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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