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An Old Campaign Resurfaces

February 8, 2014 - Author: Alison Edwards

An old friend from college has resurrected (somewhat) a campaign idea he and I first toyed with way back when WotC did its big open campaign search (the one that gave us Eberron). His blog, co-produced with another DM, can be found here: Tales of Hrimgate.

I haven’t talked about this campaign with him in years, and reading through what’s there it’s clear he’s done a lot of redevelopment beyond the idea we started with. I’m insanely curious to see what he’s done with it. I’ll be following along.

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Can August Get Here, Please?

February 5, 2014 - Author: Alison Edwards

Currently, I am rocking some Pathfinder with my gaming group. In fact, we are playing the FR Sundering modules using Pathfinder rules, and I’ve been tweaking NPC and monster stats to accommodate. It’s going great. Murder in Baldur’s Gate was a bit iffy for my group; they are not the “subtle politics” sort of group and frankly that module was all over the place plot-wise. But now we’re deep into Legacy of the Crystal Shard and it’s all good.

We are not, then, playing it in D&D Next. I tried to entice them; but honestly it was a hard sell and even I couldn’t make it happen. I play with a high-functioning group of gamers who have a lot of wild ideas about character concepts and in-game strategies; and frankly, the playtest rules were just too thin to make them happy. If we had a full set of character creation rules with lots of customization, then we’d probably be playing Next right now.

Honestly, I really, really can’t wait for August. I loved seeing the creation process of D&D Next and I’ve continued to enjoy its development since via the Daily D&D articles. But I can’t play with the playtest rules, even for what is meant to be a playtest module. My group is so rooted in and geared towards the sort of thing that 3.5 & PF offer that only a full ruleset will be able to entice them. And, frankly, me; after running these modules in PF, trying to shift to Next for Scourge of the Sword Coast would feel like a step back.

Come on, August. Get here. Deliver something awesome. Hurry!

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The End of the D&D Next Playtest is a Good Thing

August 16, 2013 - Author: Brian Hudson

the-end-old-movie

When news came out yesterday that the D&D Next pubic playtest was coming to an end, I wasn’t necessarily surprised. All public playtests come to an end sooner or later, and this is a good time to end the Next playtest. Here’s why:

1) The playtest has been very volatile. In the year-plus that we’ve all played a part in this process, the rules have changed A LOT, especially the character classes. This is no doubt in part to the vast feedback a public playtest provides. It’s part of the benefit of such a process — throw something out there, see if it sticks, refine or reject it, rinse and repeat.

At some point, though, the devs have to say “this is what we’re going with, let’s move onto the next step.” As they’ve more or less said this about the core rules as we now see them, it’s a good time to end the public feedback phase and move into more controlled refinement. I’d rather see them close the playtest and move towards a solid release date than continue it and risk an even more prolonged development process.

2) The playtest has been very contentious. Part of the volatility in the playtest has been, of course, due to the arguments it’s generated. Gamers all have their preferred vision of what D&D should be, and when WotC told them that they would have a voice in the next edition they all started speaking up. LOUDLY.

I don’t know about you, but at this point I am tired of the edition warring, the snarky tweets, the once-more-round-the-circle arguments over Vancian magic systems. At this point, players are either happy with D&D Next or they’re not. They’ll either continue to play or they’ll go back to their preferred edition / alternate game. And I’m sure that Mike Mearls & Co. will be breathing quiet sighs of relief when they no longer feel that immediate pressure to try and please all of the people all of the time.

3) The Sundering needs a stable ruleset. When WotC stopped supporting 4E last year it left a noticeable gap in new D&D product release schedule. Well, that gap has ended. The Sundering is here. The next year in WotC’s D&D release cycle is dedicated to the Sundering. We’re getting new novels, new adventures, new seasons of Encounters, etc. This event needs a stable D&D environment to play in. Thus, this iteration of D&D Next — the one released for Gen Con and the follow-up release in September — are the quasi-official D&D rules for the next year.

You can’t put out a series of adventures and then suddenly change rules midstream, especially with an event gimmick like the Sundering is built around. People will want to play D&D in the next year so that they can be part of the event, and many of us are going to want to play the adventures in Next.  The Next versions of the Sundering modules will all be developed in the current rules iteration and the Sundering adventures will therefore have a consistency that they would not have if the pubic playtest were to continue.

