Anecdotes From The Past #1

Author: Andrew /

So, continuing on the list, another request I had for a post was to give an anecdote about a past game I ran or played in that was my favorite and why. Honestly, to say I have one favorite is like saying I could eat my "favorite" food all the time. I don't really have one favorite, there's a variety. So, instead of one story post, I'll do multiple, making this its own little series, like "An Adventurer's Musings..." I hope you like the stories!

"Story from 'Breath of Life' campaign"

So, this has got to be one of my favorite moments. It was for probably the most epic campaign I've ever played in and it was for 3.5 edition D&D, back when I was in college. My room-mate was the president of our school's Role Player's Guild (RPG; ya like that? Eh? lol) Anyways, the big thing about the game that set it apart was that Adam (my room mate) was really ambitious and decided that we wouldn't play with book classes. Instead, we had a chart form and got to make up classes. I decided to make one called a Gaia-Kin. This class was basically a tricked out druid who used the earth as an extension of itself. The neat thing about this was that I wanted the class to be versitile. I like playing the huge, muscle-bound fighter who crushes the opposition up front, but I also like the idea of doing awesome casting, so, what do we do about this?

Well, one of the things about 3.5 is that all the classes used hit dice (where you could theoretically roll for hp every time you level up. We always played with max-hit-die, meaning if you had a d6 hit die, when you leveled up, you just got 6 hit points, you didn't roll). So, one of the class features I put on my Gaia-Kin was a d12 hit die (the highest available in the book) so he'd be able to take hits while standing up front. Then, I brainstormed with Adam (one of the benefits to living with the DM lol) on how we could make the class work and we came up with a really neat mechanic.

The essential idea was that, as the class worked, he was almost physically connected to the earth and nature. He could ask it to give of itself and it would BUT the earth needs to be nourished too, so what ended up happenning was that Kairn (my Goliath Gaia-Kin character. Also my favorite character to this day) would pour his hit points into the earth. He would put himself into the earth and, depending on how much of his life force he poured into the earth, the more power the earth would put out. Give 5 hit points, add a six-sided die worth of damage, give 2 hit points, add a cubic foot to the amount of earth to be moved, etc. We came up with tons of ways to do different things and form different options from shaping earth to attributing status effects to adding materials (like acid, being a natural thing in D&D). This made for a class who basically could cast custom spells. It was freakin' awesome. So, doing this, he had lots of HP to work with so whether he wanted to go caster or thug fighter, he could.

Amongst the other party members we had a sentient construct (kinda like a warforged); a pixie who had a rifle whose bullets would alter the emotions of it's victims depending on the ammunition chosen, a time traveler who's physical appearance was altered from a botched time travel experience so he looked like a fox-man (pretty cool, actually), and a western-style sheriff woman from a country that was technologically advanced.

There were other characters too but the thing was that just about everyone in the club wanted to join Adam's games (because he's a fantastic DM, he taught me a lot of things) but there were about 14 people that signed up for the game. Eventually we got to a point where the party was split (which worked because half was going the evil route). Adam got a second DM and we had a good and evil party running separately.

Now, one of the things Adam really liked to do was put us up against what seemed to be stupidly hard stuff. He'd never take us out but he'd push us to the limit and force our group to learn to work as a team, just out of sheer survival instinct. We became a crack-squad of a group. We'd come up on something, after a few sessions of practice, and know all our spots. We'd set up the system, minimize the dangers, single out targets (healing casters > damage casters > ranged damage > melee damage > melee defense) and crush them.

Here's where it really gets interesting (and I think it's probably my most memorable D&D moment). One Saturday, we walked down into the basement of the school, into the lounge, and all sat down. Adam looked at us and said (with a big DM grin on his face) "Today is PvP day!" (and we all looked at each other, thinking "crap... we have to fight each other?") He continued saying "As you all travel on, the old members of your group who split off and went cavorting with the sky pirates, fly overhead and come down and confront you." And with that, the evil party walked in.

Amongst them there was a ninja, a sword master, (not many very original concepts, to tell the truth) and my fave, being played by another buddy of mine, was a cannibalistic vampire kinda fella with big leathery wings and a meat cleaver. (there were others but I honestly don't remember them all).

They hit the field and for a second, our group was nervous (after all, evil guys usually have some pretty nasty tricks up their sleeves, right?) But once they hit the ground and our team realized the DMs were serious (we figured it out pretty fast), the good guys got their game faces on and we rolled initiative (to see who goes first, for all who don't know).

Our team got in formation, big guys to the front, the sniper to the trees, casters and lightweights to the back and started doing our thing. Most of the evil party, I believe, were really stuck on RP to the point where they didn't know what to do in a combat situation. Keep in mind they've been playing in the campaign as long as we had. One of them goes "I take this pose *he shows us* and I hold my action". We all look around and shrug. Another of them also having high initiative did almost the same thing. He moved and held his attack action. My cannibal character buddy used a double move to fly high up in the air.

A few more turns go, then it gets to me. I have Kairn dump about 45 hit points into a move. He takes the hit but his eyes close and he starts powering up somethin' big. All of a sudden a huge, ten foot ball of molten rock rips out of the earth and flies 50 feet at the flying demon. It spreads wide, wraps him tightly in stone, cools fast, hardens and rapidly smashes him to the ground, crushing the stone and him. Hit him so hard it took him out of the fight immediately. One-shotted.

The fight continued that way. By the end of the fight, the good party utterly trounced the bad guys. What's more, we didn't just beat them but they didn't touch any of us. Didn't hit us once. We beat them so soundly that one of our party members actually tossed them a pouch of gold at the end of the fight so they could go patch themselves up because he felt bad they got beat so soundly! It was such a backhanded thing to do that we all just about died laughing afterward. (Maybe not the nicest thing but it was pretty darn funny lol)

I think the thing I mainly learned was this. If you don't push players, they won't be the best they can be. If you give them all easy fights, they won't learn to work together, strategise, plan and be a cohesive unit. Adam put us through the ringer each game and we got leagues better each game. We got the impression that the other side was dinking around and just doing classic dungeon runs where they killed lots of little things that didn't pose a challenge (where our encounters would consist of one or two villains well above us who could slaughter us if fought one-on-one). In this case, trial-by-fire triumphed and we reaped huge rewards and got some major high-fives all around.

Challenge your players. Don't kill them, don't be merciless; perhaps even fudge a roll or two to keel things movin' along; but make sure that your players are growing and learning and always becoming a better team. The better they are, the more you can challenge them, the bigger things you can do with them and the more fun you'll have because they'll pay attention, their heads will be up and their butts will be on the edges of their seats the whole time.

As a brief aside, I want to thank my good buddy and old room-mate, Adam, for getting me into the game, taking me under his wing and pretty much apprenticing me and getting me to where I am today. Thanks a ton, bro. You rock. (Gain 5,000,000 DM exp)

Hope you guys enjoyed that, I sure did!


Powergaming VS. Roleplaying

Author: Andrew /

First some definitions for you guys:

Powergaming: (taken from Wikipedia) - In role-playing games (mainly, but not exclusively), powergaming is a particular way of playing in which the emphasis lies on developing a player character that is either as powerful as possible, usually to the detriment of other aspects of the game, such as character interaction, or violates roleplaying etiquette by either taking control of other players' characters, actions, or the outcome of a game.

