Thursday, December 27, 2012

Comic - A problem of scale

I had a DM that had spent a small fortune on Ral Partha and Grenadier miniatures, having gotten into lead and pewter minis early. He had a mini for everything, but the problem was they were all 25mm scale, while most modern Reaper minis (and the official plastic D&D minis) are the larger 28mm scale. And even then, there's been some size creep: I have some dwarves that seem to be pushing six-feet. It's impressive how small older minis are compared to newer sculpts, with humans seeming to be the size of halflings.

So what did this DM do, stuck with boxes of miniatures that would be laughed at when placed on the table, with my tall human mini towered over his teeny ogres? He made us all find 25mm scale minis and use those. He was nice enough to find a couple for us and give them as gifts. And it's not that hard finding old minis for reasonable prices on eBay. And during a European trip, I stumbled into a Geneva gaming store bursting with old Ral Parthas and found the perfect mini for my wizard.

While I've been in a lot of games where the DM restricted rules options, that was the only game where we had a restriction on PC tokens.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Comic - Mid-death crisis

A lot has been written about the psychology of vampires. They've been interviewed and the focus of entire game systems. The angst is well established. The lich gets a little less attention, but their psychology is likely no less complex.

The transformation into lich is a little more purposeful than other undead. One does not accidentally become a lich, it's an active decision. But like most choices, if given enough time one inevitably wonders if they made the right choices. And liches have unlimited time. At some point they're bound to look back at centuries spent researching arcane minutiae and esoteric spells and question if they would have been better off dying and going to whatever afterlife Vecna offers, or even living a short hedonistic life of sex, drugs, and bardic music.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Comic - On the grid

I have fond memories of dungeons on blue graph paper.

Blue graph paper is one of the stronger memories from my early days playing D&D. I spent ages drawing crazy and random dungeons on said graph paper, all donated by father. I regularly drew the dungeon first, filled it full of crazy traps only remotely inspired by some interpretation of the rules, added monsters when necessary, and then thought of a reason to force my players to venture into its depth.

I’m often envious of the crazed imagination of my youth. There were so many insane yet unique traps and puzzles in those random and mismatched rooms. I occasionally wonder if my lack of rules knowledge (due to the difficulty of system mastery in the 2e era) aided my imagination: because I did not know what the game dictated was impossible I was more free to create.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Comic - 10 x 10

According to gaming legends, the name Dungeons & Dragons was just one in a large list of possible names considered by Gary Gygax when he was creating the game. After being asked, one of his daughters (he had three: Heidi, Cindy, and Elise) replied, “oh daddy, I like Dungeons & Dragons.” And thus the game was named.
This means there are two truly and necessarily iconic parts of D&D: you have your dungeons and you have your dragons. Both need to play a memorable role in the game. And yet they’re like Clark Kent and Superman: you rarely see the two of them together and when you do it’s usually forced and artificial.
By definition, dungeons are small, cramped, and unpleasant places underground. In contrast, dragons are typically large and prefer to fight above ground where they can make use of their wings. There are exceptions, such as dragon’s lairs, but even then you have to justify why a huge dragon has a lair with a labyrinth of medium-sized corridors accessible from the ground opposed to a hidden cave in the side of a vertical cliff face.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Comic - A step up

Yup. That's meant to be a dude riding the tarrasque.

Some versions of D&D have had a hard level cap (such as 4e) while others have unlimited advancement. While being forced to end a campaign is sad, having a natural end point is a handy narrative tool. At the same time, having an expected end makes people expect that the story will go all the way to the end cap. And not every story needs to continue. The longer you go the greater the risk of having the game devolve into silliness or absurdity. There's a very fine line between Epic and Camp. It's a little too easy for a DM to stack too much awesome onto their characters and devolve them into caricatures.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Comic - The Particleboard of Meat

First off, the title of this strip was stolen from a line in an Arrogant Worms song.
Lord of the Rings gives good descriptions of elven rations with the classic lembas bread, but what are other race’s rations made of?
I always wonder about iron rations. My first experience with them was in the video game Eye of the Beholder II: The Legend of Darkmoon which had your characters grow hungry after resting and needing food. Always a nice touch in a D&D game. You’d find iron rations in various forgotten stretches of the dungeons, left alone for years. Yet the food is still edible. Makes you wonder…

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Comic - Tripped up

One of the more controversial design decisions of 4th Edition was that a character designed around one tactic should always be able to that tactic, regardless of how much sense the tactic makes in-world. There are lengthy debates and justifications for burning red dragons, charming zombies, tricking golems, and, of course, tripping oozes. 

