Mar 24, 2009

To be, or not to be, in character.

Being as D&D is a Role-Playing Game, there is a basic assumption that a player (that is you) will engage in that wondrous endeavor of playing the game - in character.

In reality, I have seen this one little assumption send more prospective players fleeing for the hills! What is it about role-playing that scares people so much? Think about it:

The rules? Can't be, Installing stereos is more difficult by far.

The math? Nope, your checkbook quivers in terror, awaiting it's next ruthless balancing.

The concept? Doubt it, You think Frodo did it wrong and can to prove it!

But for some reason folks seem to get all kinds of weird when you put them in a room with 6 others (there for the same reason) and ask them to pretend to be their piece of paper...Why is this? Tell a newbie gamer that they need to "act like their character" and immediately they begin to emit fear smell.

This is because, as much as some would reduce role-playing to a longer or shorter list of skills, we all know that there is more to it than that. The skills give an excellent MECHANICAL reference, but leave much to be desired in their implementation.

Should a bluff check be as simple as rolling high on a d20? Or should it require a complex interaction between the DM and all party members that wish to assist? On the other hand, does every single interaction require 20 minutes of grumble and banter before we finally chuck the dice and allow lady luck to make her preference known?

I'd like my group to grow towards that mythical point where everyone walks into the room, secures food and beverage, and then transforms from HARRY, THE WEAK-WILLED INSURANCE CLAIMS ADJUSTER, KEEPER OF THE BLOODY DENIAL STAMP, AND PROTECTOR (IN RESIDENCE) OF HIS MOTHER


I have been involved with several groups over the last 20 years. None of these has come anywhere near this lofty ideal. Which leads me to wonder, does ANYONE actually do this? I mean, I do voices. I do notes written in runes, I do NPCs, I do secret plot developments reacting to the path of destruction left behind by the heroes...But I have never seen anyone but a DM actually...Roleplay.

My current plan is to try out a RP night. Where the assumptions of In and out of character are flipped. Everything you say is truly issuing from you meat-puppets mouth. If the DM is sold on your performance, you get a 500XP bonus.

How does everyone else do it? Is it even okay to force people outside of their boxes? What is an "ideal" role-playing experience? All questions, and food for thought to my esteemed readers.

Mar 13, 2009

The razor-edged tongue, or Quipping that monster's wings.

I should hope we have all seen at least ONE movie, or read a book, in which the hero(es) engage in a verbal joust punctuated by the ringing of steel. So how exactly DOES one do that? If your players are anything at all like mine, They are constantly dropping one-liners, and making fu of the bad guys. Some DM's would discourage this. I am firmly in the camp of "Let them have fun". After all, without them, you'd just be - ahem - playing with yourself : )

Being as I currently DM in 4E, I will be addressing this issue IN 4E. However, 3E fans rejoice(?) some of this may still pertain to you.

OPTION 1 - Aid Another - This option is by-the-rules. By delivering your one-liner at a critical moment, you distract an opponent another player is struggling against. By referncing the AID ANOTHER rules in the PHB pg.287 I won't print them because...well you should know why : )

This option allows a character to use a standard action on their turn to either add a +3 bonus to AC or +3 bonus to hit to a character of their choice. This is close to what we are trying to do...only having to trade a standard action to make a one liner that actually DOES something doesn't feel quite right.

What I'd do. Hmmmm....tough one. Given 4E's structure, I would either create a feat or a power to do this, say a vs. WILL attack? Either way we are now beyond the simple stuff and actually messing with the mechanical underpinnings...which is bad. Though, some further examination is warranted.

OPTION 2 - Add a skill - We can add a new skill, TAUNT to the short list of skills present in 4E. This would be a trained skill that would HAVE to take the place of another "conversation" skill such as intimidate or diplomacy.

Talking has always been "free" in our games, and even in 4E, IIRC, speaking a "few" sentences is still considered a free action (PHB.289). I can understand that using diplomacy or Intimidate would require more "concentration" or effort, but we're talking one-liners here! Let's make it a minor action to Taunt an opponent. This would be a basic attack (CHA or INT mod?) vs. WILL. The result would be a -1 or -2 cumuative penalty to AC, Damage, or to-hit for the insulted creature until the beginning of your next turn. I say -2 because AID ANOTHER is a +3 bonus, yet requires a standard action.

