Tuesday, July 29, 2014

D&D 5e: The Bard is Back!

... and you're going to be in trouble.

Yesterday, Wizards of the Coast leaked details of the Bard. which has gotten a bit of an upgrade since the play test. Bard love is back in D&D.

Friday, July 25, 2014

1st Adventures: Development Log #4 - Dwarfs

Previously, I wrote up my thoughts and ideas around the simplicity of B/X race-as-class philosophy vs. the variety of race-class selection in AD&D and later versions. With 1st Adventures, I'm trying to walk a middle road of presenting demi-human races with their own special limited selection of classes. Here are the ideas I'm working on for my Dwarfs.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Wayne Reynolds Likes Flair

Ezren: We need to talk about your flair.

We're not in Kansas anymore.
Seoni: Really? I... I have fifteen pieces on. I, also...

Ezren: Well, okay. Fifteen is the minimum, okay?

Seoni: Okay.

Ezren: Now, you know it's up to you whether or not you want to just do the bare minimum. Or... well, like Damiel, for example, has thirty seven pieces of flair, okay. And a terrific smile.

Seoni: Okay. So you... you want me to wear more?

Ezren: Look. Seoni.

Seoni: Yeah.

Ezren: People can hire adventurers anywhere, okay? They come to the Pathfinder Society for the atmosphere and the attitude. Okay? That's what the flair's about. It's about fun.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

D&D 5e: Interrupts and Other Creative Ready Actions

There was a lot of good feedback from my last post on spell interrupts from +Wing Kearns, +Garrick Andrus+Brian Barcus and others ... Enough so that I thought it was worth writing a follow-up article.

Please read the previous article to get the proper context for this follow up... Don't worry. I'll wait.

Getting back to my earlier example:

Ranger Rick: I'd like to Ready an action. I'm going to aim at the guy in robes, but wait until it appears he is casting a spell. Then I will shoot my bow.

DM: <Perception roll> The robed man notices you are aiming at him and ducks behind the altar (heavy cover). If you take the shot, you will be at Disadvantage. It sounds like he is casting.

Rick: Darn it. Well crap, I should take the shot anyway. <rolls Disadvantage> Arg!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

D&D 5e: Spell Casting Interrupts

There's been some chatter on Google+ and the OSR blogs about spell casting interruption since 5th Edition now has a mechanic for interrupting spells which have a concentration component. Over at Semper Initiativus Unum, Wayne Rossi summarizes how different versions of D&D and other OSR games handle caster interruptions.

D&D 5e addresses the interruption of concentration spells, but inherent in its mechanics is a potential way to interrupt non-concentration spell casting using the Ready action. When a spell caster casts a 1-action spell, it is seemingly not interruptable with the rules as written. However, I believe the spirit of the rules allow for an interruption by using the reaction allowed by the Ready action.

D&D Starter Set: Quick Critiques

Back in May, I took the D&D Starter Set to task for its contents (or lack thereof). Now, that I actually have one in my stubby little owlbear paws, I wanted to revisit some of those critiques and add some observations when I actually have it in hand. This is not a full review, but really some thoughts that came from my own unboxing reactions.

No doubt you've seen the contents list elsewhere:

  • 32 page rulebook
  • 64 page adventure book
  • 6 dice
  • 5 pregenerated characters
  • 1 character sheet / advertisement

That's it. On the surface, the $20 list price seems pretty good, but when you examine what you are really getting, it seems less of a deal. For the Amazon discount at roughly $13, this set is worth the price of admission, which is a real shame because the local game store loses out on the perceived value in the Starter Set.

In my last article, I compared it to the Pathfinder Beginner Box, which has a higher retail MSRP of $35, but even at that price, the perceived value is pretty high because the Beginner Box has a lot of nice extras aside from the rule books. So, let me start by examining what the D&D Starter Set gets us.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

1st Adventures: Development Log #3 - Halflings

The other day I wrote up my thoughts about how non-human cultures will influence the classes I intend to provide in my 1st Adventures game. This generated a lot of fantastic discussion from the community and even though I hadn't planned on writing about Halflings yet, all the discussion put them at the front of the line in my development process.

I have some unique ideas for Dwarf and Elf classes, but I'm struggling with a differentiation for Halflings to make them mechanically different from Human classes.

Culturally, 1st Adventures Halflings are not unlike the stereotypical Halflings you think about when considering Basic D&D, AD&D, or even Lord of the Rings. Below is a very early rough draft on the section for Halflings.

Monday, July 14, 2014

1st Adventures: Development Log #2 - Class and Cultures

I was reading an interview recently that the "race as class" design aesthetics of the original Basic Sets came from the idea that the reader already has a stereotypical "Elf" or "Dwarf" in mind when they think of those fantasy races. It was a conscious choice by the game designers to codify that stereotype into a combined race and class in order get the player into the mindset of that PC from the moment they pick up the attribute dice to roll their character.

"I'm a Dwarf -- short, burly, and I like hitting things with my ax."
"I'm an Elf -- a lithe creature of the forest with innate magic."

Having come from an AD&D background, I was never a fan of the race-as-class idea in Basic, but reading this blurb recently made that design choice much more understandable to me, especially as I thought of the role non-human races would play in 1st Adventures.

For the base classes, I knew I wanted to go with the core four - Fighter, Cleric, Rogue, and Wizard.. However, I wanted the non-human races to feel a bit different mechanically, and the race-as-class ethos was looking more attractive.