I’ve seen many large and heated arguments over how it should be possible to trip oozes, and how the character isn’t really tripping them but disorientating them or splattering them forcing them to reform - which always sounds narratively identical to dazing or stunning oozes.
I like certain monsters being immune to certain tactics. It hurts characters that are a one trick pony, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It encourages players to react differently, to move outside of their comfort zone and try other tactics. Likewise, there should always be those monsters that are vulnerable to the player’s tactics. The pyromancer might struggle in the adventure against a fire giant in its volcano lair, but they’re laughing when they fight a white dragon it an glacial cavern full sharp and perilously hung ice stalactites.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Comic - Ripped

Over on the Wizards of the Coast site there is a series of articles on designing the look of monsters for 5th Edition known as Dragon’s Eye View. One of the unexpected criticisms I’ve seen regarding the art is how buff all the monsters are. All the goblinoids and the giants and even the dragons look like the After picture in a Charles Atlas advertisement. 

While life is harder in a fantasy world, and the average person might be beefier than today’s average person, they wouldn’t likely be toned with excellent muscle definition. But we’re not talking about farmers or blacksmiths, but savage humanoids that likely earn via theft and murder. And with poor nutrition, many monsters might be leaner and wiry.

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Change your bookmarks and keep reading (but I'll continue to post here as well for the first month or so)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Comic - Standards

Let's start with the obvious disclaimer: I think chaimail bikinis are silly. They're a silly cliche that was ridiculous and sexist when D&D was created in the mid-70s and just as ridiculous when Red Sonja first appeared in comics (at roughly the same time). Now, almost forty years later, it's hilariously inappropriate. Depictions of women in the game isn't getting any better, and might even be getting worse.

But that's not what this is about. This is about the dungeon punk aesthetic of D&D and gaming. It was fine for one campaign setting (Eberron) but seems less suited to the game as a whole. But much of the art of D&D (and a little bit of Pathfinder) has embraced an over-the-top look to armour and weapons.

Some of this is Wayne Reynold's ascendency to the go-to art style for both games. Some of it is the desire to push away from adherence to realism and historical armour to a more stylized and fantastic design. But it always reminds me a little of '90s comic books where all the character designs got a little more needlessly complicated with leg pouches, chains, spikes, and overly large guns.

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Change your bookmarks and keep reading (but I'll continue to post here as well for the first month or so)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Comic - Movie Night

The third D&D movie (The Book of Vile Darkness) made its big début on SyFy this past weekend. I believe it airs again later this week for those who missed it. Although the actual world premier was in England where it went straight to DVD and is found in the movie section of fine supermarkets all over that great nation.

I've seen it and it's not horrible. Far, far better than the trailer would suggest.
The special effects are TV quality and better than other movie-of-the-week fare and the costumes and sets are more than adequate. There are some bad bits yes, but there are some good bits. Some humour, a genuine creepy scene, and some nice use of magic items. It's arguably the best in the series. It's near-quality might actually be detrimental as it's not so bad that it's enjoyable from a cheese or MS3K standpoint.

Really, my advice is go into it blind and avoid the trailer if you haven't already seen it (or don't re-watch the trailer until after the movie). And if you can find a drinking game and some friends to suffer with you... that might help.
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Change your bookmarks and keep reading (but I'll continue to post here as well for the first month or so)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Comic - Sneak Attack

Ah the flumph.
Such an odd monster. The ultimate underdog of monsters. You have to wonder what the creator of the flumph was thinking. If they really thought it was an A-list monster or were just trying to make a quota.

They're especially odd as the flumph is a lawful good race. They're weird floating jellyfish that blind you and impale you with belly spikes... but they're nice. Or, more accurately, not evil. There's nothing saying that can't be dicks. Most paladin's I've seen at the table have been pretty large bastards despite fulfilling the requirements of being totally honest and completely fearless or something.

Which makes me wonder. What are they planning?

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Change your bookmarks and keep reading (but I'll continue to post here as well for the first month or so)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Comic - Sparkles

Sparkly vampires never made much sense to me. It isn't just the doomed romance bad boy element of the story. That makes sense. Messy and somewhat tragic love triangles have been around since the time of dreaming during midsummer nights in faerie forests. 

What gets me is the hook behind so much of the story. Keeping the existence of vampires a secret and preserving what amounts to a renamed masquerade. Except... because the lore is so different, no would would recognise them. If people in a sparkly vampire world saw a sparkly vampire their first thought wouldn't be "hey, there's a vampire" or "omigod, it's an undead monster, kill it." 