Roleplaying: (taken from Wikipedia link - Roleplaying (also RP, role-playing) is a game or exercise where the participants assume the roles of characters and collaboratively improvise to create stories. This is often likened to acting or interactive storytelling, whether it happens live in real-time chat or instant messages, or whether it unfolds as a story, post-by-post on forums. A more basic comparison of roleplaying is to children’s games of “Cops and Robbers”, “Cowboys and Indians”, “Playing House” or simply “Make Believe.”


One of our readers wanted my take on this, so here it is. I'm firmly against powergaming.

Little one-sided, maybe? Well, when you think about it, it's a fence you can't really stand on very much, in this case.

Here's the thing. In a roleplaying game, such as D&D, you're working with other characters to tell and interact with a story. THAT is the goal of the game. Without story, you've just got basic, unimaginative hack-n-slash where the player (or players) are simply existing to crush stuff, in which case you may as well go load up a beat-em-up brawler video game because that's what they reduce a roleplaying game down to.

A roleplaying game is called such, for a reason. You assume a role and you play it. Even if you're a fighter, you're still a character, you're still a "person" (be it a dragonborn, tiefling, dwarf, or what have you) and there are certain qualities that are found in all sentient beings. You have emotions (or lack thereof, which could in itself be a plot point). You have the character's past, where they come from and how that's affected their beliefs and views on the outside world. You have how that comes into play when interacting with other characters. Perhaps your dragonborn warrior's village was over-run by a horde of overzealous gnomes on steroids, looting and pillaging wherever they went, leaving everything in ruins. Later on, in his travels, a gnome joins up with the group. How do you think that you (the dragonborn) would react? Even if the gnome is nothing like the ones that attacked your childhood home, you still have those ideas and images in your head. That makes for an interesting story. And THAT is why D&D exists; to tell stories; NOT to just give players rooms of monsters to kill (that's just a small part of it).

The biggest example of powergaming I think there is (or one of them, anyway) was mentioned in an earlier post about how players would, in 3rd edition D&D, take classes and prestige classes and feats and whatnot and combine things that were never designed to be put together. The designers looked at this and said "Wow, we tried to make these cool options but now these options are being taken out of context and just being used to create characters that can circumvent the rules."

That needed to be fixed. Enter 4th edition.

Now, this has been a major gripe from the 3rd edition purists. "Where'd the customization go?! We can't do all the stuff we could do before! This isn't D&D!" etc etc. The thing that some fail to notice is that 3rd edition wasn't 2nd and 2nd wasn't 1st. It always changes. Secondly, the focus shifted. As D&D is a party based game, the game focus shifted from a character optimization format to a party optimization format. Now, they have the roles of Defender, Leader, Striker and Controller (which always existed, now are just labeled for ease of conversation and being upfront about a class' abilities and particular bent). These tell a party "Ok, this is where you're heavy, where you're light, where you're balanced.

The main key to remember, in all of this (because there are infinite tangents that could be gone off on) is that a roleplaying game is for roleplaying. Now, if you have a group of powergamers and want to just go stomp a dungeon and play with the mechanics, go for it! But just know that the system was built to be a framework for interactive storytelling and using it just to make fights is failing to utilize a great tool to its fullest extent.

Thanks, as always, for reading and let the comments fly! More posts to come soon (I've got a nice list here, but feel free to add to it, I take down all ideas!)


Anything wrong with 4th Edition?!

Author: Andrew /

You know, after 3rd edition (more so 3.5, 3 didn't last long) I've gained a lot of respect for 4th edition. It's not that I think it's flawless because I think flawless games don't exist. If there was nothing to improve, word would get out, people would buy said "perfect game" and the entire industry would collapse. All that said, in this post, I'm going to try to touch on a few things about the game that I think could be a little better and could possibly be fixed.

Now, first off I just want to say that most of these things, while being flaws, also aren't really game breaking things. Also, 4th edition is a big game and I can't claim to know every little thing so there may be things about it that I don't so much know about. If that's the case, I'm eager to hear about what you might think needs a change.

Feats. There's nothing so much wrong with feats, in that they do what they're supposed to but the thing that does bug me a bit is that they have much less impact on your character than in 3rd edition. There were many characters I played in 3.5 where they were absolutely centered around feats. I would build a character all the way to max lvl (20, back in the day) and I would figure out just what I wanted my character to be able to to and then I would figure out what feats it would take to get that to happen. They had a lot of influence.

I guess that that leads me to an overall greater concern, which I suppose the feat issue is tied into (and also let it be known that Wizards is working on many ways to remedy this, they just took a steady pace out the gate and are now working on tweaking the formula). The main issue is that the game lacks some customization. You are your class. Now, you can put flavor text to it and make it your own but there's much less room for "Take a level of fighter, take three levels of rogue, etc". Now, multi-classing has been taken WAAY down and, oddly enough, I'm pleased about this.

It's a sort of bittersweet thing for me. As a game design major, I learned that one of the base keys to a good game is balance. You need to have balance or a game will fall apart and fail to sustain itself or, at the least, it will run into problems. In 3rd edition, you could multi-class 'til you were blue in the face. You could take a level of fighter, a level of rogue, three levels of ranger and two levels of monk and then one more level of fighter, if you wanted. What this allowed players to do was look at the character classes more like available abilities and you would get power-gamers who were intent on making characters that could blow anything out of the water, taking this route and creating characters who could outdo any other player.

This, in turn, would take the spotlight from the whole party and make it a solo act because the simple fact was that this fella with his mutant super soldier was just far and away better than the other group members. With 4th edition, it limits this and VERY MUCH restricts multiclassing by making multiclass feats where, by taking a multiclass feat, you get a specified ability so that you can get the flavor but you won't break the game.

They're also bringing in "hybrid" characters, where they have slightly watered down character classes that are made to go along with another one; so that you COULD say "I'm half fighter, half wizard" and you really would be, instead of being a fighter who could cast a little magic missle once in a while. I think this is a step in the right direction but I hope they make a bit of a users guide to how to make a hybrid character because, looking at the specific rules about it thus far, if someone tried to make one without REALLY knowing what they're doing, they could severely nerf themselves.

(nerf is a gaming term meaning "to weaken". As an example, think of a real football, and then a Nerf football.)

So, I think that 4th edition is much better balanced and, therefore, a better game. That said, I think that with the fantastic balance, we're offered fewer options that feel like they can significantly alter and impact the character (save maybe paragon paths and epic destinies but those aren't much different than the idea of prestige classes in 3rd ed). Instead, we have more subtle changes with feats, amongst other things, taking a back seat within the new system. As an artist, I really enjoy customization and the ability to tweak every little "this and that" about my character and 4th is a little light on that. That said, being a game designer myself, I understand.

Also, I think something else I'm not too thrilled with are the weapons and armor in the game. I really enjoyed finding armor and weapons that fit a theme or worked to build up a certain part of my character. In 3rd edition, I played a drow (dark elf) wizard and over the game, had him hunt down items that increased his intelligence. Everything from a circlet to a robe to a ring and more. He was a knowledge hound and increasing this part of him not only made him more powerful, but also played into his character.

