Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Is D&D 4e the worst edition for role-playing?

TLDR: No... but you know the algorithm rewards click-bait headlines.

As I was re-reading some of my older books, I had a re-revelation about about some of 4e least-fair critiques, one of which being that D&D 4e doesn't support role playing mechanically.

Now, to be fair, no D&D edition support role playing with very robust mechanics. It is assumed you will play out any NPC conversation with the DM and they might call for a skill roll. That's pretty much it.

But D&D 4th Edition actually adds an element of social mechanics through Skill Challenges. There may be a role-playing goal the party needs to achieve such as a negotiation which may consist of a number of successful skills checks to convince the NPC or group to help the party. The PCs may bring different skills to bear such as Diplomacy, Deception, Insight, Intimidation, or even Performance... Basically anything that might win over the NPC in the negotiation.

This could be a diplomatic negotiation, an interrogation, rallying troops to improve morale before a battle, winning a contest of wits... Basically, it could be anything that relies on the social skill of the PC's. 

Skill Challenges can also be used for physical events that require multiple checks such as a chase scene, or finding one's way out of the wilderness, but my observations are more about the role playing aspects of these challenges. I also discuss the character generation process within the Player's Handbook and how that supports the role playing aspects.

I understand 4th edition is nowhere near perfect. It certain has its flaws. But I also believe those flaws are often exaggerated because reasons. Regardless, I hope you enjoy my video observations on role playing in 4e. In future posts, I'll likely explore the absolute gems that are the 4th Edition Dungeon Master's Guides. Please like and subscribe to help me out with the algorithm! 

Sunday, February 25, 2024

D&D: A Better Way to Fudge Dice

 As it happens every 6 months or so, the topic of fudging the dice comes up.

I’m probably not going to change your mind on fudging, but I stress that should be a Session 0 topic for your game. Disclose to your players what kind of game you play so everyone is in agreement.

That said, I think there is better way to fudge. Will you take a few minutes to hear me out?

B/X-5 Revisited - Redesigning 5e classes for a low power game

Hey there D&D community,

If you've tuned in to the blog over the last 10 years, you might know I've been working on a redesign of D&D 5th Edition classes to make something a little bit more like old school D&D. 

So, as my ZineQuest Kickstarter (only $3!), I've resumed this effort and am working on Warrior, Priest, Mage, and Rogue classes as well as 3 ancestry specific classes -- the Dwarf Earthshaper, Elf Warden and the Halfling Ferret. 

I thought I may find a happy medium between the very simple design of Basic/Expert D&D and today's 5th Edition bells and whistles. I talk a little bit more about the design goal in the video,, but please check out the Kickstarter here

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Episode 13: The Finale - Running Storm King's Thunder

Another year gone by and it's finally time to put a fork in the Storm King's Thunder series. It's done. Sorry for the long overdue update. Life sometimes gets in the way. 

In this video I re-summarize the major changes I made for Slarkrethel and Iymrith and mull over the rush up to the final battle. While the battle itself was not terrible, mistakes were made and it didn't end quite as planned. What lessons are to be learned from this?  Timestamps follow.

00:00   Intro
00:40   It's been a year. Yikes.
02:00   Summary of Recent Events
02:58   Trying to wrap up the campaign in 2 sessions.
05:45   Changes I made to the Storm King adventure
07:29   Slarkrethel's Motivation
11:00   Iymrith's Motivation
12:55   Klauth's Motivation
16:00   Slarkethel's Plan
17:00   Hekaton's Rescue
21:30   Maps and Props
24:45   The massive 3D battle map
27:40   Why the battle didn't quite work
29:00   Spreading themselves too thin
32:30   Buffing up Iymrith
33:30   Splitting combat duties between the giants and PCs
35:30   The Dust Storm Lair Action
40:55   Time has run out.
41:40   Taking the "L"
42:35   The Big Disappointment
43:30   What Could Have Gone Different?
47:00   Should I have gone easy?
48:30   How It Should Have Ended
52:25   Final Thoughts
55:30   No Hollow Victories
56:40   Lessons Learned?
58:00   Outtro - Like and Subscribe

