Thursday, February 27, 2014

Top 5 Editions of Dungeons and Dragons

1> Pathfinder
2> Dungeons and Dragons 3.5
3> Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
4> Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition
5> Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition

Controversial list right off the bat because I chose a non-Dungeons and Dragons title for number one. When Wizards of the Coast (WOTC from now on) released Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition Paizo bought the former DnD 3.5 rule base from WOTC. They reworked it, improved it and released it as Pathfinder. Many have called it Dungeons and Dragons 3.75.

Pathfinder tops the list because it is the evolution of the spirit of Dungeons and Dragons. It cleaned up issues that had been bugging me for decades and kept the original feel of Dungeons and Dragons. DnD 3.5 is number two because it refined the newer concepts of 3rd edition. Advanced DnD was the first edition of  DnD that tried to provide more structure to the rules started with the Original Dungeons and Dragons (aka White Box). ADnD 2nd Edition added new tweaks for characters and more ways to define them. DnD 3rd Edition introduced Feats, where characters could have abilities that altered the way other character features worked or enhanced skills.

Not on the list (no particular order)
Dungeons and Dragons Basic Rules (Red Box)
Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition
Dungeons and Dragons Next (5th Edition, not out yet)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Archetypes: How do you want to see your character?

What is your character's motivation? If you take a few minutes to figure that out when you create your character it will make his or her back-story easy to figure out. Here are a few but I am sure there are some I have left out.

Heroic: It was apparent from the time he was young that he was destined for greatness. Even when over matched he seems calm and confident. No matter the odds he will be giving it his all. James Bond is a good example of a heroic character.

Reluctant Hero: Drafted into service by circumstances beyond his control.  If he had his way he would be a humble inn keeper or farmer. It is only by grim determination and the need to protect those who cannot fight that he keeps adventuring. Someday, he will lay down his sword for the last time and live a peaceful life in anonymity. John McClane of the Die Hard movies is a reluctant hero.

Sidekick: Friendship to another hero is what motivates him. He may like money or fame as much as anyone but he will work for free if his friend is taking on a task. No task is too large and he will not shrink from impossible odds. Moonglum from the Elric series is the classic sidekick.

Duty: This hero has always seen it as his job to serve the greater good. He may not be as smart or strong as the other heroes but he knows what he must do. He can be cheerful or grim but he will not be frightened or bribed from his assigned tasks. Harry Dresden of the Dresden series is very much motivated by duty to protect his friends, Chicago, Earth and the Nevernever.

Fame: This hero wants to recognized for his talents. A statue would or a day in his honor would be a start. Someday people all across the kingdom will cheer his name and thank him for all he has done. The character Richard Rider (Nova) from Marvel Comics is very much looking for fame at least at the start of his career as a super hero.

Fortune: Your character wants gold, lots of it. His greed will win out if faced with overwhelming odds or fear every time. The Johnathon character from the Mummy film series always forgets his fear when he sees treasure no matter how much trouble it seems to cause him.

I admit I usually play the Heroic archetype. When I play Clerics and Druids in DnD they usually end in the Duty or Sidekick archetypes. The Decker in Shadowrun may start with Fortune as a motivation but circumstances on a run can turn him into a Reluctant Hero (happened to me). What do you like to play? Is it a combination or one that I may have missed?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Top 5 Really Cool Monster/NPC Deaths

1> Blurp: Druid casts Rock to Mud on a mountain pass that mutant creatures were moving along...death and burial in one easy step.
2> Ka-Runch: hasted, armored, giant strength fighter shield bashed Lich against a stone wall
3> Watch you step: Cast Dig in front of a charging cavalry unit; bonus Obscuring Mist
4> What goes up: Levitate cast upon an Ogre, allowed to rise to the limit of the spell and dropped.
5> Argh!: A fire glyph placed next to a piece of minor equipment where the party had passed....a goblin "found" it!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Vaclav Smil is brilliant

I know I usually write light and fluffy gaming stuff. This entry is a bit different. I am not a big fan of reading non-fiction. I generally find it too dry and at the mercy of the author's political affiliations. Having said that everyone needs to read some Vaclav Smill.

