Story - Part 5

Author: Andrew /

Rollan awoke, albeit groggily and with a throbbing headache, to the sensation of rocking back and fourth. The floor under him was moving and swaying, he thought. Upon closer observation, he was lying, curled up, on stained, rough, old wooden floor. What's more, around him, as he blearily looked up, was a cage of blackened iron bars with a great big lock on the door.

How did this happen? One day he was on his way from a remote village to the city, the next he's decided to follow a man who, for some reason or another intrigued him. Who was he kidding? It was the money. The money flashing around in front of him, sliding across the counter with careless ease. He had been greedy. How ironic now, that not only had he not made any money, but in fact, had been sold himself to put more money in the same man's pocket. He'd find that bastard someday, that was certain. For now, he was stuck on what seemed to be a ship with a massive bruise on his stomach and a huge bump raised on the back of his head.

Gods it sure was cold. He noticed that he wasn't wearing much. He just had on a ragged pair of trousers and a linen shirt. The pants had a rope belt, but that was it. While he sat and tried to observe his situation, all the while trying to ignore the thumping feeling in the back of his skull, he noticed he was terribly hungry. How long had he been in here? How long had it been since they left the city? They hit him hard, he might have been out a while. He looked around and saw, over on the floor, there were a few crusty hunks of bread and a tin cup of stale water. Hardly a feast but anything would beat starving. He gobbled them up quickly.

The bread wasn't much and the water seemed sour but it at least took the edge off. As he looked around the room he was in, he saw lots of crates and barrels. Sadly, they seemed to be out of arm's reach and the cage walls were bolted tightly to the floor, so it's not as if he could scoot the cage from the inside. As he looked, he noticed a few of the barrels had rough lettering on them, labeling the different contents. Some seemed to be food like apples or pears. One even seemed to be a barrel of walnuts. There were also what seemed to be other barrels that were tarred and sealed to hold liquid. With a ship's crew, he figured a lot of it was probably grog and booze but maybe there was some water too. He had heard it was bad to drink salt water but he didn't exactly know what kind of water they were in, so perhaps they didn't need fresh water on board.

Rollan sat against the back wall of his cell and thought. So, he was sold into slavery, or so it seemed. He was bought, for sure. He really had no idea what for but he could imagine without stretching all too far. Would he be a farm hand or some kind of other manual labor on some rich estate? Would he be made to fight in some huge colliseum for the masses to see murder... or be murdered? He gulped at that thought. Perhaps he would simply be a house servant. He chuckled at that idea. Well, whatever it was, he was sure it would be something he'd rather not do. He heaved a sigh and, with the rocking of the boat and the pounding of his head and the still present complaining of his stomach, he drifted back off into an uneasy sleep.

He awoke to creaking boards overhead and thumping footsteps. He followed the sound overhead, on what must be the floor above him down the length of the room. The footsteps became clearer, as did some talking that he could hear now.

"Captain say where we were dropping anchor?"

"Aye, some place called Strama's Landing. Little port town or some such. Just to re-supply take a night off the water."

"Be good to hit the town again. Colmaire wasn't enough. Place 'idn't have naught but grime and cold wind. Kinda like all we get out here, eh?"

"Stop yer whinin'. A sailor's life is a sailor's life and you know there ain't nothin' like it."

"Yeh, yer righ'. I jus' get so bored out here day after day s'all."

"Well, entertain yersel- Well well well, look who's awake."

The two men who'd been talking came to the cage. One was a big fellow; tall, big as an ox. He had a red rag tied like a bandana around his head, wore a thick, old, grey-blue leather waistcoat that seemed to have had some form of gold stitching along the edges once, but it was frayed and tattered now. He wore high black leather boots that went to his knees and six earrings in his left ear. He was light skinned. His partner wore a similar kind of jacket but nowhere near as fine, in this time or a previous one. He wore a battered triangular hat with a frayed feather in it. He wore a plain tunic-shirt underneath and wore black leather shoes with tarnished brass buckles on them. He had long, matted, greasy hair about to his shoulders and a few scars on his face.

"Looks like he ate," said the big fella.

"Aye. Think we should tell the Captain he's awake?"

"Probably..." The big man looked thoughtful. He looked around, popped the top off a barrel and grabbed an apple and took a big bite, still looking at Rollan and thinking. He took one more huge bite, taking another third of the apple, looked at it, shrugged and tossed Rollan the scant remains. "Yeh, let's go tell the Captain."

The both turned and left and, as soon as they were gone, Rollan near dived on the apple. He ate it quickly, not thinking to savor it. The cool juice went down his throat, sweet and delicious while the meat of the apple and the skin scratched his parched throat.

After a while, footsteps came again.

A man came to the cage. He was not entirely what Rollan had expected though. The man was young, almost boyish. He looked about nineteen, maybe twenty. He was wearing a long red waistcoat with gold embroidery and a large, thick, collar and lapels, with oversized cuffs. Beneath this, he wore a shirt that Rollan would have called frilly but thought better of it at this moment. Around his neck he wore a black scarf that flowed over his jacket. He wore tall, kneehigh boots of black leather that were polished to a mirror shine, which matched his black leather gloves. On his head was what seemed to be a bandana, but also made of the same black leather, holding back blonde hair tied back in a ponytail. He had fair skin and icey blue eyes as he stared down at Rollan.

"It would seem that our new guest is indeed awake. My name is Captain Barret Tollomey and welcome aboard The Siren."

Story - Part 4

Author: Andrew /

And there Rollan hung, by slipping fingertips over a yawning gap in the buildings, wind rushing through the opening and worrying him more and more by the second. He thought and thought about what he would do for the longest five seconds of his life. His fingers slipped away.

He dropped about six feet before slamming his feet against the wall in front of him, mashing his back against the wall behind him. He slowed with a teeth-rattling jolt. Before he knew it, his heels were touching the ground and he was barely recovering himself. He got up, dusting himself off, flustered from the fall. Cedric was just staring at him, then he looked out into the lit street.

"That could have gone worse..." said Cedric.

Rollan wasn't sure how to take that.

They poked their heads out into the street. No one was around. The street was wide and the other side of the street was the docks, then the bay.

"You ready?"

Rollan nodded

They went to the shop and opened the old door. It creaked open. "Aright friend, here's what we do. I want you to put this mask on and hide where I tell you." Rollan nodded his head, donned the black hood-mask and followed Ced down some steps. It was dark in the hallway, all except for a bright line of light at the bottom of the door at the bottom of the steps. He heard what sounded like a good deal of people inside. It was actually relatively loud. They got to the bottom of the steps where there was a door in front of them but also, there was a door to the immediate left.

"Alright," said Ced "You go in there and wait. You'll know what to do when the time comes."

"What? But I-"

"Just do it!" Ced hissed, and pushed Rollan through the door into a dark room, about the size of a closet.

It was dark inside, very dark. He heard noise coming from the other side of the wall but no light. He waited, like Ced told him to, wondering all the while What in the world is happening? He waited and waited. All of a sudden, a scraping sound came from behind him, the sound of wood scratching on wooden flooring. Before he knew it, he felt arms, big arms, wrap around him and a hand close over his mouth. He started struggling but before he knew it, his arms were behind his back and he felt iron manacles clink onto his wrists. Something like cloth wrapped around his head and if it hadn't been too dark to see before, it certainly was now. He felt fingers moving across the hood on his face. They felt for his nose and then heard a snikt as a small hole opened in the hood under his nose and with that, something closed over his mouth. Blood started pumping in his ears and he started struggling. He tried to make sounds outside of just grunts, growls and unintelligible sounds, but it was nothing doing. He felt his feet get bound, arms went under his and he felt himself getting dragged down what seemed to have been a crooked hallway to the back of the dark room. It must have doubled back around the wall, into the room with the light.

He heard wood scrape again. A door, he thought. The noise from a mass of people assaulted his ears. The men (he assumed they were men) held him still as he struggled and strained against them. He felt what must have been a large fist slam into his stomach, doubling him over, leaving him hanging by their large arms. He heard footsteps approaching.

"This the one?" said the man who had Rollan's left arm.

"That's the one. He'll do just fine."

The voice belonged to Cedric.