I imagine the actual reaction to seeing a sparkly vampire might actually be a little more angelic in nature. Any remotely intelligent sparkly vampire would use that to their advantage. "I descended from above but lack the vitality to remain in your world... without help."
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Change your bookmarks and keep reading (but I'll continue to post here as well for the first month or so)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Comic - Family Values

I try not to edition war too much. Emphasis on the "too". I have my preferences but have been rolling dice long enough to know that if the group is good the system is largely irrelevant to the fun. I've had a great time with Palladium. Not just fifteen years ago back in High School (I was young and didn't know better), but also in the last five years.Admittedly, there are limits. And sometimes the tension points of the game system with steer the narrative in certain directions to avoid the flaws of that system. But fun can still be had. If my current players came to me as a group and said that they wanted to switch editions or try a new game I'd probably go along with it because, at the end of the day, I just want to spend time playing imagination games with friends. 

Still, I spend a lot of time on forums, if only to get ideas for future strips. And the tension on the message boards can get pretty bad. The past five years have been pretty nasty and divisive for the fanbase. It's the oilphant in the room, the subject WotC is fairly quiet on. 

It always strikes me as a little like the Republican/ Democrat split in the States. Only if the disagreements were limited to the voters and the two Parties regularly golfed together and exchanged members.

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Change your bookmarks and keep reading (but I'll continue to post here as well for the first month or so)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Comic - Bacon?

So you're waving around a long four-foot length of metal with a grip that just *might* be wrapped in a thin layer of leather mostly to prevent slippage. And then magically the aforementioned big chunk o' metal just starts on fire.
That just raises questions.

If the sword is cauterizing the wounds it inflicts, is it less effective than a non-flaming sword? Do you need to get a special sheathe for a flaming sword? Is it still hot after you turn it off? What if the wind is blowing towards you? Can you parry effectively with a flaming sword or is the blade softer? If the entire blade is fire, can it parry at all?
I can think of less scary cursed swords.

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Change your bookmarks and keep reading (but I'll continue to post here as well for the first month or so)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Comic - Reflavoured

One of the things 4e did that I'm really, really hoping 5e does not was "hold back" content. Classes and races were kept behind the curtain for a year until the second Player's Handbook and Name monsters were  not released until the third Monster Manual. From a business perspective it makes sense. The later books have a more important feel and seem less tacked-on content. But being able to play the character you want is the difference between buying and playing the game and sticking with an older edition.

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Change your bookmarks and keep reading (but I'll continue to post here as well for the first month or so)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Comic - Might

I like that giants in D&D Next have a more restrained strength compared to 3rd Edition, where their numbers went up and up. But 5th Edition are getting a little close to a problem we ran into in 4th Edition.

Because stats were based on level, giants often didn't have that much more strength than their medium-sized opponents. A frost giant was rocking an impressive 23 strength, but a human fighter three levels lower would be giving him a pinkbelly with his 24 strength. A hill giant (level 13) had a pathetic 21 strength, likely matched by the 4th level human fighter. In both 4th Edition and Next, carrying capacity is simplified for easy math, it's your Strength x10. However because of the difference in scaling,  a large-sized creature weighs 2x2x2 times a medium-sized one while a huge-sized creature is 3x3x3 times heavier. According to the 3.5e SRD a storm giant weighs 12,000 pounds while the cloud giant weighs 5,000. They'll be struggling to life their own body weight.

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Change your bookmarks and keep reading (but I'll continue to post here as well for the first month or so)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Comic - Fracturing Fairy Tales

In preparation for NaNoWriMo I've been reading a lot of fairy tales. The original Grimm ones from a book gifted to me when I was one year old. I couldn't help but wonder how many D&D players would solve similar problems faced by those in a fairy tale:Evil queen wants you to take a princess out to the woods and kill her? I know one queen who's going through the looking glass, if you know what I mean. An entire kingdom fast asleep due to a magic spell? Time for some looting. No door into the tower save some long flowing hair? That's why there's stoneshape or rope and pitons. The example of cracking a fae over the head with a spinning wheel to hunt for his ID and learn his hidden true name is one option, but it might come after cold iron related torture. Or divination spells. But those might be a back-up because you don't want to burn a valuable fireball just so you can scry

We're an odd, misanthropic bunch.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Comic - It's a Trick

Magic Missile always hits its target. That's what makes it magic missile opposed to the lesser known variants mundane missile and pretty good missile.

When I played a wizard, I always liked to imagine my missile would take the most round about route to the target. It'd whip between legs, dodge through a brawl, and home in on the bad guy like the arrow in Gamers.

