Archive for the ‘RPG Navel Gazing’ Category

Over on Sarah Darkmagic, Sarah has been highlighting the type of art she likes to see. She displays images, frequently with a focus on females, and states that she likes art that tells a story, that draws the viewer in. She mentions each piece specifically and what she finds intriguing about it. This is fantastic. This is a great example of how to better both art in general and the art of our hobby in particular. I’ve felt for a long time that the art of D&D needs to be more inclusive, something Sarah generally does a great job pointing out. A wider cross-section of people should be able to experience the art of our hobby and not feel objectified or exploited. RPG art is, in my opinion, best when it exemplifies the best aspects of the hobby, Adventure, Exploration, Devotion, Honor, Courage and a dozen other powerfully evocative states of being, all of which lend themselves to the concept of inclusivity.

So, how, as bloggers and as internet citizens do we empower artists, make our voices heard, and shine light on the idea that RPG art needn’t be oversexualized material that is appropriate only for a thin slice of viewers? I think the best way to do this is twofold.

1. Exposure

We, as bloggers, need to raise awareness. Much like what Sarah Darkmagic is doing, we need to spotlight such art so that others can experience it, to know what we’re talking about and to spread the word. We need to create a vocabulary of the art we want more of, to educate consumers of art and creators. We need to make sure that those artists who are producing material that tickles our imaginations while still being inclusive get seen.

2. Feedback

We can’t, as reasonable humans, expect artists to read minds. If we want something from them, if we want them to alter their focus or to use less exploitative imagery, we need to make our voices heard. Artists, to a certain degree, are creating art not only for themselves but for the public. Art is a medium to be shared.  If the artist is including elements they think are desirable, they can’t be blamed if no one ever tells them differently. As an artist myself, I can say definitively that I desire feedback any time my work is put forth for public consumption.  Were anyone to stifle that feedback, I would be disappointed.

This brings me to an image I saw the other day on Sarah Darkmagics blogs. It can be seen here

The Cave by ~Maretenebrae

The reason I love this image is because it has a real sense of tension. When you can see the enemies faces, but not the heroes face, it makes it easy to put oneself in the heroes shoes. That’s exactly what we do all the time in RPGs so this image starts off great. I also love the gradiant, lower left to upper right, dark brown to white and back to darkness. On a visceral level, it is simply powerful.

So where does it go wrong? When we’re talking about being inclusive and having art that is based on some semblance of believability, we shouldn’t only talk about including believable women.  It sort of weakens the entire movement. While I love what Sarah Darkmagic is doing by spotlighting the really great art that depicts women in a more dignified manner, I find it surprising that she finds it unacceptable to comment on some small issues in this piece. We like to talk about women wearing appropriate clothing for adventuring and that’s great. Sarah is pretty big on this, pointing out armor that covers breasts and whether or not too much skin is exposed. But in the case of this man, holding a white rabbit, something you’d only find in arctic conditions, she finds it undesirable to point out that he is shirtless. This man would be freezing!  One could argue the lack of shirt is representative of his exposure, both to the elements and to the enemies. But this is a subtlety that is easily abused in the case of women. Ultimately, I’m not sure the lack of shirt furthers the goals of the image. Do I love the image? Yes. Could it be more inclusive? I think so.

But when talking about inclusive art, is it wrong to say this image could be  moreso? Should a person who makes such a comment be told to go away and make their own blog?  Is it a good idea to create an “agree with me or leave” environment when it comes to furthering the goals of exclusivity?  As an artist, it’s not simply important to allow criticism, it’s vital. As long as the criticism is provided in a mature fashion, I find it hard to rationalize creating an environment where it’s not welcome. It does artists a disservice to try to shut down maturely expressed critical thought. To make reasoned critical thought unwelcome is to stifle creativity, both for the artist and the viewer. And good art should never strive to do this. I’ve not met an artist who would find this acceptable.

To sum it up, lets get together. Lets promote inclusive art and lets talk about it. Lets share our thoughts. EVEN those not everyone may not agree with. Lets do it in a mature fashion. Ultimately, I think this will benefit us as artists and as consumers of art. And if you don’t agree. Go start your own blog. 😉

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Ok, so the word should be out by now. WotC revealed they are hard at work designing the next edition of Dungeons and Dragons. If you missed this announcement you can check it out here. When I first read the news, I was curious and intrigued. I had been following the Legends & Lore columns of both Mike Mearls and newly re-hired Monte Cook for the last few months. I very much enjoyed their ruminations on past editions of the game, what we learned from them, and how they might impact modern design goals. The comments frequently devolved into a hot mess of hate-on-hate action but were frequently peppered with thought provoking responses. It was a heady time and a fun place to be as we all collectively speculated if these seemingly innocuous conversations had some higher purpose. It turns out they did. Hit the jump to find out how. (more…)