But I couldn't bring myself to do it. I desired for some class variation in the non-human classes, but I didn't want them to be just short or lithe Human Fighters or Rogues. So I struck a middle ground and designed some custom classes for Dwarfs, Elves and Halflings.

I considered, "What might a Martial class look like for each of these races? What about an Arcane class? Or Divine caster?" I wanted to build classes that fit in with the culture I imagined for each of those races. They will have their own different flavors, but just like the stereotypical "Elf" or "Dwarf" class, these classes will feel familiar to the player. They should read the class description and think "I get this. I understand how these classes fit within the culture of this race."

I will preview my non-human class ideas over the coming days to get some feedback from the community... but I will give a glimpse:

Elf - Warden and Wildsinger
Dwarf - Sentinel and Earthshaper
Halfling - Dogfighter and Ferret (In Development)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Dice Inking the Old School Way

You can see the wear on the old die that isn't high impact. 
So I was going through my dice sets the other day in the way we partially-OCD gamers do before starting up a new campaign. Several of my precision dice were not inked or had the ink chipped away, so I needed to find a good product to refill the numbers.

Looking at some of my retirees brought back memories. For those of you not old enough, d20's used to be numbered 0 - 9 twice. You colored half the sides to designate 11 through 20. Eventually they improved the molds enough to print 2 digit numbers in the smaller space, but many of those early dice were considered "cheater" dice because all of the high numbers were on one side. Note the grouping on the white d20.

Nowadays, you only need to color your precision dice for number visibility. [Side Note: Pre-painted dice are not considered "precision" dice because the painting process rounds the corners and can alter the shape of the die. Check out Lou Zocchi explaining the process].

Anyway, getting back to the main issue, my precision dice were hard to read because most of the numbers had lost their ink. I had gone over them a number of times with different pen types, but the ink never lasted long after drying.

Then I saw my daughter coloring with Crayolas the other day and I thought, "Hmm... why not try the old ways." So I stole borrowed her silver crayon and started to go to work on my blue gem d20.

The neon Gel FX color really stands out against the green.
Surprise! It seems sometimes the old ways are better. The faces came out pretty well and I was pleased with how easy the application and clean up was.You don't need to worry about ink drying before moving on to the other half of the die.

While I used silver on the blue d20, I also found some Gel FX Crayons in her 96 color set. I had once read that these bright neon colors are good for contrast on dark d20's and they did not disappoint. The Yellow Gel FX color is a fantastic contrast on the green gem die. Crayola also has some Metallic FX crayons that I think I'll give a try to see if I can get a little more contrast on the blue die. The silver looks good, but it is nowhere as bright as the Gel FX Yellow (you can even easily read the tiny Gamescience "G" on the 1).

Crayola used to sell a separate pack of only Gel FX crayons, but these are apparently no longer available and become extremely hard to find. Ironically, I found a 4-pack in the Target $1 aisle just last week... but I think this was crazy coincidence. The Metallic FX might be your best bet for a bright high-contract crayon color.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

D&D: Inspiration and Behavioral Psychology

+Jack Mack  over at Rotten Pulp posits that the Inspiration mechanic is inherently (and objectively) bad because rewarding players for role-playing actually diminishes motivation for role-playing. His conclusion results from his review of a study on the  metadata of psychology experiments where extrinsic rewards devalued the intrinsic rewards when performing an activity. While his post is well put together, I believe his conclusions misguided due to a few factors.

1) We are not kindergarten students.
2) Inspiration is not a tangible reward.
3) There are multiple reward conditions at work when playing a game like D&D.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

D&D Basic: Quick Critiques

This is not a review so much as a few random observations I thought of as I was working through the rules. I'd like to take a deeper examination of the Basic D&D when I have a little more time at my disposal,  but for now I wanted to post some of those thoughts.

Dislaimer: I really like 5th Edition, but that doesn't mean I don't have some critiques, some of which may even be subjective personal taste. This is not an "I hate 5e" or "D&D 5 is completely broken" post, so don't take it in that vein.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Raging Owlbear Turns 10,000

Source: http://hicksvillecomics.com/1752
Just a quick note of thanks to all my readers and for the support I've gotten from the fantastic RPG blogging community on Google+.

Raging Owlbear passed 10,000 page views on July 1st -- about 6 weeks since I started really actively blogging. I'm very gratified that my feeble ramblings have attracted such positive attention from the RPG community, and I hope to keep it going for some time to come.

 Thanks for reading and keep checking back!

Marty -- the Raging Owlbear

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

D&D / OSR: Two-Hit Minion Variant

Whether you consider yourself "old school" or you play a "new school" set of rules, one of the hallmarks of high fantasy is wading into a large group of opponents, swords swinging and spells a-blazing in order to cut a swath to the big bad. Whether you call them Mooks, Lackeys, Flunkies, or Henchmen, in D&D 4th Edition they were given a specific mechanic and called Minions.

 Oddly enough, Minions were somewhat controversial because the simulationist crowd couldn't wrap their heads around a person or creature that may be "Level 4" but still only have 1 HP. Don't Hit Points represent wounds and hardiness? Do Minions die constantly because they stub their toes?

No, of course not. Hit Points are nothing more than a combat pacing mechanic. And if you want you PCs to plow through dozens, if not hundreds, of grunts like Gimli and Legolas in the Lord of the Ring what better way than to use the Minion mechanic?

Other Owlbear musings