The show presented above might be a little boring. You know it's never going to miss. When you watch a knife thrower you're also pretty sure they're not going to miss but there's always that secret dark hope that this time, this once, there might be an accident. That's where the thrill comes from.
Of course... that presumes the wizard isn't aiming for the assistant.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Comic - Light Reading

***An understated part of levelling-up in most editions of D&D is training. There have been a few optional rules that suggest a character needs to practice their skills and be taught new tricks from a master or trainer. But, for the most part, those rules are unused. Instead, the Player Characters just venture into a dank and foreboding dungeon for a few weeks and emerge with five times the talent, gaining mastery of new abilities from the aether. Even if the optional training rules are used, what kind of training would there be? What would a master barbarian teach his angry pupils? What lessons would there be at Berserker Academy? "Class, today we're learning how to roar. NO TALKING! I WILL SMASH! To begin, everyone needs to take a deep breath."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Comic - BFS

***A symptom of the influence anime games and cartoons has had on D&D can really be seen in the art of the game, specifically weapons and armour. Stylistic weaponry and armour have become much more common and realistic medieval gear has become dismissed or downplayed. Some of this is to better enable each of the races to have a distinct visual style, but other times it's just seen as "cool". All I can ever think of is "man, that sword would be heavy to lift and impossible to wield" or "that armour would just direct blows to vital spots on the torso." It's one thing to depict fantastic weapons and armour that would be slightly impractical, it's another to present armour and weapons that are detrimental to the wielder. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Comic - Let the dice fall...

Every gamer who has ever played D&D has likely had some encounter with the weird hybrid monsters of the game, typically blamed as the result of wizard experiments. What the heck kind of experiment results in a wolf-duck? I suppose "wizard experiments" is a more likely justification than the other option: a mama owl and papa bear who love each other very much, and likely get really drunk.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Comic - First Base

***I dig me some Fairy Tales. Or Faerie Tales as the cool kids say. These were always a little tricky to pull off in D&D. The heroes are seldom pre-pubescent children who rely on their wits to survive, and cunning plans usually get dismissed in favour of sudden violence. There's just less wonder in D&D and fantasy in general.The monsters also tend to be a little less subtle and a little more overt threats. If a dire wolf wants to kill Little Redshirt Riding Hood it won't dash over to grandma's house first and engage in a little non-judgemental cross-dressing. Instead, B.B. Wolf will eat the little nameless NPC then pop over to grandmas for a dessert. Then kill the woodsman because he's just a minion with Expert levels. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Comic - Racist

***D&D has always had sub-races. They went away for a short time during 4th Edition but seem to be making a comeback. Many people don't like subraces as they clutter the game with multiple confusing different types of elves and dwarves. I ran a group through the original Dragonlance modules once and after a year of play no one at the table could keep the Qualinesti and Kagonesti straight or remember what was different about the Silvanesti. Personally, as I was introduced to D&D through the Dragonlance novels and Lord of the Rings, I have a fondness for different types of elves. Legolas is just a different type of elf from Elrond. They do very different things.That said... in editions with subraces there tended to be a heck of a lot of them. Just because the game has design space for different types of elves doesn't mean we need winged elves or snow elves or freshwater  & saltwater sea elves or desert elves or jungle elves. Let's just stick with the basics: high and grey. Oh, and wood. And maybe drow.And sea elves. Did I already say grey elves?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Comic - Rogue Skills

***I think everyone accepts the D&D skill system is a little funky. You go into a dungeon and live off of bag lunches and cave slime and inexplicably manage to get better at cooking. The entire dungeon might be some foul natural cavern crawling with mundane rats but somehow your knowledge of arcane lore increases. Practice, somewhere to train, and natural talent is irrelevant as long as you keep stabbing things. "I need to brush up on my algebra. Better go beat something to death."

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Comic - Trust

One of the interesting things about 1st Edition and 2nd Edition was running around with someone in your party whose entire job description was "thief". It didn't engender trust. Not that "rogue" is all that much better. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Comic - A Beneficial Relationship

As a world builder at heart I wonder about adventuring some times. If there's any money in it from a business standpoint. If supporting an adventurer is a good investment. After all, if your town is threatened by orcs its nice to have paid a group of adventurers way while they learned the ropes and hunted goblins and kobolds. The party that TPKs was a bad investment but that group that makes it to epic levels really pays dividends. It's an interesting idea for a campaign hook: trying to win sponsorship and get that starting gold needed to buy that expensive armour and that masterwork sword. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Comic - Overly Familiar

Familiars are fun. But sometimes I worry they're a little too disposable for something that's meant to be part of the caster's soul. In legend they're a symbol of a witch's bond with Satan, which is something you totally don't use as a disposable creature just because the rogue is too busy to be bothered searching for traps. It's not like they're a wolf animal companion or something.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Comic - Wartlock

The warlock was added to the playtest for D&D Next / 5e about a month back. We only got a single warlock pact – the fey pact – and even then, the pact was tied to a single entity: Verenestra. The hook with this archfey is that she trades beauty for power. Earn a level and gain a wart, get a new Encounter power and grow a blemish.
That there is comedy gold.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Comic - Surprise!


