Wednesday, October 10, 2018

GM 101 - Why I Don't Fudge the Dice

Last year, I wrote about fudging dice rolls, but this topic has resurfaced due to a video Matt Colville put out the other night. In Matt's game, he is free to do what he believes is right for his group, but I think his take is bad advice for new Dungeon Masters. I think he glosses over potential problems at the table that may result when a DM fudges the dice.

Fudging die rolls can remove player agency and break the trust between a DM and the players. I'd hesitate to use this as a tool. It's unnecessary, as there are multiple other tools in a DM's toolbox to mitigate an evening of bad luck... and even a night of bad rolls can be fun and epic.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

D&D Is My Lifestyle Brand

D&D T-Shirt model
Need a t-shirt?
There is an infamous asshat curmudgeon who likes to complain that D&D has become a "lifestyle brand". The complaint is that Wizards of the Coast is more interested in selling D&D shirts, hats, bumper stickers, or what not, and not actually promoting the tabletop game -- that D&D "brand consumers" are more important to Wizards of the Coast than D&D players.

Who's got two thumbs and doesn't give a shit?  THIS GUY... and a lot of other people actually.

Here's the thing: More marketing for D&D is AWESOME. Seriously... When I go into Target and I see a D&D t-shirt on the rack I think,  "F*CK YEAH!"  Honestly, I would start shouting "F*CK YEAH!" all over the store if there weren't security concerns.

Source: 2warpstoneptune
Do I care if the person buying the D&D t-shirt has ever played before?  F*CK NO.  This is exactly why I want to see D&D art and logos on t-shirts, hats, coffee mugs, jigsaw puzzles, puffy stickers, Trapper Keepers (make it happen, Mead!), GMC cargo vans... Put the logo every-freaking-where.

Because that's how you attract new players!

If you don't get that, you are a moron.

Sure, I understand the counter point. I know Hasbro is looking enviously over at the Marvel Cinematic Universe and salivating over the money fights happening in the executive lounge. But that honestly doesn't matter. Any marketing of D&D as a wider brand also builds the player base, and that is the key to a vibrant table top community.

Because kids, I remember the Dark Times... Let me tell you a story.

Dungeons & Dragons portfolio
Source: eBay
Once upon a time, Gary Gygax had to defend Dungeons & Dragons on 60 Minutes as a game of fantasy and imagination, and not occultism and devil-worship. D&D was even forbidden at some schools. Think about what it felt like when playing D&D was considered weird... when people were ashamed to admit they played the coolest game on Earth.

Even though D&D audience was growing then (although not like today), I also recall the time TSR was mismanaged out of business and D&D had to be saved by a buyout from Wizards of the Coast.

Think also about what it was like living in the mid-to-late 1990s when table top RPGs were rapidly spinning into decline and bankruptcy. It wasn't just TSR. West End Games... Game Designer's Workshop... Big names in table top were disappearing completely, along with their IP.

So, when I'm out wearing my D&D t-shirts, like I did this past weekend at the local Oktoberfest, and at least 4 different people stop me to say "Cool shirt!", I reply

F*ck yeah!

D&D Basic art on a van
Shopping for my future ride...

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

D&D Dragon Heist: Random Miniatures Suck

Trigger warning: Rant incoming.

I’ll never learn. Every once in a while I swear off random miniatures “for good”...

Then, a few sets go by which I avoid, or only buy a few singles, until one comes along where I’m all like “Hey, I could get a Griffin...  a War Elephant... a Beholder!”

Bzzzt! Dumb ass.

This is not entirely my fault. WizKids has this F’d up distribution where it’s actually likely that you may not get a Rare. Many boxes come with two Uncommons instead.

Not only that, but the Dragon Heist miniature Uncommons have some serious crap. In the few boxes I opened, not only did I not get a Rare miniature, I got the crappiest Uncommons in the list -- the Animated Door and the Vargouille.

Who f-ing idea was it to put both a Common and Uncommon Vargouille in the set? Who even uses that stupid-ass monster? I’ve been playing the game for 40 years and not once have I used or encountered a Vargouille. Not only that, but it’s a craptacular sculpt… and Animated Door? Really? How about something useful?

Animated Door - Vargouille
Seriously gang... Whose stupid ideas were these?