Weapons and armor in 4th edition seem undervalued, or at least understated. I look through them and feel a little ho-hum. I loved being able to have a magic weapong and give it attributes instead of having a weapon that does this one thing, or that one thing. I also feel that too many of the weapons are dependent on critical hits or use of a power. I think that a lot of these weapons need to have a constant effect outside just adding their enhancement bonus. Now, some weapons give an at-will power that can be used all the time or certain properties but it seems like the real meat is in what big output an item can give and it seems like they really tugged on the reins with this. That said, they're not THAT bad, it'd just be nice to feel a bit more punch. (Also, this is coming more from a DMing perspective than a player's perspective due to the fact that I've been able to do WAY more of the former, and much much less of the latter).

I think that that's about all I can think of right now. There are some things like perhaps undervalued skills (such as intimidate) but I think that is more a DM problem than a system problem, and also one beef I've had with D&D in general is that skills are generally tied only to one attribute. I would like to see skills be able to be tied to a different attribute. You can intimidate someone with a feat of strength just as much as you can by talking a good game. I'd like to see skill be able to be attached to other attributes.

This might make for a good houserule:

"In a single use of a skill, a player may choose use any attribute with a skill in a given situation, not just the one listed with the skill; so long as it can be legitimately justified and is accepted by the DM."

Heh, I had more to say than I thought I would; how 'bout that? Guess I just tend to focus much more on the positives. Well, hope this was informative and gives you all out there some things to roll around in your heads! I'm sure there are many more things people would like to say about 4th that they'd like to see changed but if I kept trying to nitpick, this post could go forever.

So, as always, a huge thank you to all my readers; without you, there wouldn't be so much point to all this. Thank you for all your comments in the last post and just know that I made notes on all of them and intend to hit them all. This was the most popular so it deserved spot number one. Keep the ideas flowing and thanks for all of your support, I love hearing from you all!


Ask the readers!

Author: Andrew /

Hey all you readers out there, Taken and not! This is a quick post to say that this next post is going to be based on a subject given to me by you guys, the readers! So, in a comment on the post, put as many cool ideas related to D&D that you can think of that you'd like to be touched on in later posts. If you have multiple ideas, that's fine, throw 'em all down there. I write them all down and all the good ones (which could feasibly be all of them) will get their time in the sun. SO, let the comments begin and we'll see if we can't just get some interesting discussion goin' on!

Thanks again for reading, you guys make this worth it!


Stayin' in character!

Author: Andrew /

When you play D&D, you're a real world person taking on the role of a fictional character. You think like they would, you act like they would, you might even talk like they would (if you're good at that sorta thing. If you're not, you're better off not trying lol). The trick here is being consistent with that stuff and staying in character!

To elaborate, we'll define this concept, Staying in Character:

Staying in character is leaving your own personal (out of game,
every-day cares, thoughts and feelings) at the door.

Once you step into the shoes of your character, you are them. Your personal feelings and thoughts on what happens in the game should not affect your character's decisions. You're picking up hints in the DM's voice that there's a trap coming up but your character, at this moment, wouldn't be thinking to look for traps. If you're in character, you won't look for them. If you're out of character / meta-gaming, you'll look for them.

Staying in character is very important to maintaining the immersion of the game and making the game seem like a cohesive world. It's very difficult for players to be drawn into a story when the other players keep breaking out of character and making jokes at the table and pulling attention away from the story, or making light of serious situations.

Now, that said, D&D is a social game and it's ok to have fun in that way while playing but the key is knowing that there's a time and a place. There are ways around this, as well. If you learn to stay in character, you can develop your character's sense of humor, so that when a funny situation pops up, it's natural for your character to comment on it.

One reason lots of players break character is a simple and very core thing: fear. Most players get the idea that the DM is playing against them and they then will try to think (out of character) of any solutions to problems thrown in front of them, thinking that all the DM wants to do is take out their characters. Well, let me tell you this. Any good DM worth their salt doesn't want their players dead. They won't just kill you outright. Without players, there's no game. DM's want to preserve that. If you're role playing and sticking to it, the DM will nudge you along if you get to a point where you need it.

The other thing that a lot of players are afraid of is other players. Role playing is, at its core, acting. Acting means getting out of your shell and having some fun portraying a fictional being. Here's the secret, though. MOST players are afraid of this, so if you decide "You know what, I'm not going to hide in my shell", chances are that everyone won't laugh, but instead will be impressed! Sure, you'll get a laugh from someone but usually they're laughing out of surprise or because what you say and do is really funny! (sometimes humor is just what you're going for!)

The key is to get up the guts to trust your DM and the other players there with you and cut loose and get in character. Stay there. Find creative ways to keep your brain dialed into "Ok, until we take a break, I'm Dorgran, the dwarven warrior and 'real life' stuff can wait (unless it's important)."

This is a tricky subject but I believe that the concept itself is very simple: Don't act like yourself, act like your character would instead. If you do this, your game experience will be exceedingly better!

Thanks for reading and hope to hear from you all!


P.S. - As a note, if you like to read the post, please register and follow the blog! It looks great to have a visible large reader base. Join the Taken! Thanks!

The people in the world...

Author: Andrew /

NPCs (non-player characters)... There's a lot to be said for this gang, that's for sure. You've got NPC's who are bit parts, if not just extras who the heroes all just pass by, to the kings and queens and the arch villains that they see time and time again.

I think that one danger that a lot of DM's fall into is the danger of planning, both under- and over-planning. You see, every DM would love to be absolutely prepared for every moment; to have every little answer laid out nice 'n' neat so that when the players asked a question, he'd already see it comin' and come off cool as a cucumber.

Unfortunately (or, perhaps, fortunately!) that's not the case. You can only plan so much and any DM who's really tried, understands this. You have to ad lib a bit in any situation so that means that you need to relegate your planning to your main cast.

So, my advice is this: Pick your key cast members; perhaps a few major shopkeepers, the innkeeper / bartender at the major tavern, the town sheriff / constable, the major political power[s] (Kings, queens, barons, mayors, etc), the main villain, the main villains first mate, and a few more major players (the old man at the bar every night before the party turns in, the loud doomsayer on the street, the odd voice that the players hear when walking through the trees at night, etc). Pick your key cast and then figure out their places in the world.

This is the part for me that can be trickiest. It's easy to go "Ok, the bad guy is this warlock with a smooth voice and a bad temper. He hates the party for... crap... why does he hate the party?" Motivation is HUGE! So, in reality, you build it as you go and let long term "players" come out of the beginnings.

