Tuesday, June 30, 2015

D&D: You know... for kids!

"Let's be friends!" 
A couple weeks ago, Wizards of the Coast uploaded a new Monster Slayers PDF. Monster Slayers is an attempt to create a simplified set of rules for younger kids to grasp the basic D&D (pun unintended) mechanics.

Wizards originally created Monster Slayers: Heroes of Hesiod for Fourth Edition D&D and revised it slightly (as in, not very much at all) for Fifth Edition with Monster Slayers: Champion of the Elements.

The two systems are basically the same and only differ in the monster stats provided. The premise is fairly simple. Each kid in your group picks from several pre-generated characters that consist of typical base classes, Fighter, Rogue, Magic-User Wizard... etc. Each character has a single "normal" weapon attack and a "special" attack that may be used in specific tactical circumstances (like ganging up on a monster). Weapons do 1 point of damage unless there is a critical hit.

From a mechanics standpoint, Wizards does a fairly good job of simplifying. There are no attributes/bonuses. There are no skills. Just AC, Hit Points, Speed (in squares) and attacks. The weapon or special attack already has the bonus added to the die roll in its explanation.

"I just wanna cuddle!"
Where Monster Slayers completely falls down is in the scenario. It's basically, "Look, kids! There's a monster! SLAY IT!!!"

Seriously. That's the scenario for both PDFs. In the original, the "Heroes" are sent into an arena to kill the cutest, most cuddly looking monsters in existence. In the second, they are... wait for it... sent into an arena to kill some slightly less cuddly looking monsters. I guess the art director figured out that maybe the kids felt bad murdering huggable monsters.

Exploration?  Social interaction?  F@#% that noise.

Let's murder some Pillow Pets!

This is a monster (pun intended) of a missed opportunity. Wizards had the chance to write up a simple scenario that could have elicited some rudimentary role-playing from children... Such as a mystery scenario with perhaps a couple NPCs, a puzzle encounter and a combat or two.

But no, it's a just 4 combats. In a row. With no story or motivation other than "We like to murderize things."

This is not how to teach role-playing to kids. This is Murder-Hobos for Kids.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

OSR / D&D: Firing into Melee

In order to streamline D&D, rules like the penalty for firing missile weapons into melee were dropped in order to streamline combat.

However, for those of us who like some of the more simulationist aspects of D&D combat, some of those discarded rules are missed. Combat is chaotic. It should be hard to shoot an arrow at an opponent while avoiding hitting your allies when they are engaged in hand to hand combat.

Also, for those of us who like a little old school flavor, not only do we want it hard to shoot into combat, there should be a chance that you accidentally shoot your friend in the back!

Today, it came to me in a flash as I was looking at the Hackmaster rules. In Hackmaster, it's very dangerous to fire a missile weapon into an engaged combat. You are just as likely to hit friends as you are enemies. In Hackmaster, if you miss your intended target, your attack then targets every other creature in the vicinity until it hit one of them (or misses them all)

It occurred to me that D&D 5e has the perfect solution for this mechanic.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Dragon+ Issue 2 Review: Spoiler Alert - Still Sucks!

So Issue #2 of the new "Dragon+" dropped this past week. How is it?
Spoiler alert: It still sucks... possibly even worse than issue #1.


Before we get into content specifics, I wanted to talk briefly about the app itself.

Testing on both the iPhone and iPad, the app freezes after it cycles through the "Updating design and content" message at startup. I am able to replicate this bug consistently. Force quitting and restarting the app usually resolves the issue temporarily, but it's annoying to have to go through this process each time the app needs to update itself.

The Letter to the Editor section has a link in the app to a Reader Survey... which crashes the app whenever I try to open it. I also tried to share an article via email with myself (which worked as of the last issue)... Crash!  I also had several crashes when just navigating through the magazine. All told, they did something in this update that made the app way less stable. 

Social Media

Aside from the digital magazine aspect of the app, it is intended to be used to keep track of Wizards' social media postings. From my experience, its utility is limited. The app appears to pull the RSS feeds for the website, Facebook and Tumblr and aggregates them into a single feed.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Not Loving Friend Computer is Treason - A Paranoia Love Story

Secret Journal of THRILL-R-GON-3

I awake to the blaring klaxon of Morning Comforts in my ear. I've gotten pretty good at springing out of bed even when still half-asleep because the Pleasant-Shake-Awake-Bunk sometimes malfunctions and sends several hundred volts through the frame. I reported the not-problem with the bed to Housing Preservation Development and Mind Control (HPD&MC). The repair bot Tech Services sent 4 week-cycles later made some minor "fixes". It didn't have a mouth, but I swear it was smirking at me with its speaker when it reported all was working fine. The jolts seem to be even more frequent now, but disconnecting the power might be seen as an act of vandalism against Computer-issued equipment, so I've learned to sleep lightly.

A second klaxon breaks my reverie and I begin Morning Comforts whilst loudly singing "The Computer is my Shepherd" with my pod-mates. I've always wondered about the song. I'm not quite sure what a "sheep" is, but when I asked, I was warned that information was above my Security Clearance. I am only a Red Troubleshooter, after all. We don't get told nothing, except where trouble is and how to shoot it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

My Last GenCon

This will be the last Gen Con I will attend.

Earlier this year, I was ecstatic when my wife gifted me a trip to Gen Con 2015 (a pretty big deal since it will mean she's home alone with 2 toddlers and a 4 y.o.). I anxiously awaited badge registration, arranged flights well in advance and bought my badge on day 1 of registration.

But then, there was the housing fiasco. People were randomly assigned to a wait time in the queue between 0 to roughly 3 hours before they could register for housing, That's understandable. You can't process thousands upon thousands of room requests at once, so the only fair way is to let a limited number of people in at a time,

But that's not exactly what happened. Anyone who registered for their Gen Con badge the day the housing portal opened were immediately let into the housing portal regardless of the thousands of other attendees waiting in the queue who had already registered for their badges.

So that's a major foul up, but there are thousands of rooms in Downtown Indy so almost everyone should be able to get a good room, right?

Other Owlbear musings