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Over on Dungeons Master, Wimwick has a now-complete two part article on The Future of D&D. He starts out by rating core elements of 4E D&D as being a success or failure. Unlike some of the people in his comment section, he does so without the drama of hating on Essentials or comparing the game to an MMO. After reading his articles it got me to thinking. How do I think the current direction of 4E will influence the development of 5E as well as what would I want to see in a new ruleset. Or conversely, what would I want them to change and/or learn from what they’ve done in 4E?  Having had a lot of fun with every edition of D&D I’ve tried, this is no easy question to answer. However, I have a few ideas that would make D&D even better for me and my table. Hopefully, I can discuss these ideas without breaking the game for anyone else. Let’s give it a shot, shall we? (more…)

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I was recently involved in an online conversation. A player relatively new to 4E was asking a group of more experienced gamers, myself included, about a situation he encountered and how we would have adjudicated it.  I gave my answer and was surprised at some of the answers that came back. I’d like to throw this out there and see what others think and why?

So here’s the pertinent info for the scenario:

The player in question was a Psion. He was outside a window of a small dwelling. An enemy combatant was inside the building and adjacent to the barred window. The Psion opted to use his Kinetic Trawl (Augment 2) power as he had line of sight and arguably line of effect to the enemy he could see through the window.  DDi Compendium explains Kinetic Trawl thusly:











The Psion made it clear his goal was to do damage to the enemy while trying to pull him, smashing him into the bars of the window, possibly doing more damage.  The Psion successfully scored a hit and normal damage was dealt for the attack. But how, as a DM would you rule on the forced movement?   Please answer below and explain in the comments.

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This is a simple one. D&D 4E didn’t introduce roles to D&D but it certainly did a lot to hardcode them into the design. For better or for worse, the game has evolved because of it. Some love it, some don’t.  Whether you’re a fan or not, you probably have a preference when it comes time to decide.  When you think of your ideal character in combat, are you dealing out the damage to the enemies, supporting your compatriots with healing spells, unleashing spells to harry and dissuade your foes, or drawing enemy fire to take the heat off your party?  Maybe you prefer some mix of these?  Feel free to comment, both on WotCs decision to place greater emphasis on the mechanical role of each class as well as why you like or do not like certain roles in gameplay.

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Ok, this is kind of a loaded question.  In my time on the net reading sites and forums about RPGs in general and D&D in particular, you often hear the comment that Opportunity Attacks (OAs) are tedious or that they slow combat and kill the fun. My question is this: Do they have to?

Over on Dungeon’s Master, Ameron poses an interesting question: “Are you willing to provoke an OA?” He goes into great detail discussing what exactly the motivation is, both for monsters and players, for provoking or not provoking. However, he mostly focuses on the tactical advantages and disadvantages of doing so. He rightly points out that there are circumstances that will indicate whether or not it’s the smart thing to do. He further discusses teamwork, role, and why OAs can hinder both, as well as how to remedy this. One thing he does NOT do is discuss in detail how OAs impact the fun of the game, or how recognizing this impact can mitigate the complaints I mention in the first paragraph. (more…)

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As I’ve mentioned before, I recently finished running my D&D group through the published adventure; Cairn of the Winter King. This is the adventure that comes included in the Monster Vault boxed set. It’s the typical 32 page glossy we’ve gotten to know from WotC. It’s the same format as the two-part story entitled Reavers of Harkenwold that is included in the DM’s Kit. Overall, I thought Cairn of the Winter King was a pretty good module (Reavers is Excellent BTW). The Monster Vault was an amazing product and getting a fun adventure included was a great bonus. However, in running it, I was reminded of lessens I learned long ago.  Player choice can and should make a difference, but it shouldn’t ruin the experience. (more…)

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This is an interesting question. I don’t mean the players at your table. I mean their characters.  Do they have family? I know it’s common in RPGs to have a mostly deceased family. Afterall, we need someone to avenge, or someone to redeem, etc. Backstories are great and using them to create campaigns is what great D&D is made of. But what of friends? What about that annoying cousin who always needs to borrow money? Do your players have these……..in game? (more…)

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In setting up some encounters for my weekly campaign I was digging through the Monster Manuals to find the perfect beasties to throw at the party.  I started thinking about how they like to play and what strategies they use. I wanted to challenge their character builds and strategic thinking.  I started to break down my party by class, role, and power source. I once again noticed that the party has very little power source variety.  Of the five players, four are Martial and one is Psionic. It makes for a very fluid story driven group. The way they work together makes sense and allows the narrative to flow more effortlessly. But it got me to thinking, why so many Martial characters?  So that leads me to this weeks poll. (Note: the order of the powers listed has been randomized)

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