Example: Perhaps you have band of kobold dragonlings excavating a mine, looking for an artifact of great importance. The town nearby is a bystander for the kobolds and they get roughed up because the kobolds come to the town looking for food and whatnot. The town just happens to be where the adventurers are staying and finally, someone comes to the more-than-capable-looking group and ask for help. The adventurers, being the kind souls they are, they say "SURE!" and they go smash the kobold work operation. Little did they know, the kobolds they slaughtered were the minions of a powerful sorcerrer who was having his minions excavate a long buried artifact which he's spent decades trying to unearth. Now the group has attracted his ire and he sends more minions after them, but to do other tasks too. Then the players will see more monsters with similar features (perhaps a brand or tattoo on their arms, or perhaps a tabard with a certain symbol on it, or maybe they all speak a certain language unusual to the creatures they are... or maybe they all wear Yankee baseball caps, who knows?!). After a while (because you need to intersperse unrelated things to switch stuff up a bit), the players will begin going "Hey, it's those guys again!" and after a while of the minions being thwarted, the sorcerrer will decide "If you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself." Then the players meet the big bad guy and their relationship will blossom... like a mushroom cloud in the mid-day sun! Have the villain escape, or perhaps he was using a clone or magic image of himself, etc etc. He can then pop up at later intervals, perhaps just to thwart the player's plans as revenge.

Creating NPCs can be a total blast, but you have to know where to put your energy. If you detail and backstory every inconsequential NPC there is on your imaginary streets, you'll be writing for 5 years (which some of us might not mind lol) but if you want to play, you gotta pick the key cast members of your story and build them out to be great.

Well, I hope this shed some light on this fun little subject and I hope that it was a fun read! Thanks again for all the comments and ideas; keep em comin'! Until next time!


This was an idea requested by a reader and regular commenter, mechamonogatari.

A picture is worth 1000 words...

Author: Andrew /

But it's best to try to do it in less... Heh. So, the idea that's rolling around in my head at the moment is how DMs will (or sometimes won't) paint you a picture while you play a game. I think about this and I realize that there are usually two main categories of DMs who run games and usually you'll fall between them.

First, you have the theatrical. This is the guy (or gal) who is descriptive in every way and who will go on ad infinitum to describe the situation. Every rock, tree, bush, critter, scent, light ray, ruin, structure, native character, etc will get the royal literary treatment. To him, what's important, usually, is the story and even more, immersion. He wants his players to be bathed in the story, to feel like they're really walking through the world instead of observing it through a TV screen.

Second, at the other end of the spectrum, you have the utilitarian. This is the guy (or gal) who is no-nonsense. He tells you no more than you need to know so that the play can get back to the players. The pro to this guy is that there's no risk of sitting around waiting for descriptions. If you're up for a hack 'n' slash and you just want to roll some dice and aren't so much interested in a story, this is your guy.

Now, we all have our likes and dislikes and that's the beauty of the game but honestly, I prefer the former to the latter (and I also AM the former, versus the latter, so it makes sense, I suppose). To me, knowing what's around you is important. But that said, I understand the need for players to play and figure some stuff out for themselves. I think the trick is to find a happy medium.

Now, the idea of shutting up and letting the players play is pretty selfexplanitory so i'm not going to go into that, what I am going to go into are what it takes to paint a verbal picture; the senses.

Now, at first, one might say "Well, duh! But really, it takes more conscious consideration when thinking of the situation and translating that into the description. There's a bit of a priority or an order to when things reach your senses and which things you sense first, so I'll try to list them in that order (and this isn't a definate order, but one that just about gets close).

Sight: What you see is always what is percieved first (usually). When you walk into a room, your eys sweep across it, finding the details and little nuances about the room.

Sound: When you walk into a room or a new place, the second thing you do (without really helping it) is you start listening. You hear a firetruck far away; you hear a faucet dripping; you hear kids laughing; etc. That's usually the second thing.

Smell: The third thing you usually find yourself noticing is smell. You ever walk into a room, look around, check it out, think it's a nice room, nice and quiet and then, after a second, go "What's that smell??" That's the third sense kicking in. It usually seems to take a minute, doesn't it? Usually. Could be baking bread, could be a farm just down the road, could be mold, etc. Smell is a very strong provoker of attitudes. If something smells great, you generally want to get closer to it, you want to smell more. If something smells bad it can make you feel ill; it makes you want to get away from that place as fast as possible because it's almost impossible to make smell just "leave."

Touch and Taste: These ones come in last because they generally only come into play when used actively, or at least more so than the others. Touch, a little before because if you feel hot or cold, clammy or dry, etc, I attribute that to touch. You feel it. Taste is simply there when you put something in your mouth. Sometimes air can have a bit of a taste or something carried on the air but usually it's the last thing that comes into play.

Emotion: This is sort of cheating. It's not REALLY a sense but it deffinately seems to act like one. If you feel a sense of foreboding, what is that? A traditional sense? Not really. If you feel afraid or excited, does that fit into those categories up there? I wouldn't say so. But a place can give you feelings certainly. A graveyard at night can creep you right out! A kids playground can make you feel light hearted. A classroom at school can convey all sorts of messages.

The main point is this. Look at these statements:

"You walk into an old, abandoned cellar, with an open door in the back of the room."

"You walk into an old cellar behind the equally old house. You see two rotting wooden doors that look like they open down into the ground under the house. You lift one door and open it, creaking on its rusted hinges. As you step down into the cellar, your feet hit cold stone steps and your eyes fall on cold, dark stone walls. You hear water dripping off in the dark corners and you smell mold and mildew as this cellar seems to have been untouched for a long time. You feel a chill draft coming from a door that appears open at the back of the room..."

Which is more appealing? Which is more entertaining? Which do you enjoy more? I, personally, love the second one. It pulls me in, it allows me to paint the picture and really see where I am and most likely, has my group picturing something much closer to what I'm thinking than what the first description would have allowed for.

The point that we come to is this. Should you be descriptive? Yes. Absolutely. Should you ramble on for what would be pages and pages? No (although some of us will, lol) When it comes to it, you have to use judgment, as always, but you should always try to paint a picture and the more you practice the better you'll get and the more your players will be able to feel as if they're in this amazing world you're imagining!

Thanks for reading, all and as always, comments and ideas are ALWAYS welcomed, and not just welcomed but encouraged. If you have any ideas for topics you'd like me to tackle, throw them in a comment and I'll write an entry on it! And with that, I'll see you next time!


An Adventurers' Musing #1

Author: Andrew /

I was just reading a bit of an article written by a great Wizards of the Coast author, James Wyatt, on Super Adventures which are adventures that seem to more or less be adventure sites that have the potential for multiple adventures to occur inside of them. This somewhat parallels the idea of instances in World of Warcraft (and other MMORPGs) where you and a group of your pals can go in with different quests and go into the same area looking to achieve different tasks each time by way of quests. This got me thinking about interaction within a pen-n-paper RPG like D&D and something I very much like; interacting with NPCs.

For those of you who may not know the terminology, NPC stands for "non-player character". This is a character who is controlled by the DM (in a pen-n-paper rpg) or the computer (in a video game rpg). An NPC is someone that also is usually interacted with by the PCs (player characters).

One thing I like very much is interacting with shopkeepers and citizens, city dwellers, travellers and people in the game that, really, most players would view as inconsequential. The average passer-by who you wouldn't generally think serves more purpose than scenery. I think it's a great deal of fun to walk up to a villager and ask them for directions or better yet, present them with an opportunity.