Besides, people who buy the Ghosts of Dragonspire Castle D&D Next preview book need to know that their $35 investment isn’t going to be wasted in a month. Until Gen Con 2014, that book is the closest thing to an “official” rulebook we’ll have. [I'm looking forward to mine. Hoping my ninja shopper at Gen Con can get me a copy!]

So, am I happy with the D&D Next public playtest ending? No! First of all, I love being part of the design process. Second of all, there are elements of the rules that aren’t there yet that I would really like to have but that I will now have to wait a year for (like a more 3.5-ish character creation module, or the return of skills).

I can see the logic in ending it now, though, and I’m happy that there’s new D&D content in the pipeline. I’ll be perfectly content playing with the interim rules for the next year while I eagerly anticipate Gen Con 2014.

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Checking In

June 27, 2013 - Author: Brian Hudson

No, I’m not dead.

I regret letting this blog flounder in recent months. I was having fun writing about D&D Next, and I fully intended to continue doing so. Then, without getting into specifics, let me just say that my life exploded and I’m still picking up the pieces. Blogging hasn’t been something in the forefront of my mind.

I did get a chance to run the last D&D Encounters session, Storm Over Neverwinter. I enjoyed it, though I found some definite flaws in the ruleset that I hadn’t realized were there prior to playing. Also, translating a 4E adventure into 5E is an uneven task at best; it left some of the encounters wanting and others unbalanced. I won’t be doing the current session — work conflict — but I hope to find a group and play, as a player, in the session after. My recent DM experiences have revealed how rusty I am behind the screen, and frankly I don’t have the time or energy to run a campaign right now.

I don’t even know if anyone will read this or care. But I am trying to muster up the energy to generate some new content. Moving forward and all that …

1 Comment - Categories: games

Behold! The Warlord?

March 21, 2013 - Author: Brian Hudson

The new Fighter build has clearly tried to back-end the Warlord in a way that Mike Mearls suggested it would in a recent D&D Podcast. So I thought I’d take him up on the challenge! Here then is the hidden new class in the 3/20 test packet: a warlord!

Yantok Steelforged, Dwarf Fighter [Warlord], Level 5

STR 17; DEX 10; CON 16; INT 08; WIS 13; CHA 12

HP 52; Initiative: +0; AC 18 [Chain Mail, Shield]; Speed 20 ft.

Attack: Battleaxe +5 [1d8+3]; Handaxe +5 melee or +2 ranged [1d6+3]

Class Abilities: Deadly Strike, Multiattack [Whirlwind Attack]

Feats [Mystic Healer]: Healing Initiate, Hold the Line, Interposing Shield, Magical Rejuvination

Expertise: 3d6
      — Death Dealer: Slam
      — Superior Defense: Warning Shout
      — Unerring Attacker: Attack Orders

Skills [Combat Medic]: Administer First Aid, Climb, Intimidate, Recall Lore [Military]

Trait [Combat Medic]: Military Rank

Racial Abilities [Hill Dwarf]: Darkvision; Dwarven Resilience; Dwarven Weapons Training; Dwarven Toughness; Stonecutting

Building him was pretty simple. For Fighter options, I tried to favor the Warlord-esque ability, the one that helped others instead of the Warlord himself [with one caveat, see below]. In terms of Specialty I took Mystic Healer, to give him some of that magical healing mojo — not a lit, but a bit. Then, for his bonus Fighter feats, I basically started following a second Specialty, the Defender. Finally, I played DM a bit with his Background and gave him “Combat Medic” — basically, Soldier with Ride swapped out for First Aid.

Honestly, I think he might be a fun character to play. He’d be entrenched in the front lines, swinging his battleaxe every round, using his shield both offensively and defensively, and bellowing out commands to his fellow party members. He’s tough, well-armored, and no slouch as a combatant. And if he needs to, he can always reach down to stabilize a fallen comrade.

The one issue I see even at 5th level, though, is that many of his abilities rely on using a reaction — Warning Shout, Attack Orders, Hold the Line, and Interposing Shield are all vying for that reaction each round. He’s got a useful Warlord-esque toolkit, but he can only ever use one tool at a time. That’s why I ultimately chose Slam for him at first level; it gives him a way to spend an expertise die on his own turn while still getting a helpful effect into play [disadvntage on the next enemy attack].