I get that sometimes you have to mix the popular, larger, and more expensive sculpts with ones that are cheaper to manufacture in order to keep costs down. But some of the minis is recent sets are just plain useless.

So here I am with an Animated Door and a Vargouille. I literally would prefer any other miniature from this set over these two pieces of Uncommon garbage. Heck, I can’t even find a damn non-random, unpainted Beholder... but that's another topic altogether.

I will never f-ing learn.

WizKids, you can do better.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Hommlet - Best of D&D 4e

The Village of Hommlet 4th Edition cover
While the new cover art was pretty cool, it
did a poor job of illustrating the module itself.
Best of 4th Edition, Part 4 - The Village of Hommlet

Wait, what?!? I thought this was about the Best of 4th Edition... 

It is!  You see, during the D&D Encounters days, Wizards of the Coast gave out a limited edition, revised version of the Village of Hommlet to D&D Encounters DM’s. They later reprinted these revisions in Dungeon #212.

In this revision of Hommlet, they altered some of the encounters a bit to tie the moat house bandit activity directly to Lareth the Beautiful’s overall plan. The changes to the encounters give the adventure a bit more internal consistency.

However, Wizards had to fit the moat house on a single poster encounter map, so the scale of the fortress was altered (to the chagrin of some). The revision also includes a bit more detail on the major NPCs and the “delve” page format of the 4th edition version makes it easier to run.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Dungeon - Best of D&D 4e

Dungeon #221 cover
Dungeon #221, December 2013
The Best of D&D 4th Edition, Part 3

Be sure to also check out Part 1 and Part 2.

As noted in my prior article on The Chaos Scar, product support for 4th Edition flourished under the Dragon and Dungeon PDF publications as a part of D&D Insider subscription. But what became one of the gems of the 4th Edition digital tools, had a bit of a rocky start.

In 2007, Wizards of the Coast announced Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, which also marked the end of the print publication of Dragon and Dungeon Magazines. With the last issue (Dungeon #150) scheduled for release in August 2007, many fans of the magazines, myself included, were saddened and outspoken on forums about the demise of the print support.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Chaos Scar - Best of D&D 4e

Keep on the Borderlands

The Best of D&D 4th Edition, Part 2

Wait! Be sure to also read Part 1 of Best of D&D 4th Edition.

The 3rd Season of D&D Encounters (which later became Adventurer’s League) introduced the Chaos Scar in Keep on the Borderlands: A Season of Serpents. This Encounters season was a thematic hommage to the original B2 - Keep on the Borderlands module from 1980. It was not written as a conversion of the original module, as the Caves of Chaos were replaced by the Chaos Scar, a much larger ravine created hundreds of years prior by the crashing of a chaos-infused meteor from the Far Realms into the lands.

The Season of Serpents module was divided into 5 chapters, with 4 distinct 2-hour scenarios per chapter. The plot outlines a power struggle between Zehir and Tiamat cultists which involves machinations to control the Keep itself. Due to the D&D Encounters format (and the limitations thereof), the adventure is a fairly linear checklist of pre-defined combats to be run at game stores in order to introduce new players to the game. But, it is a fun adventure and the Chaos Scar setting itself was also supported through articles in the Dungeon Magazine PDFs, which immensely strengthens the overall utility of this module. The right DM can cobble the D&D Encounters module along with all of the supporting materials into a nice low-level sandbox campaign.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Reavers of Harkenwold - Best of D&D 4e

Reavers of HarkenwoldThe Best of D&D 4th Edition, Part 1

If you skipped D&D 4th Edition for whatever reason, you missed out on some amazing adventure content. Wizards of the Coast was testing out a different adventure designs with a publishing layout format requiring individual encounters within an adventure to fit on two pages only (mini-map included).

This format had its pros and cons, but despite its eventual abandonment, the format appears to have wrestled the creative juices out of the designers at the time (or perhaps in spite of it). The longs and short of it is that some of the adventures written for D&D 4th Edition are some of the best I’ve ever run over the course of many editions (for whatever reasons).

In this multi-part article, I will detail some of the best adventure content to come out of the core product and Dungeon Magazine teams that can be adapted to your D&D 5th edition (or any edition, really) game.
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