Hmmm......wonder how that would work out?

OPTION 3 - Wing it - Assign ad-hoc bonuses based on the "cleverness" of the quip, or maybe even penalties if it was truly terrible!

Will any of these actually work? Couldn't tell you :) The game is all about having a good time, and MY players are a bunch of goofballs. IMO, anything that makes them laugh until they cry or soil themselves is on the list of good things. After all, it's ALWAYS better to play with others!

Mar 12, 2009

Old School vs. New School - Or how to properly destroy something all profess to love.

The above picture was stolen from Greyhawk Grognard.
I have no idea where he in turn, stole it from. The shoe fits, so here it is.
New school

Old School


Why are we even in school in the first place? Especially when none of you seem to be able to even define them to begin with - not without fiery argument anyway.

Someone asked if we are becoming too tribal about this. I say HELL YES! This is especially important, because tribes do two things; they either go to war or form an alliance and merge together. To tell the truth, I don't want either one. Fighting over who's imaginary world is better stinks of Religion, and agreeing just to agree blends all points of view into a hideous sausage nobody wants to eat...

My question to you, my readers, who cover all points of the "school" spectrum is this: WHY?

IS it REALLY important to you to stand up on top of a soapbox and shout out to all that anything that Gygax didn't personally wipe his ass with is worthless? It can't be what is it?

Is it really gaining you or the hobby anything to hoot like a monkey and proudly proclaim that you moved beyond OD&D, but have skipped the 3E crapile? The 3.5 Debacle? I'm sure Lorraine Williams would love to have you over for dinner, you can play Dragon Dice, and reminisce over the collapse of TSR.

How about all of you who so vocally proclaim Pathfinder as your new prophet and savior, even as you shell out another 2-300 bucks to re-purchase all of your 3E books with the houserules moved from the margins into the print? "But Wizards is just takin yer moneez!" They say, while shovelling it to someone else who wants it just as badly. Forest for the trees, people?

And lastly, What about 4orons who think of bearded cave dwellers when they hear the words "previous editions"? How about those that treat them as such? WTF ever happened to the golden rule?

I am not advocating TOLERANCE. Tolerance is a poisonous placekeeper that says that the status quo is acceptable as long as "some" forward progress is made. That's bullshit. It's a form of governmental dithering.

I AM, advocating ACCEPTANCE. It's really easy. All you have to do is stop telling people that they are dumb for enjoying...


This encompasses not only the idiotic "rants" (while this IS a rant, It's un-idiotic, because I say it is) about how all new school generations are WoW addicted sheep, to someone telling you that sharing your project online is a stupid waste of time unless you are sharing a FINISHED project. It's cut and pasting forum posts from RPGNet because you really don't care and just want to pick a fight. It's refusing to give ANY game a fair chance because "ZOMG! ITZ LIK A VIDEO GAME!" - sight unseen, game unplayed.

With our hobby's acceptance into pop culture, we now, for the first time EVER, have no external enemies. No Pat Pulling, no B.A.D.D. Yes Jack chick still draws breath, but he is getting old, and only fools buy his poorly written pamphlets anyway.

In the absence of a great enemy, we ARE tribalising and attacking each other. Anyone else think this is stupid beyond belief? Can anyone provide an argument as to how this really benefits anyone? How about the hobby in general?
How's about this:

I don't care what game you play .

I don't care what edition it is.

I don't care if you love rust monsters.

I don't care if you like save-or-die.

I don't care if you like Gnomes.

It's time for us to graduate out of this school bullshit. Whenever you draw lines in the sand, others will use them for fencelines. GNS theory is a good example of that. In fact, I think this whole blogging community needs to go have lunch with Grandma again, because some of her wisdom would go nicely here. Specifically the part where she said, "If you haven't got anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

Bickering over subjectives is counter productive, at best. Can we please get back to kick-ass gaming content? As to why any of you should care? The next generation of gamer padawans (if you will) are reading these posts. Dow we really want them to START the hobby with prejudices like this? I sure hope not.
As to you other folks who have stayed away from the temptaion of Trolling from on-high, Kudos to you, and keep up the good work!

