priest (Book of Vile Darkness) to fill it out. Unfortunately, it is just a PrC, but it has enough flavor to fit the bill nicely. So, we have in essence, a witch-king. We'll use Wizard to pick up the base requirements, lessee...10 levels of Wizard (necromancer) and 10 levels of Ur-Priest, and 5 levels of...hmmmm....have to think about that a bit.

Step 3 - BBEG Henchman - Moving on, the party cannot reasonably expect to go up against this guy in actual combat for quite some time, as such, we need lieutenants to carry out his will. We'll stick to generics for now, and start with a martial bad guy. Big, ugly, and feared throughout the land. I'm thinking about 15th level or so. Multiclassed Barbarian/Fighter/Warrior of Darkness (BoVD). His "apprentice" and leader of the cult's day to day operations will be a Mystic Theurge of eqivalent level. They, in turn, will each have a sub-lieutenant. THESE "subs" will be the initial BBEG's the party chips away at. They will be somewhere around 7-10th level, and be pretty nasty pieces of work by themselves.

This concludes the first part of this article. I will be revisiting this in the near future, and continuing on until we meet the party for the first time as a bunch of ignorant bumpkins hanging out in a tavern.

D&D edition wars...nasty silliness disguised as debate?

I've re-written this damned thing 5 times now...I'm DONE! Take it or leave it, it's my opinion!

So I hear there's an "edition war" going on out there. I haven't seen any fighting yet, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time until my FLGS is reinforced and staffed with armed sentries to keep the "enemy" out. Who is the enemy? You might ask, the answer might surprise you...because they are probably sharing a gaming table with you! You didn't know? Goodness, watch yourself. Any second your travelling companions could suddenly acquire at will powers and fly across the table at your throat!


If you think this sounds stupid, join the club. I refer of course, to the 4E vs. 3E debate that is currently (still - bleck!) being fought out in scattered pockets across the webiverse. A few weeks ago, I was toting my rifle (a 3e rifle if it makes a difference) and doing my part to save the world too. Luckily, after a minor bit of dickery, I was able to gain some perspective...and move on.


http://chattydm.net/2008/07/15/the-tyranny-of-funis-a-load-of-baloney/ AND http://abutterflydreaming.wordpress.com/2008/07/17/a-cogent-observation/ AND
http://scottrpg.com/scottscorner/?p=390


I have included links to a VERY interesting conversation that was part of my paradigm shift. (another point, you CAN change your mind at any time for any reason) While you're there, check out the rest of the sites and their attendant links - it's good stuff.

My own position, is that I'll stick to 3rd edition. Not because I'm boycotting WotC, but because I just like 3rd better. I won't waste either of our time justifying it, because I don't have to, and technically, I already have.


Choice is where the whole edition war begins to flounder. YOU HAVE A CHOICE!!! While it is unfortunate that there will be no more 3.X rulebooks printed, there must still be millions of them in circulation. As an aside, I still have all of my core 2nd edition books. Then there is the SRD, it's digital, and will never go away. Also, there is Paizo's Pathfinder RPG that is a community based project aimed at "fixing" the broke and suck of 3.5 with total backward compatibility. Yes there are legitimate reasons to be sore at WoTC for what they did, but NO you don't get a free pass to tell someone that they are an idiot for liking the new edition, that just makes you a jackass. (This goes both ways).


Instead, try actually listening to the other person. Forums and blogs being what they are, tend to only attract commenter's that are passionate about the subject. In reality ANY reason is a valid reason to make what is, essentially a personal choice. Disagree? Try telling http://http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4165209.stm that he shouldn't be a communist because...blah, blah, blah. Let me know how that works out, in the meantime, go play your game. Phew! I feel better already, catharsis isn't just a funny word!

In closing, There are a hundred reasons not to like ANY edition of D&D. Their validity is up to the individual. I have played 4e a few times myself. My kids like it, so it gets a pass - warts and all. That said, I don't particularly care for it, but neither will I attempt to belittle anyone who does. It's just a game.

PS - If you want to see a continuing debate on the mechanics (or lack thereof) then head on over the http://www.thealexandrian.net and read up on the play test and mechanical breakdown that a Mr. Justin Alexander details, good stuff regardless of which side of the "debate" you happen to be on.

Jul 24, 2008

A disaster? Or a learning experience?

To break in this blog, let's take a closer look at the title subject...The dreaded TPK. For those of you who are new to this, a TPK is an acronym for Total Party Kill. It is possibly THE worst way for a campaign to end.

Is this a necessarily a BAD thing? What as a DM should/could be done to prevent this? should it be prevented? Whose fault is it?

This is a difficult and multifaceted subject...allow me to shotgun it a bit. Let's start with my personal opinion. I am not an advocate of killing any character THAT DOESN'T DESERVE IT. To clarify, a "good" player that is having fun does not deserve to die. To further clarify, a player that allows any of the situations listed below to occur, earns his or her fate.