Rollan struggled harder, still winded by the blow to the gut. What was happening? What was this?

He felt the men drag him up some steps onto what must have been a stage. They held him up and he had a feeling he was on display.

"Gentlemen," said a voice that projected around the room. "We have another fine specimen here! Good for any kind of work you'd need and not sickly like some of the poor shows you've seen brought in here tonight!" There was some chuckling, and some jeers. "We've got a man here who looks a good six foot and some, 'bout... two hundred pounds, maybe a bit more. Good strong stock, not much else need be said! The bidding starts at fifteen gold pieces!"

I'm being sold! It was in that moment that Rollan felt at once both furious and afraid. But then, he supposed, it made some sense. Robbing folks could only get you so far, especially sticking to one town or city. To the Hells with this. He started struggling and thrashing against his bonds, like a fish being held by the fins.

"Sixteen!" yelled someone in the crowd.
"Eighteen!" yelled another.
"Twenty one!" yelled someone else.
"Twenty five!"
"Thirty and five!"
"Forty two!"

There was a moment of silence.

"Eighty five" said a solid voice near the front.

Someone in the crowd gasped.

"Filthy rich son of a-"

"Eighty five is the bid! Anyone else! Going once!"


"Going twice!"


"Sold! To the lord here in front!"

"Grrrrmmmmph! Muurrnnnnnnmmmmmmph!" Rollan bellowed against the fabric over his mouth.

BOOM! A hard blow landed square in his stomach. He felt all his air rush out of his mouth and nose as he fell to his knees, folded over.

CRACK! He felt a sharp impact on the back of his head, saw nothing but white, swooned and hit the wood platform with a dull thud.

Hopes for future D&D products...

Author: Andrew /

I was rollin' some ideas around in my head and I thought "You know, why not put these down on 'paper'?" These are just some products that I think would be extremely useful to DM's / Players and could fit in very well with the stream of books being put out by Wizards.

"The Customization Guide" - We all know we do it, or at least we all know we want to do it. D&D is touted as being a game where the rules take a back seat when the game can be better without them, or by changing them. Ironically, I think that's what makes D&D great; that it doesn't force players (DM's included) to go "Well, this isn't fun but the rules say we have to do it so lets just get it overwith." Instead it encourages the user to customize their experience and tweak it so that it fits just right. This book would contain a few different chapters. It would contain one on maintaining balance and how to engineer feats and powers for various levels and still maintain the balance of the game. It would contain another chapter on custom rules, with many examples of custom rules provided by Wizards that could be inserted into a campaign (a la Dungeon Delve) to alter the flavor or play style of the game. Another chapter would be on custom equipment and how to maintain balance when creating your own magic items. An offshoot of that would be ways to create custom artifacts and items with personalities.

"The D&D Guide to Role Playing" - So many players, from what I've seen, don't actually role play or when they do they do it in such a way that they still revert to thinking as the player, not the character. I would love to see a book just thick with ideas on good role playing. The first chapter could be on creating interesting characters and how to take a bland or broad concept and flesh it out and add things on to make it a more three-dimensional character. The second chapter would be an intro to role playing. It would contain a definition of what role playing is as well as a few "script-style" examples of play dialogue between players, showing what role-playing is and what it isn't (This could even lend itself to creating characters for the book that could reoccur throughout the book in different examples. That would be a lot of fun!). The thrid chapter of the book would be on role playing specifics and tips to achieve certain depictions. "If you're going for an evil character, you may want to think about themes like: treachery, deception, selfishness, superiority, etc" and "If you're going for a good character, you may want to think about themes like: benevolence, selflessness, justice, integrity, etc." There could also be examples for character motives and underlying motives that wouldn't be as aparant as those on the surface. Chapter four would be on character interaction and what different ways you can go about effective role playing with other people. A sub section of this chapter could also be devoted to blending role play with combat, instead of keeping the two separate or allowing one to overtake the other in a combat situation. There could also be a chapter for DM's with some ideas on how to take role play situations and different traits that the characters posess, and turn them into mechanics that could influence skill challenges and combat. Certain relationships and personality traits are there that could have the potential to alter many challenging situations. Perhaps lovers could get a +1 to defenses when defending eachother. Perhaps the druid with wanderlust gets a bonus when traveling? Things of that nature. The final chapter could be a chapter of inspiration. This chapter could contain a wealth of all sorts of different illustrations (There could even be a contest where players could send in drawings and the first 40 or 50 could get picked!) and character write-ups and ideas that other players could read over to help them jump-start their imaginations. I believe this book could be a MASSIVE hit and would be brimming over with great stuff for players to use.

"World, Campaign and Adventure Creation" - This book would contain formulaic advice and examples on how to craft worlds, campigns and adventures. It would have different examples of how to go about creating these things and a "step-by-step" procedure that a new DM could follow if they chose to. Chapter one would contain descriptions of what the main three things are and how they differed. It would then go into the core elements of those things (e.g. - A world contains some sort of environment(s), it is populated by beings, it may have a cosmology or a pantheon of deities, etc). These things would all, then, be detailed in Chapter 2, 3 and 4 (World, Campaign, Adventure, respectively). Chapter 5 would be about crafting environments. Chapter 6 would be about crafting cities, settlements, and populations. Chapter 7 would detail cosmology. Chapter 8 would detail how to create a campaign story arc and how to best put different types together (These are some key elements of an intrigue story, these are elements of an espionage story, these are elements of an action story, etc). Players could then look at these and immediately be getting ideas as to how they could create their own stories and have them be well thought out, planned, and organized.

Those are three products that I would love to see. There are more in my head for sure, but I think I'll save those for another time. In the meantime, check these out, think about them and let me know what you think! Thanks again for reading, all!


The place of the gods...

Author: Andrew /

Alright, this is a topic I've been wanting to hit for a while so I'm a little excited. The topic is the place of the gods in a D&D game.

In a D&D game, the story tends to have a certain scale. When you're fighting small kobolds and trouncing them left and right, you tend to feel pretty strong. Even a dragon, save possibly an ancient one, tends to still rest on a mortal scale. A game tends to step up a certain amount when the gods get involved. When the lords of the heavens step in, it changes things.

The thing I find really cool is trying to figure out the character of the deities that exist in the D&D mythology. There's Torm, the paladin God of the Forgotten Realms who is the defender of weak and helpless, the upholder of righteousness, and iron hammer of justice. How would a player converse with this being? How would a god who weilds power like he does, treat a mortal being?
What about Vecna, the god of the undead with a twisted view of the afterlife? His character is said to believe that beings should serve him in life and the afterlife. He is cool, calculating, pragmatic and self absorbed. If this is the case, how would he act if a player came face to face with him and wanted to talk? What would Vecna's reaction be to the suppositions of a mortal conversing with him at all?

I always enjoy, as a player, running into characters like this when a DM can bring them to life really well. I mean, they could just say "A man in shiny armor walks up to you and says 'Hi, I'm Torm.'" but that doesn't have the punch, does it? It's when the DM really gets into the skin of these higher beings, that the game takes on a whole new life.

What I wonder most is, what are the best ways to bring about these situations? How do you transition from being a tiny level one character who actually did have a kind of rough time with those little kobolds, to a character who is speaking face to face with a god? It really does make the game a whole new kind of epic.

The heroic teir (character levels 1-10) are very (usually) earthbound / believable. They seem to be filled with great deeds and the laying of a hero's foundation, to be sure, but usually things of the massively supernatural don't enter into the equation yet.

The paragon teir (character levels 11-20) seem to be the beginnings of greatness, where characters begin to see things and do things that average people wouldn't think is possible. The may perhaps venture to other planes, they may encounter supernatural monsters or beings of great power that aren't of the natural world.

The epic teir (character levels 21-30) are really when things crank into high gear. Characters are now approaching levels of power that normal, average people in the game world would not even think attainable. At level 30, a group of player characters usually have the combined power to actually pose a threat to a god. Most of them, thus far, are between levels 31-35, depending on the individual deity.