In 2010, the Economist, website declared the computer the most influential technology of the 20th century. Professor Emeritus Smil represented the opposition  in the online debate. I make my living with computers as a database monkey and have for decades but I have to admit his arguments for advances in agriculture won me over. The crux of his side of the argument was without the synthesis of nitrogen developed in the early 1900s we could not feed 85% of the 7 billion people on this planet compared to only feeding 66% of a much smaller population at the turn of the century.

He does not shrink from controversy either. He has stated in multiple papers and sources that alternative energies as we know of them are 50 to 60 years away from being our primary sources of fuel. He believes that conservation is the answer. He is living that way himself. 

I first heard about Professor Smil in an article on That sparked my curiosity and now I am hooked. I have linked the Wired article and Vaclav Smil's website publication list below. His papers in the list are short, sweet and he get right to the point. You might not agree with everything he says but his writing does make you think.

Back to gaming...Origins pre-registration is up!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Top 5 Strange Character Deaths in an RPG

1> Died during character creation - Traveller
2> Doused by a Toxic Insect Spirit - Shadowrun
3> Jumping into a fast moving underground river, while wearing plate mail - DnD
4>  throat slit during the night by party wizard - DnD
5>  self inflicted lightning bolt rebounds to kill caster and his familiar - DnD

Each of these incidents happened while I was at the gaming table...number 2 actually happened to my character. Number 1, while very strange, was not uncommon for the original version of Traveller.  

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Beholder

Another Reaper Bonez figure from the Kickstarter. I wonder if he should be the focus of the next adventure?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Top 5 Dungeons and Dragons Monsters

Here is something a little different. Below are my top 5 DnD monsters. What are your favorites?

1> Owlbear - Wouldn't it be great to have a pet Owlbear? I mean ,wow, such fun.
2> Behir - The Behir is nice because of its speed and damage potential. 
3> Mimic - The mimic is almost cliche but always good at keeping thieves.. er rogues in check.
4> Beholder - Beholders are just nasty.
5> Dragon? - It is Dungeons and Dragons, is it not?

Honorable Mentions
Iron Golem
Ogre Magi

Saturday, February 1, 2014

What do you want in a RPG? part 2

Political Intrigue: Rare in my games. This could be any situation where there is conflict with characters or groups that has not been combat (or there can't be combat). As an example, the King's adviser has taken a dislike to the party's paladin and tries to frame him for crime. Or maybe the prince has hired party to discover who is behind his arranged marriage to the head of the Thieve's Guild's daughter. Hard to script much out in advance and the GM must think quickly to fill in plot holes discovered by the party.

Plot/Story: Is there anything going on besides a series of unrelated adventures? Were the cultists related to the dragon? Is the town just a place to buy new gear or do things change. As a GM I personally like this part of the game. I like to create personalities that I can use to deliver story elements. The story might be be just one layer or many depending on the GM or the players. Crossroads, my current campaign, has many layers but only a few have really come to light. The one thing about this element is that many players could resent the plot being imposed upon their story. Overheard at the table, "ok, we are waiting for the plot train to go by before we cross".

Power:  Your character wants to be the biggest, baddest and strongest. This is something that the GM cannot know unless his player(s) tell him. Any class could be motivated this way. Maybe the character wishes to be a Guildmaster, Warlord, Mayor or General. Anything that brings this character closer to this goal is interesting, everything else is a drag.

This can be a really tough one for the GM. Especially when one player has these aspirations and the others are into puzzles. This situation would fit right into Combat and Story oriented games. Say one character wishes to be Regent, the GM would add that to the story and the other players simply provide combat support to make things happen.

Exploration: To boldly go where no one had gone before. Prowling into the deep, dark recesses of the planet or sailing to isolated islands to find cliffs of crystal. You want to go to different places in the world and see what is there. You have little interest in intrigue and story is more of a travel log. 

What do you as a player enjoy? Had you ever thought about it before? If so, had you ever talked to your GM about what it is that motivates you in the game? If not, you should. Knowing what kind of game your players want would make creating a game they'll like a lot easier.