Here is a list of what in my experience leads to party wipes:

1.)Poor party planning/preparation. These can include, but aren't limited to:

- A party that allowed it's buffs to expire.
- An exhausted party plowing through "just one more room".
- A series of bad rolls and/or decisions
- Poor tactical planning

2.)Bad DMing...some will nod their heads, some will scoff at the very existence, but it's real. Examples of this can be seen in:

- Poorly designed encounters
- Omniscient BBEG's
- Poor understanding of rules
- Losing situational awareness


3.)Plain bad luck. This is exemplified by:

- A critical hit at the worst possible moment
- A max damage roll
- A fumble at the worst possible moment

So now that we have an (admittedly incomplete) list of examples, what can we do about it? Turns out that the answer to that particular question depends on what side of the table you are on.

As a DM, it comes down to a few simple things:

Know your party - a DM should always have a good picture of his/her party's strengths and weaknesses. It is the latter that needs to be examined most closely. A good example of this is a CR equal encounter with a creature(s) with damage resistance/reduction/immunity to a damage type that the party is heavily invested in. A barbarian with a greataxe is an awesome damage dealer...until he encounters a critter with DR/slashing. Suddenly the game is different, as the damage dealer has been largely nullified. A spellcaster heavy party encountering a large number of spell resistant critters likewise is suddenly at a large disadvantage.

Know your encounters - A DM should know his encounters inside and out. This is a no-brainer, but I have been amazed when playing at a table where the DM is ignorant as to why the party suffers 50% or worse casualties after EVERY FIGHT. This is an indicator that things are not right. Just because the inclusion of a certain type of monster would be thematically cool, doesn't mean that it is appropriate. Dragons tend to define this particular problem. A well run dragon will easily take down a level equivalent party in all but a surprise encounter (RARE!)

Know your players - Some players are simply not very good gamers. They may be playing a character they don't like, wasting the potential that makes their party role an interlocking part of the group. Other times it is a character playing a character all wrong...a healer type cleric who is always running up to the front lines, mace in hand is a good example of this. As a DM, it is your responsibility to make sure all is right in your group. This is not a license to shoehorn players into the roles YOU want them to play, it is a license to make sure a player is playing the character they actually want to play.

As a player, it's just as simple:

Know your DM - If you have a DM that is heavy on the hack and slash, it may behoove you to not invest too heavily in role-playing skills and feats. If this is a problem for you, then you need to bring it up, and request more role playing encounters. Your DM is only as good as his skills + your feedback make him. If nobody mentions that he is "doing it wrong", then obviosly he/she isn't going to start doing it right.

Know your character - Look for glaring weaknesses in your character's design and kit. Good examples of this include:

Making sure you have a variety of different weapons for different situations.
- Checking your spell list and including a variety of different damage types. - Using the most optimal equipment that you can afford. - Know your characters abilities. This includes skills, feats, and spells. This would seem to be a no brainer, but I bet my shorts EVERY DM that reads this article will think of at least one player that slows the game to a screeching halt because they must study their sheet like it is new to them during each round.

As you can see, a TPK can be prevented at several points in an encounter. Unfortunately, when breakdowns occur, they tend to occur quickly, and dramatically - a sort of domino effect. As both a player and DM, I find myself torn on the issue.

As a DM - If my poor planning caused a problem, then that is all me. I have allowed "do overs" before, and while not very satisfying for anyone involved, it was the right thing to do. On the other hand, if the players get wiped despite the mountain of clues, hints, suggestions, and foreshadowing I gave them...they got what they deserved. Some times the bad guys really DO win. The caveat to this, is it requires a deep understanding as to the party's reasoning - i.e. did they REALLY get the hints and clues? In the end, the dice never lie.

As a Player - Wow...we got wiped. It was all that stupid wizards fault! If he hadn't provoked that AoO, he could've fireballed those orcs before they reached the rogue and cleric. Of course, how they knew we were coming is a bit suspect (HEY GUYS! I ROLLED A 4!!) Anyways, I can think of a hundred ways we could have done it better...but we're dead.

So there you have it. One random DM's opinions of the messy premature end that occasionally comes to those in the "kill the monster, take it's treasure" profession. Understand this is a purposely abridged version, as the myriad of causes leading to a party's mass demise are too long to list and analyze in detail. How about you? Thoughts? Opinions? Have you ever been through, or presided over a TPK? How did it come about?

The first step down a long windy road...

Greetings, I am Donny the DM. Welcome to my miniscule corner of the webiverse. I am starting this blog for many reasons. I won't bore you with the long list, let's just say that sometimes you just have to go for it.

I plan to cover a wide array of topics pertaining to role-playing games in general. These will be from both player and DM perspectives. The occasional rant will be thrown in for good measure as well.

I make no promises as to amount and/or frequency of content. My goal is to update once or twice a week. I hope you enjoy the content!