One thing that I've noticed (partially from reading the comic Order of the Stick, which makes fun of a lot of things about D&D, seeing as the author used to write FOR D&D) is that while D&D adventurers can be great heroes, they can also be other things, and one of those things can really usually be destroyers of the economy. (You can LOL right there, it's ok, I am too... lol)

The funny thing is that most players, most characters and even most DMs don't really think too much about this. When a player has gold pieces and wants to buy this powerful magic item, most gamers will just crack open the nearest Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide or Adventurer's Vault and look for the goody they want and try to find "Ye Old Magic Item Shoppe." What a lot of players and DMs alike forget (myself included, lots of times) is that these items cost gold. Most of these communities consist of peasants and relatively poor folk who live on copper pieces and maybe see some silver once in a while but rarely, if ever, see gold or (if you're a filthy rich plunderer, platinum).

So, what happens with an established economy? Money starts flowing, businesses get fed, pay rates get established, prices normalize and a pattern is created. There is a steady eb-and-flow to the system where people's means are, generally, what determines how one gets by in the town or city. Shop keepers get used to taking copper for goods and services and everyone's happy.

Enter the adventurers. Here you have about 4 or 5 fellas (or ladies as the case may be) who ransack old crypts, ruins of ancient civilizations, cities inhabitted by vilainous creatures or raid whole dragon hordes and they get filthy RICH. Now, you have these guys, who have more money than these villagers will ever see in their lives just clinking around in their pockets, come strolling into town in shiny expensive armor, weapons that are possibly capable of conscious thought, etc; and they are usually pretty generous (whether out of laziness of a true feeling of benevolence).

So, you have these rather remarkable guys walk into a tavern and order a five-copper-a-pint ale and they toss a gold piece to the bartender! The bartended goggles at the thing and doesn't know what to do. He's never seen this much money in his life, let along held it in his hands and put it in his pocket. All of a sudden, he thinks "Wow, I could become rich!" and starts crankin' up the prices. Then, in order to be able to pay for services, other services in the community start charging more too. Before you know it, in order to survive the prices, EVERYONE has raised their prices and the adventurers now are responsible for the welfare of the city! Chances are, most people that don't own shops or the poor who were just scraping by before now see these wealthy adventurers walk by all decked out in their finery and spit on their shoes because now, thanks to these jerks, they can't afford a loaf of bread because the baker now can apparantly charge 50 silver pieces for it!

The adventurers leave the town and all of the sudden, there's a good several hundred if not thousand gold floating around the place and these people who've always lived relatively meager lives now are in economic shock because these unassuming glorified grave-robbers came waltzing into town with ungodly sums of money.

You gotta wonder at the trail that this would leave behind. Unless there's a place for this cash to go already, changing that structure could wreak havoc on most towns and villages (not so much big cities because there already are some very wealthy lords and ladies there). If the adventurers don't realize what they're doing, they could be followed by someone who just goes around and follows a trail of unbalanced economies across the land!

I think this merits some consideration. Money-sinks are a good idea. What's also a good idea is having this interact with the players or coming up with creative ways for money to influence situations for the players OR having the players think of interesting uses for money besides just outright buying items. Perhaps there are other things that could be done with it? *thinks with a smile* We shall see!

Well, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it! Until next time,


Think outside the box...

Author: Andrew /

One of the things about D&D that has so well defined it (and one of the things that some people have gripes about) is the system of classes. You see, there are some games out there (other pen-and-paper RPGs) that have point based systems where you simply start as a blank slate character and buy, using a set number of points you have to start with, abilities, strengths, weaknesses, etc and build a custom character from the ground up in that way. While these systems are very neat and can also be fun, D&D is built to give a certain feel and to really offer a large, robust system for playing certain classic archetypes. This post is, if anything, a bit of a role-play post in which I'll site certain examples and how to take your character ideas and bring them to life through D&D just as much as any other system.

The main thing that we need to talk about is what we call flavor text. Flavor text is anything in the game that is descriptive and doesn't affect the mechanics of the game. A power may say "You sweep your sword under your opponent's legs and trip him." And the power may also say that it does 6 points of damage and makes the opponent fall down. There are two parts to that; the flavor text describing what it looks like and the mechanics that tell you how the power functions. The key is to know that the flavor text can be whatever you want it to be! Only the numbers need to remain un-messed-with. So, you could say "You thrust with your sword, hitting your opponent in the chest, then knocking him over." or "You cut your opponent sharply, then kick them away." It can be whatever you want, you probably just want to have it somewhat in sync with what the power actually does (deals damage and knocks enemy over).

So, this theory can be applied to other aspects of the game as well, namely, your character. A rogue, for example, is generally thought of as a small, skinny, sneaky fellow dressed all in black who robs people and stabs them in the back. That doesn't mean that you have to appear that way. You can be a 6 ft tall, 280 lb brute who might have a sneaky side to him but prefer's the brute method generally. You could have a wizard who, instead of a frail old man, he could be a lithe young fellow who's 21 years old and in the prime of his life.

The key to all of this is to bring to light the fact that this is a game about imagination. If you envision your character looking and being a certain way, have them be that way. If you want him to be a fighter, thug type but be able to do a little holy magic, maybe make him a paladin instead and just play him as a fighter who, perhaps, was divinely empowered at some point in his life. Perhaps that could be a part of his interesting backstory!

Always think outside the box and look to be interesting. Try not to play cliches or, if you're going to, put your own twist on it. Use your imagination and think big. Some things that help too, are watching movies, reading books and exposing yourself to new ideas and other characters who could act as inspiration for new characters.

Well, thanks again for reading and as always, I hope this was enlightening! Comment away and look for new posts soon. Feel free to leave me ideas for new posts in the comment sections too! Until next time.


The good, the bad and the ugly...

Author: Andrew /

Alignment. This is a point of contention with some 3rd edition players and 4th edition players. Alignment is essentially a measured assessment of where your character lies on the cosmic scale of morality and general good-to-badness.

This will be our key: L=lawful, C=Chaotic, N=neutral, G=good, E=evil

In 3rd edition, the alignment scale was this (TN is true neutral):

In 4th edition, it's different; more linear:

Now, we'll look at what these mean and how they can be used in play.

3rd edition alignments (referenced from the 3.5 Player's Handbook):
Lawful Good (Crusader)
Neutral Good (Benefactor)
Chaotic Good (Rebel) - this is like Robin Hood
Lawful Neutral (Judge)
True Neutral (Undecided)
Chaotic Neutral (Free Spirit)
Lawful Evil (Dominator)
Neutral Evil (Malefactor) - a killer who murders to get what they want is neutral evil. They don't go out of their way to create conflict but don't believe following law would make them any more noble. they're simply out for themselves.
Chaotic Evil (Destroyer)

4th Edition alignments (referenced from the 4.0 Player's Handbook)
LG - Embodies civilization and order. "An ordered society protects us from evil"
G - Embodies freedom and kindness. "Protecting the weak from those who would dominate or kill them is just the right thing to do."
Unaligned - Embodies having no alignment; not taking a stand. "Just let me go about my business."
E - Embodies tyranny and hatred. "It's my right to claim what others possess."
CE - Embodies entropy and destruction. "I don't care what I have to do to get what I want."

WHEW! Now, after all that, you're probably getting some ideas. You can put most people you know into those categories. For instance, DC Comic's Superman may seem like an obvious Lawful Good but their Batman, on the other hand, may seem like Chaotic Good. (This tends to be an ongoing debate as to what Batman's real alignment is but most people agree he's at least good lol)

Alignments can pose lots of interesting things in a game. It can give you a moral compass for decision making. If you have a lawful good character, you can ask "Well, if my character truly believes that law will set us free and that good is way better than evil, then what would they do in this situation?" And it makes role playing a good deal easier, as long as you remember that.