In 3.5 edition D&D, there was a book called Deities and Demigods and I thought that it was one of the coolest books there was. They not only had the pantheon they created for the D&D realms but they also adapted other pantheons from historical societies, namely Greek and Roman mythology. So, you could look in the book and find out how powerful Zeus actually was supposed to be. You can look up Ares or Athena and see what their characters are supposed to play like or what it would take to bring them down (if you wanted a fight that big).

There was one small problem. Most of the gods were SO huge that they were untouchable. They seemed to have powers that were just overpowered to the point that they were untouchable. This meant that, if a DM was going totally by-the-book, a player group could almost never beat a god. Ever. They had powers that allowed them to always go first in a fight. They had powers that were massive damage and some that were instant kills. They could incapacitate players for the entire fight and all sorts of stuff. Now, this was all well and good for the gods but not the players. Good luck having fun when the odds are stacked against you like that.

Now, with 4th edition, in a few of the books, such as the Monster Manual, Monster Manual 2 and Open Grave, they've put a few beings of higher power in these. Unfortunately, they're all of the evil persuasion because usually you're not fighting good gods, unless you're an evil party of characters, which tends to be rather uncommon overall.

That said, these gods have revised stat blocks and are deisgned to be encountered, fought and, with the right strategies, taken down. This makes for some cool ideas for introducing these powerful figures into a story and, at some point down the line, perhaps even having a confrontation with them!

Right now, I'm really hoping for a 4th edition Dieties and Demigods but we'll see what happens. There are two books coming out called (if I remember right) "The Plane Below" and "The Plane Above" which focus on the Elemental Chaos and The Astral Sea. Most of the evil gods reside somewhere in the Elemental Chaos and most of the good ones are in The Astral Sea. So, that being said, I really hope that if they're not doing a 4th ed Dieties and Demigods, they really detail those figures when the planes books arive. We shall see!

Thanks for reading everyone and be sure to check out the new D&D Take pages on Facebook and Twitter! Let the comments begin!


Challenges outside combat

Author: Andrew /

D&D is a game with teeth. Combat is a big part of that. For some players, that's all there is for them. A lot of times, combat can, by it's own nature, overtake most other aspects of the game. If you look at the books, most things in there are combat related. Your character class is usually (by most players) chosen by players thinking "How do I want to function in combat?" because that is usually something that can't be tweaked. You class does certain things and other classes do other things. "Such is the way of the world"... right?

Well, I want to bring to light something that occurred to me when having a conversation with a gaming buddy of mine, and that is the existence, and importance of challenges OTHER than combat. The fact that a game can be challenging, exciting, invigorating, enticing and just downright fun without combat. Now, I know there are some gamers out there who would cry "blasphemy" at that but I stand by it. I think that it's very true. Here's some reasoning behind my thoughts.

When I game, and I'm sure this is the same for most other gamers as well, I love memorable moments. I think it's great when there are spots in the game that just stick with you that you just constantly remember because of how great it was. Now, usually something will stick like that when it's extraordinary in some way. It needs to stand out. With combat, that's actually a tad difficult because it's expected. In most sessions you (as a player) expect at least one fight, if not several. One way that combat itself can take itself down is when it's treated as a formality. "We're fighting goblins, lets get it out of the way, roll dice, make sure they're dead and we're not." I think instead, combat itself needs to be kept fresh and be set within the story and have context so that fighting isn't done for the sake of fighting (and I know a lot of DM's will put fights in there because they feel that a session without a fight is incomplete). If you must fight goblins, then by all means fight them, but give it a reason! Perhaps they're minions of a powerful black dragon hatching a scheme deep in an underground lair and the goblin raiding parties are really parties sent out to gather resources like wood and scrap metal for the dragon's machinations. If they want to draw out the dragon, perhaps they do some detective work to track down the goblin raiding parties and kill them off in order to draw out the dragon so they could have home field advantage! That makes the goblin battles a little more important.

But outside combat, and more important, I think, is the idea of a non combat challenge. Say that a player wants to own a shop, but they have competition in the town. What's the player do to rise above the competition? Kill the other shop owners himself? Hire someone to do it? Scope out the competitions goods and prices? Send hired hands around to take notes for him so he can adjust his goods himself? Trial and error? Curry the favor of a wealthy patron perhaps? Create high status through elitist behavior, claiming to only cater to a high society clientele? There are many ways to achieve this task, many opportunities for role play, character development and story development!

Perhaps another challenge might be hearing that city officials are being assassinated and you know that the baron, who you've seen to be a good man, is in mortal peril and you've got to help him. Perhaps that means becoming his personal guard. Perhaps that means placing someone in his stead and smuggling him out of the city. Perhaps, if you're the type, it even means finding the assassins so you can talk to them and see why they're doing this. Who knows, perhaps there's more than meets the eye?

There is also another breed of challenge that (players, listen up) the DM cannot engineer! There are challenges that you, the players, can create for yourselves. Depending on the choices you make, you can put yourselves in interesting positions where you can make the game your own and really put a spin on things. Perhaps you decide "Well, I'm a human, but I really want to get into the Drow (evil dark elves) city and what's more, I want a position of authority within the city." Well there's one heck of a challenge and one that the DM probably didn't see coming. How do you want to go about it? A classic disguise? Illusion magic? Blackmail? Brute force?

The point I'm getting at with all this is that I think the focus needs to come off combat, and if in your own experiences it is off, then keep it off. Combat, if it degrades to throwing dice and half-lidded stares from the people at the table (DM included), then it's not necessary. Each game should be an adventure and an experience with things that break the mold.

You remember those memorable moments I was talking about earlier? Well, those are created by doing original things. By getting creative and active with the game and taking situations into your own hands. Have fun, get crazy, get inventive! Those memorable moments will come when you do what's not expected and really stretch the bounds of what you thought you could do.

Well, with that, please comment away, as any thoughts are much appreciated! Thanks for reading!


Characters, be interesting!

Author: Andrew /

I've just had a thought about players, mainly. I realize that a lot of my posts tend towards DM's and what they can do with their games but I want to touch not only on the value of role-playing, but the value of role playing a character that's interesting.

So many players I've seen have these characters that, when you ask about them, the players tell you their job.

"He's a fighter with a big sword!"
"She's a sexy bard who can woo any man with just the sound of her voice!"
"He's a cleric who casts holy healing spells!"
"He's a rogue who steals stuff!"

Are these descriptions? Sure. Are they three dimensional characters? No way. Are they ones a three-dimensional character can be built off of? Yes

The trick, when making a character, especially for D&D, is (contrary to conventional thought by a lot of new players) to look at the class as a part of the character, and an addition, not the base. What you do is a part of who you are but personality is first. If you have a fighter with a sword, that doesn't tell you how he grew up. It doesn't tell you how he got to where he is "today". It doesn't even tell you why he is a fighter. Kids aren't born beating the daylights out of things with bladed weapons. They're almost all born as cute little defenseless beings who want nothing more than to eat, sleep and go to the bathroom. How does one go from that, to a hulking, muscle bound warrior wearing plates of metal and beat up leather, facing down a beast that belches fire and hoards treasure that could rival that of entire kingdoms?!

The answer is pretty simple. Life experiences. As a player, there are certain things you don't have power over. The initial layout of the game world, the plans for the game's story in the DM's mind's eye, the price of the ale in the tavern (although haggling is an option always lol), etc. One thing you DO have power over is who your character is. This, I feel, is the greatest part of making a character.

First, think up a name. Find something that resonates with you. Find something that makes you think "Yeah, this inspires me to be this character." Whether the name inspires awe, disgust, strength, loyalty, intrigue, etc; pick something that you'd want to be referring to yourself / your character as for a pretty good length of time.

Usually, for me at least, once I have a name, it almost forces an image into my mind. A massive barbarian perhaps, covered in hair with a knife-blade-shaved head with rough stubble all over his face and hands the size of dinner plates. A hunched over cripple grasping a cane with a deadly gleam in his eye. Perhaps a young girl who's in her 20's who seems relatively innocent, dresses modestly, but with calloused hands, perhaps alluding to something else about her. All these character appearances can present possibilities for who your character is.