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Review: Lord of the Rings Roleplaying 5e

Back after a long hiatus. This week I take a look at Lord of the Rings Roleplaying (5e) and talk about how it compares with The One Ring and its 5th Edition predecessor Adventures in Middle Earth. There were some strange choices made by the designers of this RPG which I note around 14:00. I discuss Jouneys, Counsels, and other mechanics specific to this game. Chapter timestamps below (sorry about the audio delay in the middle).

TLDR: This is an excellent adaptation of The One Ring to 5th Edition mechanics. However, if you are not adverse to trying a new system, consider picking up The One Ring instead, which in my opinion captures the "feel" of Lord of the Rings slightly better than the 5th Edition mechanics.

Lord of the Rings Roleplaying -
The One Ring -

Side note: I forgot to mention in the video that if you have any Adventures In Middle Earth books, do not fret. Adventures are almost entirely compatible and will likely translate with minor adjustments. Any cultures not in the core book will need some adjustments to fit the new design.

00:00  Intro
00:25  Overview of Lord of the Rings Roleplaying and The One Ring
02:00  Setting of Lord of the Rings Roleplaying and The One Ring
04:10  How Lord of the Rings roleplaying adapts 5e mechanics
04:50  Cultures (similar to Races in D&D)
07:45  Callings (similar to Classes in D&D)
08:30  How Callings maintain the lower magic feel of Lord of the Rings
    09:25  The Captain
    10:38  The Champion
    11:20  The Messenger
    12:32  The Treasure Hunter
    12:54  The Scholar
    I forgot the Warden which is somewhat like a D&D Ranger (or a LotR Ranger, for that matter). 
13:58  Some 5th Edition rules are missing from the book.
19:50  Journeys
24:12  Differences in Healing and Resting
28:20  Patrons
30:10  Counsels
31:50  Shadow Points
34:06  Differences between Lord of the Rings Roleplaying and Adventures in Middle Earth
36:30  Skill Differences
41:30  Is it a buy?
44:55  Maps of the Shire and Eriador
46:50  Outtro

Sunday, October 30, 2022

The Weird and Wonderful World of D&D Merchandising

Official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Woodburning Set
Official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
Woodburning Set

In the 80's at the height of its popularity, Dungeons & Dragons was somewhat known for its vast and sometimes odd licensed product tie-ins. Back in the day, there were the standard items like puffy stickers, action figures, model kits, and beach towels... but there were also some pretty far out stuff like official cross stitch patterns and even a wood-burning kit!

Well, everything old is new again. With the exploding popularity, new product tie-ins are bound to pop up and many have. Some are obvious and expected, while others are maybe just a little off. And of course, there are also those few that are less-than-officially-licensed.

This week I'm taking a look at a few items that might make good gifts... or at least good gag gifts for your Dungeons & Dragons loving friends.

Nerds mascots dressed in D&D attire

D&D cherry potion candies
Last year, there was an unexpected splash when Wizards of the Coast partnered up with Nerds candy. There were even several single-player, single-DM adventures published along with the candy if you turned in your proofs of purchase. You can still find some of the D&D Nerds online, but I don't believe you get those adventures anymore... well, unless you don't know how to Google, that is. 

But did you know there was another over-priced candy tie-in? Apparently, you can get some tiny cherry sours in the shape of healing potions in a Altoid-esque d20 tin. You should probably skip the reviews if you're going to dole out about $7 for what amount to a few rolls of Smarties (and a quite stylish, but also quite small tin).

D&D Clue and D&D Monopoly

Some other product reskins aren't too surprising given Hasbro's domination of the board game industry. Dungeons & Dragons CLUE is not even such a terrible idea. Murder mystery games are always fun and CLUE is a classis family game... even if it does involve murder. D&D isn't exactly known for non-violence anyway.