One thing I've run into though, is that some players will choose Neutral so that they don't have to role play or so that they don't have to really role play. They'll just say that a character's neutral and that they just do whatever because that tends to be easier. Now, that's usually actually incorrect. They'll pick neutral so they don't have to explain themselves but really, their character's actions with show their true alignment.

Actual neutral characters can be very interesting though. One of my beliefs is that one of the keys to very good role playing and having and interesting character is having them change over the adventure. I enjoy having neutral characters at the beginning and allowing their circumstances, companions and experiences subtly move them in one direction or another. If there's a lot of evil around, perhaps they start getting used to it and become more bad because it doesn't seem as bad. Or, if surrounded by good, perhaps they take on those convictions and really start believing in the cause of good and move towards the light. It can really make a character very dynamic.

DM's out there I would advise being pretty strict on alignment or at least hold your players to what they choose. This tends to make their RPing better and will make their characters more interesting. I would also advise that if a player wishes to make a neutral character, ask them why. Find out what their motivations are and if it's just laziness, perhaps help them find something they could be more enthusiastic about! Lastly, I genreally don't allow evil alignments in my games. An evil character, when played correctly, tends to be more on the selfish end of the spectrum and can really tear apart a good party. So, if a player wants to play an evil character, ask them why, and determine whether it fits your needs as a Dungeon Master. Don't be afraid to say no.

Well, that's all for alignment on this one. That was a big one. Perhaps, if you guys would like, you could shoot some character ideas and we could do a post about possible alignments / personality ideas for those characters! Alright, until next time (which will most likely be good 'n' soon lol) thanks for reading and as always, keep the comments coming!


Girls and D&D?

Author: Andrew /

Here's something you don't hear so much about. Girls playing D&D. Yes, there are many that play, but really, not as many as probably would really enjoy it. Please note that my comments here are simply my personal observations.

All that said, I think that girls, really, are great at D&D. Usually, the thing I find them to turn away from, is the combat. Usually, you don't hear a girl bragging on how her character crushed that orc's skull with a battle-axe. But I guarantee if you gave their character some elaborately embroidered gloves that give them some skill bonuses, they'd probably be thrilled!

The thing about D&D is that, unfortunately, it's come to be associated with things in society that are, for better or worse, not as popular. You get lots of stereotypes that are usually none-too-kind. Guys are generally easier to get to play because it's just a thing that's usually attractive to guys. Adventure, combat, etc. They're things that are generally accepted as male things.

What a lot of girls might not know about is the fact that there's lots of other neat stuff too. Firstly, that it's not a video game. You'd be amazed at how many girls I've talked to about D&D and not ONE of them knew or understood the concept of a pen-n-paper rpg. "You play it around a table with friends? Cool!" That's usually the reaction afterward. They think it's usually antisocial and really, it's very social. I think that's one of the biggest things.

There are also other things. The fact that it puts so much emphasis on creativity. How about teamwork? How about shopping? I tell ya, there's nothing quite like shopping for that slick new magic item to complete your heroic ensemble.

I could go on about this but really, I think that the point has been made. Ladies, try out the game. Find a great DM and some friends and try it OR, if you've got the guts, pick up the core books and try to DM yourself for some of your friends!

Lastly, I need to give HUGE credit to Shelly Mazzanoble for writing her book "Confessions of a Part-time Sorceress: A Girl's Guide to Dungeons & Dragons". If you haven't heard of it, check it out, it's awesome. I've bought two copies, one for an old girlfriend and one for my present one. I've yet to find a girl who can read it and not love the charming illustrations, the witty writing and the much-needed insightful illumination that she gives the game.

You can find her book here and it's only about ten and a half bucks and TOTALLY worth it!

It makes a great gift!

Well all, thanks again for reading and I hope you enjoyed this little tangent! Ladies, pick up some dice and jump into a world you're sure to love!

Until next time,


Rewards rewards rewards!

Author: Andrew /

This could arguably be the most important thing when running a D&D game. Arguably. I mean, yes, there is of course the points of balance and character development and all those things but when you're talking about keeping your player's interest and keeping them invested in the game itself, this is the biggest key on the ring. Related to the subject of the most recent post on DMing, this post is about the all important topic of REWARDS!

Now, I'm guessing that a lot of you are thinking "Well, yeah; rewards are fun!" and that's a large part of it but I don't think that it's given enough emphasis, although recently it's been paid more attention than in previous editions for sure. Heck, in the Dungeon Master's Guide, there's an entire section on it; which I was absolutely thrilled to see. But, all that said, here's the point of this all.

Players come into a game hoping for many things. They want action, they want intrigue, they want excitement, they want immersion. Players want an experience that they'll talk about until the next game. They want memorable moments and to feel like they're making a difference and to keep them coming back, it's necessary to have a reward system.

Now, when I say system, I don't mean a rigid, planned out structure. I simply mean that you (the DM) need to have a consistent flow of rewards going to the players. These can be many things; examples might be:

-Monetary rewards - any form of currency that allow for characters to purchase things
-Item rewards - any item a character can use that will add something to them
-Role-play rewards
-Anything else that may keep the player(s) interested!

Now, monetary and item rewards are classic. Your big fighter needs a better great-sword because he's getting higher level and the one he has just isn't doing the trick anymore. He's been doing a great job, been role playing well and has really been adding to the game, so at the end of the next dungeon, the boss they fight just happens to be using a shiny new +3 great-sword with a flame enchantment on it! That player knows that you (the DM) is looking out for them, paying attention to them and giving them a cool item for all their hard work.

Some rewards are also built into the game. Most common of these are Experience Points [Exp]. When a character accumulates enough of these, they reach a new level and become more powerful, gaining new abilities and becoming all around more capable. All monsters, traps, encounters, etc. that a player could run into in D&D will have some exp value attached to it. When a task of whatever sort is completed, players are awarded these points. This is a classic reward which, be it good or bad, has become standard with role playing games and usually isn't seen as a reward (although that is exactly what it is). Players expect to level up and get stronger and not allowing them that would, in most cases, ruin a game (although there are some creative approaches that keep characters at one level but reward them in other ways).

One of the coolest rewards (in my humble opinion) is the role play reward. These can take the form of many many different things but all of them tend to be very satisfying and they can usually be tied up with other rewards too. These rewards can be taking a player's character, who they've written an extensive back-story for, and spotlighting that character for a chunk of the story or giving them an encounter with their special nemesis. A role play reward could be allowing players to achieve an objective through sheer good role playing when it may have otherwise required a skill check. Perhaps a DM could even give extra exp when he sees good role playing tied into actions in the game and may tack on a bonus to basic encounter exp! (Personally, I've played with a good friend who DM'd great games and he gave out exp based ONLY on role play, and eliminated kill exp altogether! It really took the focus off just killing stuff and put it very much on story and encouraged players to invest themselves in their characters, because there was an immediate reward. He also gave extra exp for character journals and drawings, all of which were great ideas!)