After visualizing the appearance (doesn't have to be super detailed, just a general idea so that you can see the character in your head) you can think "Ok, how'd they get here?". Perhaps our big barbarian was actually a young school teacher in a village. There's something out of left field. Perhaps he got fed up with his life, bored and unfullfilled and one night he decided to go for a brief camping trip into the wilderness. While he's out there, he's visited by a vision that leads him, sleep walking, through the forest. The vision is actually a magical enhancement by a dark spirit wandering the wilds. It leads him sleepwalking through an open portal into the Shadowfell (a dark, mirror image plane of the regular world). Waking, he doesn't know where he is, excepting that he's in a dark forest and doesn't feel right. He looks around and realizes that this is where the malevolent spirits live and darkness prowls freely. He's forces into a wild state and ends up honing his body and becoming a beast of a man instead of the intellectual he once was.

See that? All you do is think about a base to where he is and then connect where the character starts, to where he is when the game starts.

To spice things up, you can throw in interesting things about your character. Sure he was a school teacher but perhaps for some reason he's got no sense of smell. Maybe he's always been afraid of squirrels after being bit by one while collecting accorns as a little boy? Perhaps he was helping chop wood one day but hit his leg and they had to amputate below the knee, so he's in great shape, but is missing his right leg from the knee, down? These things make for characters that are original, eye catching, and characters that have some meat behind them. Who cares about a 2D cardboard fighter? But a school-master from a little village with some wander-lust, who's missing his right leg from the knee down, with a fobia of squirrels and no sense of smell... Well, I wanna hear about THAT guy!

So, take a look over all this and really think about the great things you can come up with. Your imagination is the limit. I'm also totally happy to help come up with neat ideas as well. Things can always be enhanced. Role playing an average D&D class is dull. Role playing a character with a background is awesome. Players, this is your chance to make your character and your game experience be the best it can be. A character who's designed well can totally drive a game and make for some memories you'll remember for years and years. Do yourselves a favor and put your heart into it, because you'll get more than that back.



Story - Part 3

Author: Andrew /

So, after waiting a few days, the time finally came. The sun had dipped below the horizon and the city changed from being a place of liveliness and movement, to one of shadows and quiet. Rollan stepped out of the inn and went down the street as before. He turned into the alley and went down to the bend at the other end of it.

Rollan sat on a wooden crate, back in the darkness, and waited for Cedric. Minutes passed that felt like hours. He was nervous. He didn't want to admit it to himself but Cedric seemed the kind of man who didn't do your "normal" kind of work. What was it he did exactly?

, he thought I guess I'll find out...

"You've been sitting here for five minutes and you're already antsy."

Rollan almost fell over. He looked around and from a darkened corner stepped Ced. How long had he been there? How was it that he hadn't heard him? Had he just been watching him the whole time? Chuckling, Cedric came over.

"You better be able to keep a cool head tonight. If you don't, who knows, you just might lose it."

Rollan gulped.

"Now, you swear to me that not a soul hears about our doings tonight. If they do, well, I'll just let your imagination wander."

And wander it did.

"Follow me." And with that, he leaped up onto the crate that Rollan had been sitting on, grabbed the edge of the roof and nimbly hoisted himself up. Rollan got up on the crate and pulled himself up too. He was in good shape but not near as lithe as Cedric seemed to be.

Once up on the roof, he saw there was a second level to the roof, which Cedric had already climbed up on. He was crouched, looking over the point that was protruding over the street. He looked this way and that, looking out even to the harbor, where a few tall masted ships were docked. Cedric motioned for him to come up. Rollan did.

When he was up, he moved over to Ced and got down. He looked around and didn't see what Cedric was looking for, but even so, kept down and waited.

"Ah ha..." whispered Cedric


"Look down there" He said, pointing down into the street. A nobleman was walking along, the street below, moving in the direction of the docks. "That's our man."

"He is? What's that mean?"Rollan asked, unsure of what to do.

"We tail him, but not on the street. Dirt leaves tracks, shingles don't." And with that, he started running, low and light, across the rooftops. Rollan followed.

They ran, keeping their heads down, quietly across the rooftops, skirting the edge, to best keep an eye on their prey. He moved along, walking quickly. His long tail-coat flapped loosely behind his legs and he kept his triangular hat tilted over his face. His hands were jammed into his pockets and his shiny leather boots moved briskly through the dirt streets. He took a right down a side street, still towards the docks.

Rollan and Cedrick followed by the rooftops, hopping the gaps between the houses. They kept a constant eye on the man walking through the now only lamp lit streets. They jumped across more roofs, only seldom hitting a loose shingle or an extra wide gap. The city was dense so it made roof-running none-too-difficult.

They came to the rooftops near the dock and watched the wealthy townsman walking along the dockside. He ducked into a building about a hundred yards away from Rollan and Cedric. Rollan looked down and saw that it was an old shop about with a creaking sign swinging in the chill breeze. The sign had the image boar's head carved on it, the lines painted in black. The sign was weathered and pockmarked by the salt in the spray from the water. The windows were boarded up and no light was coming from inside.

"C'mon" said Cedric.

With that, he slid silently down the side of the roof, let his legs slip through the space between this roof and the next and held himself up from falling by bracing a hand on either roof edge. By spreading his feet and pressing them against the opposing walls of the two buildings, the slid down the smooth, stone walls, landing effortlessly on the dirt ground. Rollan slid down the shingles the same, but hit a roofing nail head sticking out of the wooden shingles, which spun him round. He began sliding backwards and panicked. He fell back, his feet went over his head in some kind of awkward backwards roll. He ended up on his stomach, facing up the incline of the roof, sliding towards the gap fast. His feet went through the opening and he scrabbled with his hands, just barely catching himself on the edge. There he hung, feet dangling fifteen feet above the ground, fingers starting to ache and slip...

D&D on the brain...

Author: Andrew /

Here's a question for you. What do you do when you want to get some dice rollin' and you can't? I'm sittin here thinking "You know, I haven't had a face-to-face D&D game in... one long stinkin' time." So, I suppose, what I'm askin' is what do you do when there's no game to play?

For myself, I try to get myself into some good stories. I've become a fan of some great fantasy fiction. Some of my new favorite authors are Joe Abercrombie, Glen Cook, Scott Lynch, and Patrick Rothfuss. Now, these guys are just some great inspiration.

I think that reading fantasy like this, that breaks the classic Tolkein-esque mold, it breaks the idea mold as well. With that comes stuff that can enhance our games and our creativity in a way that the old stuff can't do so well.

That said, I love Tolkein and C.S. Lewis. Lord of the Rings has laid so much foundation for fantasy culture that it's now impossible to disassociate the two. Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, citadels of unknowable evil powers and bastions of good and light that are staged, precariously, on the brink of oblivion and staving off a threat that could destroy the world as we know it. Those are classic principles that are central to fantasy literature and fantasy thinking in general.

In fantasy, one of the great things is that good and evil are usually so well and clearly defined. That said, in a lot of the stories I've been reading, there are characters who may be closer to the dark side than Gandalf. Most of these characters toe the line between the light and the shadow. I enjoy this, and I'll tell you why.

With a good character, you have some limits. You have a code of conduct that must be followed in order to stay true to that character. If you have an evil character, you're rather in the same spot. With characters in the middle, you have more canvas to work with and more story possibilities.

With a character in the grey, it gives you a wider idea of ranges to play with. Your character can be a villanous scoundrel perhaps with one little touch of good in him that's buried under layers of leather and blood, in order to protect themselves from pain. Perhaps your character is a paladin who is absolutely righteous, or so it seems. Perhaps underneath the skin, perhaps even unknown to him, there is a deep seated prejudice or a part of him that is so committed to ridding the land of evil that he would commit one evil act to prevent a greater evil from happening.

There really are unknowable combinations and ideas, but I feel that the authors above really capture characters that are conflicted and feel mortal. Most of them feel as if they encounter problems that we can sympathize with.

So, I think that my way of coping with not having dice in my hands when I want some D&D action is to crack a book or do some game or blog writing.

How about you guys? What do you do when Dungeons are nowhere to be found and Dragons are nowhere to be slain? Movies? Other Games? Other ideas? Let 'em roll!


