It’s Alive!

The Nentir Vale is ALIVE!

That’s how I felt as I poured over my most recent WotC purchase, Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale.

So, a little background. I’ve always liked the points of light design. I like the idea that safe places of the world are few and far between. Whatever security is to be established in the world, the players will have to work for it. Nothing can be taken for granted.  It’s particularly fitting when you consider this world design is being laid over the top of an RPG that is a significant departure from its previous incarnations.  Take nothing for granted.  That’s the theme I’ve gotten from WotC over the past couple of years. Ironically enough, over time, the opposite occurred. Continue Reading »

Sometimes…..it actually makes your game better.

Two weeks ago, I probably wouldn’t have taken that statement seriously. Two weeks ago I would have told you that dice bags are all about function, bringing your “tools” to the table so to speak.  Don’t get me wrong, much like many table top RPGers, I have a bit of a dice bag fetish.  They can bring luck, or they can be “cool”. I’ve seen all sorts of make shift bags, boxes, sleeves and containers used to house the tools of our trade. I’ve used most of them through the years, from the ubiquitous clear plastic tubes that new dice are sold in, to the almost “official” feeling Crown Royal bag seen at game tables across the country. In every case, dice bags were utilitarian at the least and mildly interesting at best.  That is, until I received my first hand-crafted dice bag from Dragon Chow Dice Bags. I had heard the name dropped a couple of times on some of my favorite podcasts. The bags seemed to be held in high esteem by gamers I both admired and respected.  I thought, “Hmmm, this may be worth a look”. Continue Reading »

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.

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. Continue Reading »

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. Continue Reading »

My face to face game group had a session this weekend and it was good.  We had a really fun time as we wrapped up the Cairn of the Winter King storyline.  They’ve just returned to Fallcrest and the sandbox I’ve created there is in full effect. As we discussed the choices moving forward and started putting things away, one of my players asked me what I thought of Pathfinder.  She’s a new player, both to D&D and to 4E. I gave her the backstory on 3.0 to 3.5 to Pathfinder and how it related to D&D and 4E. She then went on to explain that she has a friend she recently found out plays Pathfinder and that she sat in on the group during one of their sessions. Continue Reading »

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? Continue Reading »

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)

This spring I’ve been doing a lot of reading.  Normally, I read novels. I like Fantasy novels for obvious reasons but Science Fiction, Historical Fiction and Thrillers are also high on my list. Lately though, those simply haven’t been scratching the itch. This has gotten me to experiment. I’ve been readying adventure modules. No, not to prep for my campaign. Not even to get ideas, although I often do. In most cases, I have no way to use the materials. Maybe they are too high in level, or too low. Maybe they are set in a different world, time, or circumstance.  Nonetheless, I’ve been enjoying them immensely. I have a rather significant back catalog of adventure modules spanning all the editions.  Reading them has been enjoyable and inspiring. Continue Reading »

Ok, so I’ve been brainstorming with a close friend of mine. We’ve been discussing the concept of RPG Hooks. We’ve mashed up several ideas about how to come up with them, how to share them, and what people can actually use.  I’ve come to realize that he and I occupy very different spaces when it comes to RPGs (and Politics!).  But this is fantastic because having a sounding board that ends up being an echo chamber is incredibly unproductive. Ultimately I’ve come to the realization that what I want and need from an adventure hook is not necessarily what you may want or need. This is simple enough in concept, but presents certain challenges to the creative process.  I will attempt to overcome these challenges as I sift through story ideas looking for interesting seeds of adventure. Continue Reading »