To sum up this blurb, PUT IN REWARDS! Give little rewards even if it's just a pat on the back after a particulary good strategic move in a fight or a clever quip in a certain role playing scenario. Lots of little rewards, spread out big ones. If you do this, I guarantee you that your players will love you to death and will enjoy their experience that much more.

And remember, ALWAYS be creative! If you think of something else you can reward players with that isn't here, run with it. That's what the game is for. Until next time, thanks for reading and check back soon!


Dungeon Master - Creator of Worlds!

Author: Andrew /

Destroyer of Worlds sounds way more dramatic but that would be a little counter-productive in this case.

Alright, to DM or not to DM, that is the question. For me, I shied away from it for a while because running a game, especially after playing in so many, you get an appreciation for what the DM does and you realize that it's a LOT. Or, well, it used to be. It's not so much any more.

I don't mean to make it seem like DMs don't really have their work cut out for them any more, as if now it's just a total "anyone could do it" piece of cake (or easy as pie, if you're a pie person) but it's easier. With D&D 4.0, they took D&D's rather high overall barrier to entry and smashed it to pieces. Now, it's easy to understand D&D, it's easy to jump in and play and, following suit, it's easier to DM.

Now, never having DM'd and jumping into 4th edition, you won't understand what DMing was like in 3rd edition. There were massive amounts of prep work involved, monsters were trickier, overall it was just a lot of work. Now they have monsters that have stat blocks which make running an encounter a piece of cake! When I run games, I simply write down, for instance, "Goblin 1, Goblin 2, Goblin 3" and write their total hit points next to their names. As they're hit, I deduct points from that. Apart from that, I just reference the handy-dandy stat block in the Monster Manual. It's GREAT! Makes setting up an encounter much easier to ad lib.

The main thing I want to talk about in relation to being a DM, though, is what I see as the most important thing of all. Adaptability.

If you're adaptable, if you can think on your feet and you have a can-do attitude, you can be the best DM in the world. The players should be able to do anything they want, within reason, and your job is to facilitate that and make it fun. If you have the game planned to the point where you only have an option for them if they turn left, and they turn right, what do you do? You adapt! (In this case, you could just say that what was going to happen when they turn left, instead happens when they turn right). That's just a simple example of adapting.

Next thing to mention is railroading, and that goes in line with what I wrote about adaptability. DON'T RAILROAD PLAYERS! Give them some direction but don't say "No, you can't do that" when really, if it were real life, they could. Forcing your players to do things takes them from being in the movie, influencing the world and the story, to watching the movie, yelling helplessly at the screen. That's the worst feeling in the game. The trick is to learn how to run with what the players throw at you and turn all ideas into something fun for not only them, but you as well!

DM Vs. Players! Now this is a serious issue. I've heard of (thankfully never personally experienced) DMs who's sole objective was to decimate the party (group of players). They keep headcounts, the works. They feel good when they crush the players again and again. To me, that doesn't make sense, for this reason. Being the DM means you're controlling the system. What you say, goes. You can say "The villain is invincible" and it is. You can say "It starts to snow in the desert" and it does. You can say "You and all the players drop dead" and they do. That's like having a game start you at level one, drop a huge level 100 boss in front of you, smashing you to a pulp and then having the game cheer about it. There's no satisfaction in that kind of victory.

Now sure, you're supposed to present the players with challenges; sure you're supposed to give them obstacles, but they're supposed to overcome them or at least still progress the story forward. You (The DM) and the players are on the SAME side! You're the author but without your characters, there is no story! You need them as much as they need you so treat them well! Give them challenges and cheer when they beat them, because that means that they get to move on in the story, level up and run into bigger, badder and more awesome challenges down the line!

Alright, I think that wraps up this little number. I hope that you were able to glean some information about DMing and what's great about it. Feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments, it's a big topic, I know! Next time, I'm thinking the subject on the menu is Reward systems! Until then, thanks for reading!


"Who makes the rules? Someone else..."

Author: Andrew /

That's from a song called "No Spill Blood" by Oingo Boingo, a wacky band run by the famous composer Danny Elfman.

Alright, rules rules rules! What to do about the rules? A lot of people look at a D&D book (or God forbid, the whole library of them) and think "These are ALL rulebooks? I have to learn ALL THIS to play?!" And THAT is what turns a lot of people off. What a lot of them don't realize is that you really don't have to learn them all, and certainly not right away. You see, with D&D, it's a cooperative game. You play with a team of other players and act as a group helping each other out, trying to move through the story. The great thing about this is that usually there is at least one player in the group who knows the game and understands the rules and also understands one little secret (and this is just between us, ok?) *whisper* The rules aren't god!

You say "What? What do you mean?" What I mean is that the rules, as so aptly said by Captain Barbossa, are more like "Guyd-luyns" (guidelines). The key to D&D is having fun. That is job number one from the get-go. That means the designers who are WRITING the rules, are thinking "Ok, this does the job, but if the DM who is running the game decides 'The story is better suited without this rule, or it needs to be tweaked in this instance' they have the ability to do so, for the sake of FUN!"

When I started playing back in college I though "Man, there's a lot to learn." But after just taking a stab at playing and asking for help a few times, you pick up a rule here and a rule there and you play. The rules are more like tools in a toolbox. Do you need to know, for instance, how to flank an enemy, to play? No. But it can make you more effective in a fight if you know how to do it. There is a rule for flanking. Can you play without it? Absolutely.

The main thing to keep in mind is this: You play with dice. 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 and 20 sided dice (they're awesome) and you roll these to get results. The core mechanic is this:

1. Roll a 20 sided die (a d20) You want to roll high!
2. Add all the numbers on your sheet that apply.
3. Compare the total to the number you're trying to meet or beat.

That's how you determine success or failure in the game. Easy as pie!

SO, in summary, don't let rules bog you down or scare you away from playing. There are always players willing to help you understand and also, the Player's Handbook is written in such a way that it makes the game SO easy to learn! Pick it up, give it a look-see and you'll be a rules guru before you know it!

Next time, we'll talk Dungeon Mastering! Until then, thanks for reading!


"You're such a character..."

Author: Andrew /

Character creation! Now THIS is one of my favorite parts of the game. Before we start, there are some basic vocabulary words we're going to use:

PH: Player's Handbook. Every player's best friend. Has everything you need to know about the game (about 35-40 bucks at a Borders, Barnes & Noble or your local game store)
Character Sheet: This is a literal sheet (like a worksheet) that has boxes and spaces for all your character information)
Level / Level Up: A level measures your character's prowess progression. The higher their level more powerful they get, and the more things they become capable of. Leveling up refers to gaining a new level. Levels in D&D range from 1-30.
Race: Your characters racial persuasion. You can be a human, an elf, a dwarf, a gnome, etc. These are examples of race.
Class: A class is your character's job. It's what they do. You can be a Fighter who is accomplished at combat or a Wizard who is a master of casting mysterious spells or a Rogue who is a dastardly theif or cunning assassin. These are classes (and there are MANY more than just those three)
Stats: These are attributes that are on your character sheet showing your characters makeup. There are six of them: Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma
Power: Each class has certain powers or capabilities they have. These are all detailed in the PH under the class information. These could be anything from a special type of sword swing to a huge fireball.
Feat: A feat is like a little bonus feature you can add to your class at certain points in the game, mainly when you level up.
Skill: A skill is something your character is good at. These fall under categories such as Athletics, Diplomacy, knowledge of Nature, Thievery, etc. There is a full list of them on the official character sheet, which can be found at [ ]. (you want the 4th edition one)

SO, after all that, lets talk about characters. Essentially, when you make a character, the most important thing is to come up with a character concept. You want an idea for your character and, in my opinion, you don't want it just based on combat (which a lot of people do). I feel that the best characters are fleshed out ideas, ones like you'd find in a book. Characters exist for more than fighting. They have feelings, view and opinions, odd mannerisms, etc. They have pasts that color those views and make them act certain ways. Personality is most important, because that will let you Role Play.