Story - Part 2

Author: Andrew /

Rollan walked silently while going as quickly as he dared. The streets were all but empty, with a few drunk stragglers tottering back and forth, some simply collapsing into incoherent lumps on the ground waiting for the dizziness to wear off. Rollan hurried along and ducked around the corner he saw Cedric (or at least, who he thought was Cedric) go around. There was no one here but the figure seemed to have been moving quickly. Rollan looked at the ground and saw footsteps in the dust. They were vague and even as he looked, chill alleyway breezes were blowing them away, but they were there all the same. He followed down alley between the tall buildings on either side.

The alley made a right turn and so did Rollan but then, as soon as he turned, he stopped. Where were the tracks? He was following them and now they were just gone? That didn't make any sen-

Then, at that moment, Rollan felt movement behind him and where once was only air, there now was a fine, slim dagger lightly resting on his throat. Hot breath warmed the left side of his face.

"What do you think you're doing?" it breathed.

"Would you believe just going for a walk?" Rollan slowly said, not wanting his throats movements while speaking to nick the knife sitting closer than he would like.

"No, I wouldn't."

Rollan didn't want to admit to snooping. A fellow that could do this... well... he's rather dangerous. He held his tongue.

"Friend," the voice said in a tone that was anything but friendly "you've got five seconds to say the word explaining yourself or I bleed you like a stuck pig and make sure you sleep in the sewers."

"Following..." said Rollan, not wanting to provoke the figure more.

The blade moved from his throat, a hand gripped his shoulder and spun him around to face the mystery assailent. As he figured it probably was, it was Cedric. Now the knife was pointed at him but at least he had a face to look at, albeit one vaguely lit by the moon. The face looked none-too-pleased.

"Why are you following me?" The tone demanded a quick reply.

"The way you tossed coins down in that tavern! I tried to ask about it but, well, you remember how that went..."

"Give me a reason not to still throw you down into the sewers."

"I wanted to see where you make that kind of coin. I live on coppers and here you toss a bartender gold?! I want a piece of that pie. I want to see what you do."

Cedric slid the knife back and grinned.

"You want to see what I do."

Rollan didn't know what to say to this so he held his tongue.

"This is what's going to happen. You meet me here three nights from now and I'll give you a task. You complete this task and you'll be on your way. You fail and, well, lets just say failure isn't an option worth your while considering. If I catch you following me again, and I would catch you, you'll dye your own clothes red, understand?"

With that, Cedric snapped his arm around Rollan's head, bringing the pommel of the dagger into the back of Rollan's head, knocking him out cold.

The next morning Rollan awoke, shaking the cobwebs out of his head, awakening a throbbing pain in the back of his head. He brushed his hand back, feeling a raised lump the size of a walnut. That guy hit hard...

Rubbing the back of his skull, he went back to the inn, found Gregory and asked about an apothecary where he could find some remedy. He directed him across town. Following the directions, he moved along the city streets, staggering a bit from the thud of his own feet resounding in his own head. Follow a guy like that he thought. What in the world was I thinking.... Real smart, Rollan, real smart.

He reached the point the directions pointed to, which landed him in front of a run down shack of a place. The windows were boarded shut and it almost looked worth condemning, except that there was a neat little wooden sign hanging on a nail on the front door with a crude picture of what seemed to be an herb carved on it. Rollan was no artist but even he though it wasn't a very good picture.

He walked into the shop and the inside was absolutely different. The smell of rich, smooth incense was all around as were more potted plants than Rollan had seen in one place in his entire life. The walls were hung with silks and heavy linens in rich deep blues and maroons. There were candles burning around the room, giving it a hazy, flickering light.

Out of the back of the room came a woman. She wasn't what Rollan expected. He'd expected some old, crippled hag who was bent over with bone problems and a raspy voice. She was not those things. She was tall, for a woman, at about six feet and slim. She looked to be in her mid thirties and was dressed in silks like those on her walls. Her hair was dark blonde, almost brown and the candlelight reflected off trace lines of light gold. Her skin was fair and her eyes were sharp.

"Can I help you?" She said.

Rollan realized he'd been staring. So taken aback was he by her appearance that he didn't think to say anything.

"Oh, uhm, oh, I need something for my head. Got mugged last night and they hit me pretty hard. Got a nasty bruise."

"Ah, I thought you'd actually pose me a problem that took solving. You want this salve. Just massage it into the bruise and you'll feel a tingling numbing feeling. That'll take care of the immediate pain. You then want to boil this in a tea. They're Moguish leaves. The fibers break down and have healing properties that will reduce swelling. Drink that every few hours and keep that salve on the spot. You'll be feeling better in a day or two. Also, don't do much strenuous activity."

"Wow, thanks."

"That'll be ten silver pieces."

Ten silver pieces? That was almost all he had! That would only leave him with a few copper.... Well, going with Ced better pay off. Grudgingly he handed over the coins and thanked the lady and left. He had an odd feeling left in his nose, probably from the incense, he thought. He trudged back to the inn, gave the innkeeper his last coins to cover a room for about a week more with basic meals.

He drifted off to sleep, thinking about the coin he'd have soon and in the back of his head, seemingly where the pain also was, was a lingering wonder about what it was that Cedric actually did and, now, he didn't have much choice of whether to participate or not... He was broke.

Story - Part 1

Author: Andrew /

Just a little story, we'll see how this goes....

"Walking through a dark forest doesn't get the due that it deserves, especially from those villagers a few miles back. I asked where the next city was and they pointed down the road and just said to follow it. They said that there was a big forest between here (Colmaire, the city I was travelling to and am newly arrived to) but they failed to really express to me the perils lying within.

"But that's just how it goes, eh? I mean, these people put their villages out in the middle of nowhere and first, expect no danger to befall them, and secondly, remain stunningly ignorant of the places around them. They'll sequester themselves and let off and let travellers just take care of business for them. Is it possible for there there to be a society of hermits?

"Well, anyway, I'm passing through and I ask which way to Colmaire and they point (as usual) and say 'You wanna follow this here road, and keep following it. It'll take you straight to the city. You'll go through the forest, go about another day or two and then you'll get there. Big place, can't miss it.'

"Can't miss the city, yeah, no problem. The problem was that forest. That place must have been born from several different levels of the pit, I swear. I mean... Well, it's nice enough for a forest itself but the stuff that lives there? I don't know where these things come from. It's like, when I was a kid, you'd see rabbits, foxes, a bear here and there, maybe even wolves. You wouldn't see these creepy little things in there. I'd make forts off in the woods to play in. I never saw a goblin or a gnoll. They didn't pose much problems but it's more that they just seem... Un-natural.

"So I'm walkin through the forest, right, and the treetops are so thick that, day or night, light ain't makin' it very far through those leaves. I light up a torch and guess what I see? Or rather, what I don't see. The trail. It goes on for about thirty yards and then nothin. Some worn dirt but the trees are everywhere! Then, to make matters *so* much better, the trees seem like they're movin'. I can't say I saw one movin' for sure but I could swear the trees were in different places when I looked back...

"So I walk on and I hear forest sounds and scampering and whatnot. Stuff you'd expect to hear but then I start hearin' other stuff. I tell ya, holding a sword in your hand is a comfort, espescially when you know how to use it but I'll also tell ya 'nother thing. Sounds are terrible things sometimes. The mind can wander and put those sounds onto any manner of beast, ghoul or creature from some gaping hole from the 9 hells, but who knows... It was probably a squirrel.

"As I wound through that forest, I swear the trees kept moving because I soon found myself in a place I didn't recognize at all, even though I'd only been walking for a short time. Feeling more wary, I lit a torch and drew my sword, which made me feel a big better.

"Finally, I decided that I needed some perspective so I threw some dirt on the torch, set it down, sheathed the blade and climbed the nearest tree. My head broke the leaves at the top and I looked out over the forest and, sure enough, the sky was clear but it was dark. I guess I was wandering longer than I thought. As I looked over the treetops with the moon shining down I saw, sure enough, treetops moving. Whole sections of leaves would shift alongside others, scoot around and settle in another spot. It became rather clear that I'd have to navigate this way because trying to find my way down below would be impossible.