Mar 4, 2009

The RPGBloggers Anthology...first impressions

Well then, today I was sent a link of a near final draft of the much talked-up bloggers anthology. After skimming it over, and gettin cozy with it, I have formed a few distinct impressions I would like to share with you.

As a Disclaimer: I chipped in a little money to help get this thing rolling, this was even AFTER my submission was rejected : ) No dickery here, I promise!

Since I can't get into too many specifics, I am going to break this down into a couple of categories.

ART- 4 out of 5 stars - The art was an interesting mix of silly characitures(?) and filler pieces, with a truly awesome full page center piece. While it may not appeal to the newest generation of gamers who expect everything to look like a WoW screenshot, I found that the overall effect was one of retro-cool. Besides, nbody buys a gaming sourcebook of any kind JUST for the art.

In addition, the pieces were all relevant to their articles, and while different in styles, never clashed with one another. My only gripe, and the reason for the lack of a fifth star was the sheer quantity of it. After a while, some of the pieces just felt like padding. A forgiveable offense : )

CONTENT - 4 out of 5 stars - Even without my brilliance, the rest of the RPGBloggers community really stepped up with some decent content. All of our "luminaries" are present (you know who you are) and the subject matter is top notch.

My only criticism here, well both of my criticisms anyway : ) First off, this hobby, and presumably the book itself is supposedly a PG type of atmosphere. We can argue all day about this, but the fact of the matter is there are no other published supplements out there with the word FUCK in them. After years and years of official publications, maybe it's just me being a prude, but still... My other issue was more with the timing of the submissions. 4E had barely gotten it's legs under it when the call went out, and you can definitely tell by the content. Otherwise excellent, hence an equivalent 4 of 5.

LAYOUT - 4 out of 5 stars - Let me be up front on this. I couldn't format my way out of a 10 X 10 room. As such, it doesn't take much to impress me. However with a B&W book as dense in text as this one is, a clearer seperation between chapters would have been helpful. Especially from the perspective of someone who (once again) was raised on official publications wherein the chapters usually include a full page artwork with a small text lead in. Maybe i'm just spoiled.

RELEVANCY - 5 out of 5 stars - Wizards of the Coast has become something other than what it was, that is, they seem to have forgotten that their way is not the only way. This attitude is not unique. White wolf and games workshop beat them to the punch long ago in the "deaf to all external noise" department.

This book, and what it represents is the independent voices that belong to everyone not sitting in a corporate boardroom, discussing percentages and dividends. This is how we ACTUALLY play the game that they make a living telling us how to play. This is the fixed rules we have trial and errored together. This is the cool concept we put together for our best friend as a favor.

In my humble, near-irrelevant, and totally untrained opinion, this anthology - and the ones that follow it represent a new perspective on everything from what we think a missing class should look like, to how to build a good gaming group. This is the stuff we had to learn ourselves, the hard way. This book is pure gold, and if you do not get a piece of the first run then yes, we will all laugh at you.

My humble opinion has been given. Do with it what you will : )
More information can be found here

A short Gygaxian post

I have to agree with Wyatt , I never knew gary, I never met him, and I never played a true "Gygaxian" game either. From the stories, I am glad I haven't. Coming into the hobby as he was being ousted from TSR, he was completely absent from my gaming experience.

If I sound a little irreverent or cynical, that's because I am. I have always felt that Gygaxian Naturalism was a crock, and as such, was no fan of any of the OD&D line. IMO, the hobby thrived DESPITE everything it's creators have done to destroy it (see TSR and WotC) My game philosophy is script instead of random tables. It's just how I roll :)

I was originally going to rant and rave about how this hobby is rife with "Gygax this" and "Gygax that" but anything more than the slight spleen vent above would be in extremely poor taste. Instead, how's about a brand new, never-before-seen motivational poster! Enjoy.

or this one :)

Mar 2, 2009

Now brought to you in NEON ORANGE!

Boring day waiting to go to the dentist. One last tooth to pull, and the oral surgery nightmare comes to an end!

Got bored with minima black, and thought I'd try a new's a

Whaddya think? Anyone else stumble upon a really cool gaming blog template?

Going to finally get to run again this weekend. I will try and place my newest skill challenge before then. Until then, game well!