Tuesday, September 30, 2014

D&D Encounters: Bored of the Dragon Queen

Disclaimer: I'm a big fan of the D&D Encounters program... but I believe Hoard of the Dragon Queen may not always be the right fit for the in-store play events. I hope that perhaps WotC can take away some valuable feedback from my experiences for future iterations... Read on.

UPDATE: After you read this critique, please read my follow-up article, which will give a little more context and show ways I think D&D Encounters modules could be much improved. Thanks!

So I've started playing in the D&D Adventurers League (D&D Encounters mostly, with an Expeditions adventure when opportunity arises).

If you are not familiar, D&D Encounters is the Friendly Local Game Store-based D&D event that is run weekly. Each season is a different adventure module that runs for several weeks in an episodic format. As a player, you can drop in or out at any time since each session can stand alone. Continuity is somewhat hand waved to allow players to join in on any given week when they can get out of the house. It's a good way to introduce new players since each session runs for only 2 - 3 hours, and a good way to game weekly if you don't already have a group that meets regularly.

The only real criticism of the D&D Encounters model to this point is that it tended to be a bit combat heavy under 4th Edition. In prior Encounters seasons, most sessions have had 2 combats. Since there is only a small amount of time for a given session, the DM often has to push through the role-playing opportunities to get to the battle scenes, especially given how slowly 4th Edition combat played out. D&D 5e alleviates much of this issue with significantly quicker combats. But, that doesn't mean the D&D Encounters format doesn't have any problems (which I will get to shortly).

Despite criticisms, I'm a huge fan of the D&D Encounters model. It give players who can't always commit to a regular game the opportunity to just drop in at any time. Like a pick-up game at the rec center basketball courts, you just show up and join a team. It also presents the opportunity for new players to get a taste for the D&D mechanics and allows them to meet groups of people who could potentially become their regular gaming group. From a community outreach standpoint, it's an excellent and seemingly successful program.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

D&D / OSR: Djara's Artifacts

Along time ago, around the Time of Troubles, there lived an adventurer whose famed explorations were told and retold so many times over the years that it is no longer clear what is fact and what is fiction. The tales of Djara the Adventurer have only grown in hyperbole as they have in popularity. Her legend has become treasured by the peoples of the South
and has overshadowed any real accomplishments she may have actually achieved in life.

There is even debate about her profession. Some literary works claim she was a Ranger of great renown while other histories read that she was a wondrous Bard who could spin a tale that would impress even the most jaded audience. This may explain why her legend has grown so, while other more accomplished adventurers have faded into obscurity.

It is thought that she was from Amn, or perhaps Tethyr or Calimsham, but several sources have cited her origin as from the far-off lands of Maztica, coming only to Amn at the beginning of her explorations.

What is known for certain, is that she had 3 powerful artifacts at her disposal, without which many a journey would likely have come to an unfortunate end.

[Note: The game mechanics in this article are presented in fashion of D&D 5th Edition, but can easily be converted to any version of OSR or D&D-inspired games.]

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

D&D 5e Background: Teller

Teller (Entertainer Variant)

You wander the countryside keeping an ear to the ground for news of current events or even bits of gossip. For a hearty meal and a mug of ale, you will share your news and tales of heroics with the common folk of events from remote (or even not-so-remote) lands. Unlike a common minstrel, the stories you tell are intended to inform as well as entertain. You try to ferret out truth from rumor, but are not necessarily averse using either for your own ends. You get to know the movers and shakers in regional politics and learn where the centers of power reside. Depending on your outlook, you may be giving power to the people or working for The Man.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

D&D 5e: Player's Handbook - Quick Critiques Part 2

Artist: Daren Bader
In my last critique post, I discussed my issues with the art of the new Player's Handbook. In this article, I'm going to discuss some observations I noted related to character generation.

To be clear, I’m loving 5th Edition… I saw some jokingly refer to it as 2.5, which seems fitting. It “feels” like AD&D 2nd Edition (before Skill and Powers destroyed it)… It feels like what 3rd Edition should have been instead of the complex beast 3.x became. This is how Feats should have worked when they were added to AD&D.

Most of my critiques are more minor observations about things that annoy me. They’re subjective as any critique or review is. I won’t go too much into system analysis since there has been a lot of this since Basic D&D was released, but I’ll quickly note what I like before getting into the (hopefully constructive) criticism.

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