"As I climbed down a bit, I heard cackling. Some kind of high pitched giggling or something. Leaves were rustling and then, all of a sudden, something leaped out and grabbed onto my neck. Biting and clawing, it just went crazy. I grabbed the thing by its neck and threw it headlong into the tree I was just in and it crumpled to the ground like a doll. I looked at it and it was this green, pointy eared freakish looking little thing with gnarled, pointed teeth. Goblin. Great, just what I needed. They were usually not ones to travel alone. Feeling grumpy, I moved on.

"After a little while, I started feeling tired so I grabbed a dead log, hauled it over to a small clearing and started a fire. I relaxed for a bit when I felt a draft coming from behind me and, looking behind me, I saw in the firelight, a cave. In that cave, with the light barely touching it, was a family of bears. Excellent, right?

"I slowly doused the fire and moved away. On and on I walked, through muddy patches, constantly moving trees, I even came across some old ruins but didn't know what to make of them.

"Climbing the trees to see the way, I finally reached the edge of the wood and gods was I happy to see it. I found a proper road and made my way here. I got here just this evening and I tell ya, if I never go through that forest again, it'll still be too soon."

"Well, sounds like you've had quite a journey, sir. What be yer name?"

"Oh, name's Rollan. You?"

"Gregory. I own the place. The Broken Wheel's been in the family for..." He counts on his fingers slowly "'bout six generations or so, give or take? Yeh, sounds righ' t'me."

"Ah... Fill me up, will you?" Rollan said, handing him his mug, and Gregory topped him off with the frothing tan liquid that seemed to be the popular choice in the house. From the direction of the door, Rollan heard boot steps come up beside him.

"Ain't seen you around before."

Rollan looked up to see a lanky fellow in dark leathers, a stained, crimson leather cloak and wearing an equally dark red bandanna tied around his head. His face was lean with dark eyes and a black, dagger sharp goatee.

"Let him be, Ced. He's new. Just got into town. This is an inn, after all."

"Yeah yeah. Strong wine?" He tossed a shiny 3 silver pieces on the bar "Keep em comin'."

Rollan looked at the coins. This was more money than he'd seen in quite some time, just rolling across the bar top. He looked at the man who'd just come in.

"Ced, is it?"

"Cedric to you, friend."

"Right, Cedric. What do you do that lets you throw heavy coin down like that for booze?"

"Well, let me tell you." He got in real close to Rollan so he was whispering in his ear. "It's none of your business!"

Rollan looked at the man as he turned away, grabbing what seemed to be a steel goblet from the bartender, filled with the dark red liquid. He sucked it down right quick and tossed it back to Gregory who returned it full. This drink Ced nursed a bit more, and as he drank, he pulled out a small white block of stone and a long, thin dagger (which was one of many, Rollan observed). Ced started carving away on the alabaster block, creating something that was, at least as far as Rollan could tell, undefined.

After finishing what must have been three more goblets of the wine (could have been more) he tucked the stone carving into a pocket in his cloak, slipped the knife away, spun a gold coin across the bar.

"Night Ced" waved the innkeeper.

Cedric turned and left.

Placing 2 copper pieces on the bar, Rollan quietly asked the bartender "Who is that? What's his deal?"

"Oh, Ced? He's just that way. Dunno what he does but he pays well and dosen't cause me no grief so I don't ask. Doesn't seem the type to mix with folks."


With that, Rollan stepped out onto the dark city street, looked left and right down the street and saw what looked like someone in a dark red cloak disappear around a corner. If this fellow was in some work that allowed him that kind of coin, Rollan was determined to get in on the action.


Part 2 coming up!


Music in your game?

Author: Andrew /

Well, the answer to that is "YES!"

Now, you're probably thinking "Please, elaborate!" So I'm thinking I will.

So, does music have a place in your D&D game? I think that it does. Now, that said, some of you might ask how one goes about getting that to work and with that, I would reply with a few solutions.

I think something like iTunes works best, if you have access to a computer and speakers (usually a laptop with some portable speakers works best). The bonus to this is that you have all of your music all in one place, you can create playlists that have all the music you want and you can even arrange them in an order that suits your needs. Other ways to integrate music would also be having a radio with a CD player nearby or some portable speakers for your personal MP3 player. Or having your own personal orchestra (but I know most of you can't afford those all the time, so we'll skip that).

So, more to the point, you want to have music because it can add a fantastic amount of atmosphere to your game. The major trick is picking music that will fit your scene but at the same time, not detract attention from the action.

Usually what you want is good ambiance. This can usually come from game soundtracks, classical music, movie soundtracks, etc. These (with the exception of some classical music) were usually made to accompany some kind of entertainment and provide atmosphere as well as increasing, emphasizing and sometimes just plain creating a mood desired by the creator (in this case, the DM).

The idea to this is pretty simple and I don't think it needs much explaining. I think what really merits mentioning is the idea of it at all. If you watch a small video clip of a man in a top hat walking down the street with no sound, and then watch it again with oboes and a pipe organ playing some dark funeral dirge, you'll get a certain feeling about that scene. Take that scene again and put some old western saloon piano behind it instead of the dark music. You'll get a different feel from that as well. Still the same visual though.

The point to all of this is to make clear that if you're not using music, you're ignoring an important story-telling medium that could enhance your game very very much. Below are some games that have some great music:

The Baldur's Gate series
Neverwinter Nights
World of Warcraft
Age of Empires
Shadow of the Colossus
The Total War Series
Music by "Midnight Syndicate" (They actually made a Dungeons & Dragons soundtrack years ago)

Those are just some great ones. There are others out there but the point is that you should explore the medium. It's not for everyone but it can sometimes be the salt that a game needs to created just a little more mood. Creeping skeletons are more scary if you put some scary music behind it!

Well, thanks for reading and I hope this gave you all some ideas, if you hadn't had them already. Comment away and if you haven't, register and enjoy Take Talk!


Playing D&D... With your computer?!

Author: Andrew /

Yes, folks, you heard it right. It's a new age and yep, you can even play D&D via your computer. Now, I'm not talkin' D&D Online: Stormreach, the MMO. I mean doing good ole' Pen-n-Papering right over your very own inter-web-nets!

Some people have asked me recently what I mean when I talk about playing D&D online and I thought "You know what? That might be good to explain!" So I shall. So gather 'round and you shall hear the tale of... well... how to play D&D online.

Essentially, the main thing you need is (aside from a computer itself) an online game table. Some of these are free, others you pay for (usually a one time fee but that fee can be anywhere from possibly $15 - $40+). Most of these will include at least these three things (most of the rest is bonus stuff):

Digital White Board: This is a sub-window within' the program that usually consists of a scaleable grid that can be drawn on. Most programs have a "snap-to-grid" feature where you can have lines snap to the grid to be straight and whatnot.

Dice Macros: These are handy-dandy buttons that roll for you. There are some programs that have pre-made macros like the d4, d6, d8, d10, d12 and d20 (Open RPG has these). These little buttons generate a number that pops up in the chat. So, basically, you click the d20 button and it generates a random number 1-20, like a dice (although sometimes you can just swear that the computer's gimping your rolls but I think that's just gamer superstition coming through. lol) Just about all the gametables I've heard of also allow you to make your own macros through an easy to use little window where you just fill in the name of the macro in one blank and the other with what dice command you want (ex: 2d4 + 6). This will do a whole roll for you and add the numbers up accordingly. Some will even spit out what the actual numbers were (ex: 1+3+6 = 10)

Chat Utility: This is probably the most important thing because without talking of some kind, you've got no D&D. This will simply allow you a group-chat window so you can all talk to each other. Most game tables give the option to create a name to use (I'd always pick my character name) and the DM can label themselves DM. Some gametables also have the capability to private-message the DM and have messages sent privately from the DM to you. This simulates passing covered notes, such as when your character learns of something that the characters around them may not know.

If you have those things, you can play. Anything else is just nice extra features.

The two I recommend are either Gametable 2.0 OR OpenRPG. These both contain the above three features in at least some degree. I like them both for different reasons.

