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Archive for the ‘RPG Navel Gazing’ Category

DiceSo, every 6-12 months, I see a thread pop up on RPG sites around the net. The concept is one of Active Defense. What does this mean? It means that, instead of monsters making hit rolls against PCs, the PCs are making defense rolls against monster attacks. Seems simple enough right? Right. So why does it keep popping up around the net but we don’t see a lot of rule sets designing their games around the concept?  Well, first of all, we actually do see a lot of games using this approach. However, they’re not doing it directly or consistently so sometimes people don’t even notice that it’s already happening. The other reason is that over time, many games have been moving away from the concept and I think that even though gamers didn’t know they were already doing it, they are noticing it now that it’s gone. (more…)

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Tomb of Horrors OriginalI recently had lunch with one of my players and we discussed the current state of our game (and he very kindly commented that I’ve been ignoring this site). Beyond the general consensus that people are having a good time and seem to be looking forward to each upcoming game session, the idea of momentum was briefly touched on. It got me to thinking. I’m currently running a lightly modified version of the 4E Tomb of Horrors. As a module, it plays quite a bit differently from what we’ve been doing. Over the past year or so of play, we’ve been very story focused. The mainline plot has gotten a lot of attention and has developed from a nascent threat against a few small villages into a full fledged regional destabilization. The group just reached level 11 and so far the threats they’ve faced feel about right to me. However, in The Tomb of Horrors, things are different. It’s not nearly as story driven. It’s really more of a set piece than a story, although there is some narrative behind it obviously. There is a reason for its existence and the powers behind it do create a sense of mystery (and a pretty serious problem) that needs to be solved. Now, keep in mind, this is a D&D “super” adventure. That means it’s one of those big, hardbound books, chock full of traps, combat, enemies and more. It’s meant to be run over a long period of time and across many levels. It ranges from Level 10 all the way to Level 22. The way we’ve been playing, that will take at least a year. (more…)

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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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