A classic “gotcha!” monster for you today; those are beasties that jump out at the unwary as an unexpected menace, a surprising foe a quick encounter.Personally, I like “gotcha!” monsters. They’re a nice break from the routine, a nasty little surprise: not every monster should charge at you howling a battle cry. They can slow down the game as players check chests, poke floor and walls, prod the ceiling, and unleashed ranged weaponry on every bunny resting on a tree stump. Which is a sure-fire way of guaranteeing a DM will not use a “gotcha!” monster as they’re only really fun when they’re unexpected and then never appear again.  I also enjoy the understated narrative of such creatures, how this perfect dungeon-based adventurer-hunter might have evolved or been created. It says something about the world.
The only real problem with “gotcha!” monsters is that everyone knows about them. They’re not a surprise as every player who has been playing for longer than a year has likely heard of the mimic or the lurker below or any of the others. This might encourage DMs to get a little… creative.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Comic - Support

***D&D has a long history of pretty darn silly monsters. Some of them, like the rust monster and the owlbear, exist solely because Gary Gygax has a weird plastic toy that was about the right scale for the miniatures. Others evolved from literature, like the Illithid's origins as medium-sized Cthulu monsters. Some came from the tropes of the game, such as the mimic being a trapped chest plus or the gelatinous cube being an invisible menace in the halls of a dungeon that the unwary might walk into. Really, none of them are any less silly than a lion with the wings of an eagle and face of a human. Or a lion with a serpent for tail and second goat head. Or a winged lion with scorpion tail. (Geez, what is with lions anyway?) But Mythological creatures have slipped into the cultural zeitgeist, so their inherent laughability goes more-or-less unnoticed, in much the same way a group of seasoned D&D players will panic at the sight of a floating beach ball covered in eyestalks whose name is a cheeky reference to the adage "beauty is in the eye of the beholder", despite the fact they're fighting an improbably floating ball covered in eye-tenna.It's interesting to look at some of the more recent D&D Monster Manuals, specifically the Monster Vault, that really seems to focus on monsters that are the Intellectual Property of WotC; those are the Name monsters for experienced players, but they are also the monsters that will be the most silly for inexperienced and uninitiated players. I remember back in jr. high when I first started playing AD&D, it was the Greek and Egyptian monsters that really begged to be used, while I ignored the tanar'ri and baatezu with a "wha...", chuckled at the tarrasque, and dismissed the Mind Flayer as "some dude with an octopus for a head." 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Comic - On A Stick

***I love the rust monster. They get a bad rep but not every monster is supposed to be fair. Some fights are meant to be mean or require special tactics.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Comic - Slapstick

***WotC is selling 5e/ D&D Next under the hook that it will have any number of optional rules aka "modules", which can be used to play D&D the way you want to play D&D. While my first concern is over the name (in D&D parlance "module" refers to a published adventure) I wonder how far they could take these rules modules. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Comic - Weaponry

Wizards can break all the rules of physics and transport themselves across continents and planes with a few funny gestures and unnatural words. What's a little time travel then? 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Comic - A Real Collectible

Yes, I am a disturbed individual.But think of how unique it would be! 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Comic - What's in a name

***Of course, this comics refers to the game, Project Ninja Panda Taco. Famed for its successful Kickstarter and mentioned on an episode of Gamer to Gamer.But, mostly, I'm poking fun at D&D Next. I hate the name "Next".It's kinda terrible. Yes, they just want to call it "Dungeons & Dragons" and avoid calling it "5th Edition" because of the negative stigma and connotations the gaming community has heaped upon the term "edition". Edition wars and the like.However, we've already had an edition that was just called "Dungeons & Dragons". In  point of fact, we've had two edition just called "Dungeons & Dragons, which we refer to as "OD&D" and "Basic" as a means to differentiate between them and distinguish from discussion of the game as a whole. If they don't call it 5th edition, everyone will call it 5e anyway just to clarify what they're talking about.The only way to avoid calling it AD&D 5th Edition is to call it Basic D&D 6th Edition, or start a whole new line. Revised D&D 1st Edition or something.Anyway, this is all beside the point. Really, if you take away one thing from this comic and post it should be this: the Wizards of the Coast logo is hard to draw. Really. Give it a try. I tried a half-dozen times and it always looked terrible.