Gametable 2.0 (Link:

Gametable is neat. It's a sweet little *barely* no frills package that's free and easy to use. The Dice Macros are cake to use; the really easy little "fill in the blank" window allows you to create a whole litany of buttons. (I have about 16 for my lvl 3 Goliath Fighter. One for every move he can do as well as skills he uses frequently, etc). The Chat is limited. This is the one feature that I am not pleased with but note that they (on the website) said that it's being worked on. The things it lacks is, firstly, Chat selection. You can't highlight any of the text, therefore making it pretty much impossible to log your sessions, which may put a kink into some of you who like the nostalgia of looking back on games. The best you can do is create character journals to record the sessions the best you remember them. They also are lacking Word Wrap. This is a minor nuissance but it just means scrolling to the right with the scroll bar. It's not that bad but scrolling down and only down would have been nicer. Lastly, there's the whiteboard. This, I think, is pretty well done. You can erase sections, you can import little "pogs" (little pictures to represent characters) as .png files. If you're photoshop savvy, this is fun and easy. You can even take Character Builder files, pull them into photoshop, trick them out a bit, put a nice border on them and then just save the file as a .png file in the folder for the game table. This is a very friendly whiteboard with marquee-style erasing too. To use this program, you need to use a Virtual LAN (Local Area Network) program such as Hamachi. One person on the VLAN can open gametable, go up to the network button, select "Host", create the game name, password if needed, etc (just a few little blanks) and bam, it's hosted. The others can open the program, aslo go up to network and select "Join". They just put in the info for the "room" that the host has set up and they log in. Nice and easy and, most importantly, FREE!

OpenRPG (Link:

OpenRPG is a little bigger. Amongst the online gametables, it's probably the biggest, or close, next to MapTools, and some other bigger tables that you have to pay for. The whiteboard for OpenRPG is really a pain to use. Drawing on it is easy enough but the pain comes when you want to erase. You must select each little thing drawn, right click it, and select delete. Imagine if you accidentally drew 50 separate lines.... Yeah, not fun. This, I feel, is OpenRPG's worst feature (which isn't a terrible thing if you don't use the whiteboard.) Second, the macros are easy. Namely, it comes with the default buttons (d4-20 as well as a d100 button) all right there waiting to be clicked. These are nice. As far as I could tell, a macro making utility wasn't there or, if it was, I missed it. That said, to roll, you can simply type "/roll 2d4 + 6" (without the quotes of course) and it would roll and report out the same way Gametable 2.0 does. Finally, the chat utility is great. I really like theirs. You can select text, you have word wrap, it's essentially as good as any instant messenger. (I'm not sure if it allows you bold and italic text but that's not a big deal). It also offers tabs so you can private message the DM and possibly other players, if the need should arise. Running a game with this is a little different because OpenRPG runs off servers. You start a server with your game name on it and you can set passwords and whatnot. Players then open up OpenRPG and browse the hosts and find the one they're looking for in the list. They then select it, hit "Join", put in any passwords needed and you're good to go.


ALRIGHT! After all that, you've probably got ideas rolling around in your head. This does open up options. There are other gametables, some REALLY elaborate ones with some incredible graphics, some come with really nice maps or map building tools, some are really complex, etc. Most of these cost a nice chunk of change. I remember seeing one that, for the DM license (the player license was cheaper) it was about $80 or so. Not cheap. Others tend to run between $15-$40.

This, in the end, breaks the "I've got no one to play with!" argument because, so long as you know some people somewhere who'd be willing to play, all you do is call 'em up, all download the same gametable, get whatever books you need at your desk and start playin'. It's not as good as being around the table for sure, but it certainly beats not playin' at all.

I hope this enlightened you guys and that you now have a new avenue to getting your game on! Thanks again to all you readers; the site just keeps growing! Keep talking to people and get the word out. Hope to have a new post up soon. Until then, check out Take-Talk and see if there's anyone on there to chat with! You can find me under there as, what else, "The D&D Take". Until next time, may all your rolls be 20's!



Author: Andrew /

All new on the site, Take-Talk! This is a easy-to-use chat window that allows any of you Taken (and anyone else, for that matter) while at the site, to do some live talk. I was doing some thinking and I'm liking the way things are shaping up. We've got regular readers, the reader-base is growing and things seems to be going at a nice clip. I would like to be able to talk to you guys outside comments (but I still want lots of those!). I think this will be a great way to emphasize community and be a utility to connect with each other. So, with no further ado, I give you Take-Talk. Enjoy!


D&D Insider thoughts...

Author: Andrew /

You know, I just had an interesting discussion today about some frustrations over D&D Insider. For those of you who don't know, D&D Insider is the subscription based plan that Wizards of the Coast offers for *around* 10 bucks a month. Not as much as an MMO but not dirt cheap / free either. Now, this said, it contains a lot of things, and those things are:

Dragon Magazine: Dragon Magazine used to be an actual published, buy-it-at-your-local-news-stand magazine, printed on that thing that's so becoming obsolete nowadays... What's it called? ... Oh yeah, paper. Anyways, Dragon contains so neat stuff. Mainly it contains stuff usable by players and DM's that tend to be, more or less, functional things. It has interesting game articles, it has stuff having to do with character creation, in-game locations (like cities and whatnot), etc. One of the other really cool things is that they publish content from upcoming books that tend to run about 35$ apiece, such as most recently, the Psion class available in the Players Handbook 3, which should be coming out in March of 2010, give or take a few months.

Dungeon Magazine: Dungeon used to be the sister mag to Dragon and used to also be on news stands most everywhere. This tends to be a magazine tailored to Dungeon Masters, more or less. It contains articles from the developers as well as actual designed adventures and encounters. Stuff you could throw into a game that way. Also a cool mag.

Digital Tools: This is super new (in relation to D&D) and it promised to be quite spectacular. The digital tools were meant to be downloadable tools which could be used to enhance your D&D experience. There were a whole list of awesome things coming down the pike. Among the original things slated was the D&D Character Builder, The D&D Compendium (an online searchable directory, not a downloadable bit of software), The Character Visualizer, Dungeon Builder and the D&D Game Table. Also, now, there is D&D Adventure Tools which includes the Monster Creator and only the Monster Creator, at the moment, but the opening "menu" has four buttons of five that are blanked out, looking to be spots for new applications to follow in the suite.

Now, all that said, there are some cool things and, truth be told, there are some things that are rather un-cool.

Amongst the cool things are the Character Builder. That's probably one of my favorite tools to use. It makes character building a snap and, so long as I'm doing online gaming and whatnot, I don't have to waste ink and paper. It also handily includes any races or classes released as bonus material in Dragon Magazine, as well as anything that's playable as a character out of the Monster Manual. It takes you through in nice easy steps, takes care of the majority of the math and sets up a great looking character sheet for you, to the point where you can even throw in a little .png file picture to use as a supposed character portrait so you can get an idea of what your character looks like. If you're Photoshop (or other picture editing program) savvy and artistically inclined, you can create your own pictures, save them as .png files and toss those in the file containing the pics and use your own. I really dig that.

Also within the realm of "cool stuff" is early viewing of content. I love getting my hands on a new class or a new race that gives me capabilities I didn't have before, that give me options I didn't have before and flavor i didn't have before. Granted, you COULD bend flavor around the other classes (you could have a fighter who's a theif, for example, but a rogue would just be a bit easier / more conducive to your goal, usually).

Now, unfortunately, there are some negatives. One big negative that I've heard talked about (and am still a tad on the fence about myself) is the subscription fee. Now, as Dungeon and Dragon used to be published magazines, I can understand the monthly fee for monthly content. That's understandable. That said, they've eliminated the need for paper, printing, publishing, etc. At least in big ways they've trimmed it down and saved money. I'm not saying that this negates costs altogether but I think it probably made it a lot cheaper. It makes me wonder about the price.

Also, an interesting little insight came my way and turned me on to the fact that some players really have a problem paying for updates to a program they buy, because once you download the character builder, you own it and can use it indeffinately with the content you've gotten while subscribing. This is where I'm on both sides of the issue. On the one hand, they're releasing new content on a monthly basis in the way of a new class, new race, new feats or whatever and once you've updated your character builder, you've got it and that's that. That said, a lot of people i've talked to think that the content offered isn't worth the money. I think it's cool and I like it but at times it does seem a bit sparse.