D&D Adventure Begins board game

D&D Monopoly, on the other hand, is not quite as good a fit. I mean you buy monsters, I guess? And then rent them for... people to put in their dungeons, I suppose. It seems it's a cottage industry in Faerun, apparently. I am hesitant to recommend Monopoly for any family game night as actual violence may erupt. Perhaps avoid the bloodshed and tears and get the cooperative D&D Adventure Begins game instead.

Back in the day, it wasn't all that uncommon to keep all your D&D related paperwork in something like the classic Trapper Keeper. Unfortunately, there is no D&D branded Trapper Keeper... yet (Are you listening, Wizards?). But that doesn't stop you from decorating you notebooks and binders with D&D stickers galore

Official and not-so-official D&D stickers

School organizer with monster face
Of course, I'm not certain all of these are officially licensed properties, so you may want to get your hands on some before Hasbro's lawyers do. In any case, even if we don't have an official Trapper Keeper, you could always pick up something that looks a wee bit like a Binder of Devouring.

I was really hoping to find a beach towel because I missed out on the classic AD&D version. Though there were some pretty cool dragon related beach towels, I didn't find anything specifically branded Dungeons & Dragons until I found this pretty rad dish towel!

And while we on the subject of house wears, along with your dish towel, you can also find some D&D throw pillows and a fuzzy D&D throw blanket for your D&D futon couch.

D&D dish towel, throw pillow, and couch blanket

And as long as we're lounging around the house, you'll want to make sure you have some D&D pajamas. I mean, t-shirts are old news. If you're going to go for the look, you have to have the D&D hat, D&D hoodie, D&D socks, and the D&D underwear. To get that butt, I'm going to need a D&D treadmill.

Sexy times with D&D boxers and panties

Lastly though, if you're going out, bring your D&D wallet secured by an enchanted chain giving Protection from Pick Pockets (and most probably Protection from Women). Also, don't forget your D&D umbrella in case of rain... or Acid Splash.

D&D wallet and D&D umbrella

OH MY GOSH... I almost forgot.

So you can __________ (verb) your ________ (noun) while writing ________ (adjective) anecdotes about the world's __________ (adjective) game.

Of course no article would be complete without showing how we did it back in the day...

Binder covered in D&D stickers D&D with notebook.

Not gonna lie... the D&D postcard set is pretty cool.

D&D postcard set

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Episode 12: The Rescue - Running Storm King's Thunder

It's been a year (!!!) and it's way past time to update what's going on in SKT. In this video I talk about the ideas I had for the Golden Goose and the Morkoth... and how to spice up those encounters to build tension and fun as the group closes in on the end game. I hope you can use some of these ideas for your own table. Timestamps and some pics from my crafting follow.

00:00  Intro
00:28  One year already?!? What happened?
03:25  Maelstrom re-cap
05:19  Setting up the Golden Goose encounter
07:15  Ideas for the Golden Goose mystery
    09:00  Side bar about the Aboleths, Mind Flayers, and otherworld sea creatures
    10:40  How the Kraken controls its important cultists
12:10  Golden Goose Booze Cruise
15:52  Confronting Drylund
    18:00  Easy crafting for the Golden Goose
    20:00  How 2.5D terrain helped the combat encounter
20:45  The Golden Goose combat
25:05  Here comes the Baby Dragon Turtle!
28:00  I see dead people.
28:25  Finding Hekaton -- we need a boat!
30:35  Search & Rescue Skill Challenge
32:15  Broadsides with the Morkoth
    33:35  Easy crafting for the Morkoth
39:20  Why is the Kraken sinking the Morkoth?
41:20  Hekaton's Rescue and setting up the end game
43:20  Wrapping up and idea summary
44:25  Please like and subscribe!

Other Owlbear musings