When you Role Play, you are acting. You are becoming that character for the purpose of the story. I would no longer be Andrew, for the game, I'd be playing the part of Rendimont, the elf rogue who enjoys eating steak and drinking mead and feels that sleeping on the street is more comfortable than sleeping in a bed.

The best part of all this is that it's what you decide would be fun.

Once you have that, you then figure out your stats. These are numbers that represent your characters capabilities. For game balance issues, you're only allowed so many but you pick scores that reflect your character's abilities as much as possible. Those base stats are (referenced from the PH):

Strength: Physical power
Constitution: Health, stamina, etc.
Dexterity: Agility, reflexes, etc.
Intelligence: How well your character learns and reasons.
Wisdom: Common sense, perception, self-discipline, etc.
Charisma: Force of personality, persuasiveness and leadership.

These will all weave into the rest of the character sheet and help you figure out your characters real capabilities within the game (how your character will interact with the rules).

After you pick those scores, you then use them to figure out skills your character is trained in and then you can pick a feat or two which can add a bonus perk to what your character can do.

After all this, you show this to your Dungeon Master and bam, you're ready to go!

Note: There is a little more to creating a character for D&D but that's all right in the Player's Handbook and it's well worth picking up. There is also a great character builder that Wizards of the Coast has created and the demo version is free! (it allows you to make a character all the way up to level 3, so check it out!)

Free Character Builder Demo -

Next time, we'll talk about some rules stuff! Until then, thanks for reading!


Interactive Storytelling

Author: Andrew /

We've all heard a story or watched a movie where we, at some point, thought "Why didn't they do this?" or "Why didn't they do that?" I know I have. Sometimes it's a point of absolute frustration when you're into a story of some kind and then the characters take some course of action when you're there watching them going "No, turn LEFT!!" It's an odd feeling when you catch yourself thinking that stuff, like you want to be in the story, able to influence it. Well, with D&D, that's exactly what you do.

In D&D, you create a character (more on that in the next blog). They can be whatever you want, more or less. Then, you use that character to interact with the story that the DM (or dungeon master) is telling you. An example of this could be a little like this:

DM - Jim
Nazgor, the orc warrior - Dan
Kalvin, the human ranger - Lincoln

Jim: "Alright, you guys reach the forest. It's a dark and gloomy night. The moon casts subtle beams of light through the leaves, leaving small spots of light on the dark forest floor. You hear crickets somewhere out in the blackness beyond your vision and you smell the scent of wet leaves and dirt mixed with pine. You're at the forest entrance, what do you do?"

Dan: "I pull out my axe and charge ahead into the darkness!"

Lincoln: "I'm going to take a moment to light a torch so we can see as we walk through the forest. After that, I'll follow after Nazgor so he doesn't get lost."

Jim: "Alright, into the forest you go. As you walk into the forest, you get a feeling that something's just not right..."

And on the story would go.

The DM presents a scenario and the players, sitting at the table with him, interact with what he tells them. They can be anything from a fight to trying to find a lost kitten to having a drink in a tavern. Anything the imagination can conjure up!

Next time, we'll talk about how you make that character you can use to interact with those great stories your DM is going to be tellin' you!

Until next time, thanks for reading!


First Impressions

Author: Andrew /

As I sit here, I'm trying to think about what to tackle first about the game. I do love it and I think there are so many good things about it that jumping in head first and throwing out random thoughts would be fun, but also probably a little counter productive so as my first post, I'm going to present my first impressions on the game and hopefully, if you play, you may realize some things you didn't before or if you don't play, mayhaps (that's such a fun word) you'll find things that pique your interest!

D&D, or Dungeons and Dragons for the newcomers, is a game that presents itself in a way where most people, at least their first time seeing it, tend to either be VERY intrigued, or they get pushed away; that is, at least if they're seeing it by themselves. The main reason is one simple word. Content.

D&D has a TON of content and as such, can be very daunting. Most people who've played games know that with games, come rules. Rules are usually the not-fun part of the game; or, rather, reading the rules for the first time is usually the "not so fun" part of the game. This also depends on how many rules there are.

Some games are easy. Back when I was a kid, there was a show called "Bozo the Clown" (crazy, I know) and on this show, Bozo would have kids come out from the audience, play games, and win prizes. One of the favorite games on there was the simplest thing in the world. It was 7 coffee cans painted red and on each can was painted a number. The cans got further away from you and you had to throw a ping pong ball into each one, going 1-7. That was about it. Toss into can 1, get a prize. Choose to keep it and leave or shoot for more. Simple rules, fun game, easy to play.

So, that said, my first impression of D&D was "Wow... they have BOOKS of rules! How am I going to learn all this?" I'll go over the rules stuff in a later post but suffice it to say, you can learn them over time and it's much more organic an experience than anything else you've ever played.

Secondly, an impression I got was that it seemed rather exclusive (with 3rd edition) and then much more inviting (with 4th edition). With 3rd edition (and 3.5), the books looked like bejeweled, metal bound books (normal cardboard covers but the graphics looked that way). They changed that in 4th edition. Now, the covers have huge, colorful artwork on the covers that display a scene from high fantasy that can capture the imagination and where the previous books seemed to almost lock themselves to all but the most worthy, the new ones deliberately invite you into the adventure because as soon as you look at them, you're in the scene with them!

Thirdly, and lastly, the impression I got after talking briefly with people who played (this was before I was an ardent player myself) was that there were endless possibilities. It seemed a robust game and just seeing the books makes you wonder "Wow... What's all this for?" The more I talked with people, the more I learned that it wasn't so much a game in that it says "Here's the board. You move your piece around the board and when you get from Point A to point B, you win." It's more like a framework for a story.

To close, what D&D is, at the end of the day, is a framework for interactive storytelling. It give you a way to be able to actually interact with a story and be a part of it, instead of simply being an outside observer.

In the next post, I think I'll go more into how Interactive Storytelling works. Thanks for reading!


Welcome to The D&D Take!

Author: Andrew / Labels: , ,

Hey there, to all of you who come a-reading. Thank you for visiting!

First, before I write anything else, I want to make clear that this "Dungeons and Dragons", "D&D" and lot of other things I'm sure to mention here are all trademarked and copyrighted property of Wizards of the Coast. They're a great company with great ideas and I want to acknowledge all the hardworking people that are up there making the game what it is!

That's the disclaimer. Next post, we'll open it up. Thanks!