Attached to that is also the quality of the software. A lot of times there are bugs. Some pretty obvious or bad bugs. Bugs that are mentioned on the forum but, to my knowledge, seem to go unaddressed. Just about any patcher out there for software can do a hotfix for major issues. It seems that the software is still rather glitchy for a lot of people, leading them to believe to the extent that the company released, in actuality, something of beta test quality instead of final quality while still charging a price reminiscent of final version software.

Also a gripe with me personally is the promise of great things and then having them just go away. The above mentioned Game Table was going to be a utility that would allow gamers to connect all over the world. Gamer groups could connect with eachother thousands of miles apart and it could breathe new life into the game, even moreso than 4th ed did! It was a fantastic idea with high production value. It had a 3D dice tray with some physics to it where you could throw digital dice and, more or less, they'd react as real dice. There was a 3D window where a DM could import dungeons made with the companion Dungeon Builder and where players could import character figures custom created in the Character Visualizer and be able to play across the 3D map. This also had tools such as vision distortion for the players (also called "fog-of-war") which would hide things the players "can't see" yet and neat lighting effects. There's nothing out there on the market like this and I think that not making it was a huge loss and also took away from something that a lot of people payed good money for, thinking they were going to get it.

What's more, some of the software seems low quality. Now, I know what goes into making a game, I know that teams are tough and that schedules and deadlines need to be made and all the woes of production; I went to school specifically for game production. That said, it seems like the software quality is sub-par and if it isn't, the bug-fixing needs to happen more than a patch once a month. Included in that is the fact that even though a person is subscribing, they only get up to 5 updates a month. That's it. If they have errors and have to attempt updating again and lose their updates, that's it. Instead, I very much think that if you're paying to have some kind of software, as long as you're paying, you should have access to all the updates you need to keep things in top shape and best working order. Limited patches doesn't make sense and I feel it should be done away with.

Another gripe I have is perhaps with Hasbro or other company higher-ups with Wizards or someone who I'm not totally aware of. All I know is that, due to this economy (which is not entirely anyone's fault), Wizards of the Coast had to make lay-offs. This coming soon after they just released a great product and then they had to cut people. You know what people they cut? A big fat chunk of the Digital team. After that, you know what happened? The game table, the visualizer, the dungeon building utility, all shelved and the website was restructured to not indicate the existence of those things in any way. This frustrates me because, due to a decision made by some suits up top, a team got cut that could have HUGELY impacted the role-playing-game scene at large in a gigantic way. Those tools could have paved the way for entire new types of games, let alone new types of game-play. The tools also could have been fantastic marketing tools, as friends could get other friends who live very far away, into the game when otherwise, they might not get into it. That's free money that's just being turned down and it doesn't make sense to me.

*Sigh* I really do like Wizards and I love D&D. Like I've said a million times over, it's my favorite game ever. Sure, there are some things it lacks in a few places but overall, it's a blast and has brought more inspiration to me in the past years than anything else has in my life. But Wizards, you've got a great thing possible with D&D Insider and you're not using it to its potential; you're just not. Now, whether its the fault of not having enough dough, or whether it's having a vision that the players just may not know about or whether it's just a whim, I think that being in there and helping with the decision making, I'd change a few things and I'm pretty sure it would make a good deal of money. You are a business, after all, and I understand. I just think that changing gears and bringing back some of the awesome things that were promised at the beginning could really bolster your company in a lot of ways.

Guys, as always, thanks for reading and this, by no means, is me hating on Wizards, it's me trying to give some constructive criticism that, thanks to a buddy of mine, I was enlightened to today. I think it needs to be said and I think the players need to speak up more and try to let the company know what we really want. And maybe the majority really did want what they're doing right now but being a silent minority without even getting some answer, even if it's to the negative, isn't helpful. We can't gripe in the shadows but not get a word out asking for what we really want.

For me, it's more classes that feel different from the others, as well the old suite of D&D Insider software tools. If they got those back, I'd be a really happy camper.

Thanks again for reading and I'm thinkin' a lot of comments are comin' on this one. lol


The Journey...

Author: Andrew /

When you see a good fantasy story, one thing I've found that they all have in common is diversity in location. Travel! In just about every fantasy story I've read, the characters move from one interesting locale to the next, sometimes back and forth, moving the plot along as they go.

Now, here's something I've noticed in Pen 'n' Paper rpgs versus video games. Travel gets overlooked! I've seen so many games where the players say "Ok, we're going to travel to this place." (which is like 250 miles away across the country they're in) and as they start traveling, not much is going on, players don't really RP any banter going on between them, no talk on the road, so it ends up coming to "Ok, four days later, you guys get there." That really disappoints me (espescially because I know I've done that).

I think that something I'd like to see more is an emphasis put on travel; on going places instead of just being at places. When you read 4th edition's description, it's a "points-of-light" world, and a sparse one at that. What this means is that the world is dark and frought with peril, save perhaps a few cities, settlements and safe havens that are dimly-lit bright spots in all the danger (I mean this both literally and metaphorically because, in actuality, most monsters don't go about lighting torches so most of the wilderness is, in fact, dark).

So, really, when you think about it, as much adventure takes place in cities and settlements, look how big a settlement is versus the space you usually have to cross to get to it. Now, look at that size in comparisson to the amount of stuff that goes on once you get to your point-of-light. Seems disproportionate, doesn't it? You get to this place, which, compared to the area surrounding it, is a pin-prick, and yet it has all this stuff going on and hardly anything going on outside of it (save maybe a few wild animals). I think it should be the reverse, or rather, I think that the wilderness needs to be buffed up a bit.

To all us DMs out there, this is a challenge to us all (myself included). When designing an adventure, come up with plot points that could relate to travel. Have some stuff happen to your players! Have them be visited by a mysterious figure or get sidetracked by some interesting things they pass or something (I don't want to lay out a ton of ideas, just in case i end up using them later and my players go "Oh wait, I saw him write about this on The Take" lol).

Have you guys had any interesting ideas about how to make "the space between places" interesting? Any little games you like to throw in there or plot hooks you find work particularly well? Do you perhaps design the entire journey around the road itself and leave out most settlements altogether? Lets see some ideas, I'm very interested!

Thanks for reading as always!


Villains Vs. Enemies

Author: Andrew /

In D&D, as the heroes, you'll usually run into two different forces arrayed against you. The villain or the enemy. To put this simply, in D&D, I would say that an enemy is more of a minion. You will see enemies in groups. The little team of goblins you run into are enemies. The group of pushover human thugs you find in a greasy, seedy city back-alley are enemies. Essentially, enemies, in my mind, are bad guys that are made to go down and stay down, that you're not meant to run into again. That said, your character wouldn't really know that until the goblins are dead, but (even though this would be meta-gaming a bit) you know that those goblins are mostly and mainly exp pods waiting to be gobbled up. Not much more to say about enemies.

The villain is the star of the show (aside from the characters themselves, of course). The villain (or villains are much more NPCs than enemies are just meant to crush. Villains will, in some way, shape or form, push the plot. They will present challenges and plot points which the players / characters will (or at least can) interact with.

What I've seen more in just about all games is that personality isn't really wasted on enemies. They're, for all intents and purposes, fodder. Some games really put life into their "fodder" but usually there are so many of them and since their general purpose in "life" is to just get mowed down, they're generally mindless drones (in my experience). Villains on the other hand (the good ones at least) tend to drip with personality. They pull you in; they get you interested. A good villain is someone you love to hate.

Look at Batman: The Dark Knight; more pointedly, Joker. HE was the villain, those clowns that worked with him at the beginning of the movie, those were enemies. The villain, in a lot of ways, is another character; the DM's PC, if you will. They usually have recurring parts in the story, and they also have minor villains which you run into time and time again, who you'll usually take out before the big villain.

So, to conclude this little post, when you make enemies; all the little guys that are there to get smashed, give them a little flair but don't waste much time on them. The players understand what they are and (lets be honest) some meta-gaming is inevitable. Put your work into your villain (or villains). Make those antagonists shine and make the players want to know more about them and see them more. You could even make the villain so awesome that he may be able to entice a player to switch sides!

A good villain has unlimited potential for plot hooks, plot twists, great and interesting dialogue and, truth be told, a TON of fun role play opportunities for the DM. So, DMs, get your villain on and show those players what's up!

Thanks for reading and there's much more on the way! The the comments roll!