Now, I will admit that my 4E Warlord experience is a bit thin, so let me know: what do you think of this build? Does this satisfy the Warlord craving? Or is this a pale imitation of the class? Could I have built Yanok differently to make a better Warlord out of him? Let me know in the comments!

1 Comment - Categories: games

Wake Up, Little Bloggie!

March 13, 2013 - Author: Brian Hudson

Wow! Has it been three months? Sorry; life happens. And as it happens, I haven’t played or really thought about D&D since December. I got the newest playtest packet, but really haven’t gone over it (or even created a Barbarian). Life calls, sometimes.

But it’s time for this blog to wake up, because life is now calling me back to D&D Next. Specifically, I very well may be running the next session of D&D Encounters at my FLGS. Or, I might be playing; but probably running. I’m excited by this! It’s the first real “official” D&D Next content to come out, and it’s part of the Encounters program that’s pretty well attended locally. Which means I hopefully won’t be struggling to maintain a playerbase like I was with the Blingdenstone game I tried to run last fall.

Of course, blogging will be mandatory. So wake up, little bloggie! Daddy needs to write something new.

2 Comments - Categories: games

Blogging For Skeptoid

December 21, 2012 - Author: Brian Hudson

Apropos of nothing concerning D&D Next, I just wanted to take a moment to promote some work I’ve been doing for another site.

For the last month or so, I’ve been posting weekly blogs over at the Skeptoid Blog, which is connected to the excellent Skeptoid podcast. The subject matter over there is taking a critical look at popular beliefs like UFOs, Bigfoot, and alternative medicines. Or topics like the Mayan Apocalypse, which I just posted an article about.

If you’re reading this and like what you’ve read on my blog, I’d appreciate it if you gave my Skeptoid posts a read. And heck, why not sample the podcast while you’re there; it’s really good.

I promise more D&D Next stuff this weekend.

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The New Rogue Is A Stabby Machine [Part 1]

December 18, 2012 - Author: Brian Hudson

Like you, I’ve spent the last 12 hours or so digesting the new D&D Next playtest packet and taking all the new goodness. There’s a lot to talk about: Skill Dice, Martial Combat Dice, Monk Traditions, etc. But the one that I was really curious about was the new Rogue. It’s the biggest change to a class between packets. Is it better than before? Let’s build one out and see!

For this little demo, I went straight to 5th Level. 1st level characters are boring. Instead of going for min/max, I built out a version of my perpetual rogue character, Agnatharius “Lucky” Two-Shy. I went with the Trickster Rogue Scheme, because it fit Lucky perfectly, and also used the Charlitan background. To give him some combat crunch I chose the Skirmisher specialty. [TBH, in a real campaign I'd probably a'la carte everything, but for this example these choices were good enough.] Here he is. (more…)

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Playing A Monk

December 16, 2012 - Author: Brian Hudson

After a failed attempt last month, I finally got into a local D&D Next playtest game yesterday. It was a basic playtest game with players new to the system — one person was even entirely new to D&D — and it used the pre-generated characters from the playtest pack, but I got permission from the DM to bring a 1st level monk (actually, this one).

I had a great time. The group was loose and casual, and the DM started us right at the entrance to the Caves of Chaos, so there wasn’t a lot of role-playing or plot. We went in without a cleric (two players both chose the Dwarf Fighter pre-gen, one chose the Elf Wizard, and one the Halfling Rogue), which turned out to be a bad idea when we ran into the ogre, but by the end of four hours we were able to clear out the entire goblin cave.

The last time  I rolled dice as a player was in a 4E RPGA game, and the difference between my last turn as a player and this one were noticeable  The “speed of combat” means one thing when you’re a DM, where you’re constantly engaged; but as a player, where the downtime between turns could be intolerable in a 4E game (or even a 3.5 game), the speed means something more. There were a few slowdowns where we tried to figure out odd rulings, but overall I was pleased as a player with the speed and ease of play.

I joined this playtest specifically to test the Monk, and at 1st level I found him to be fun. Flurry of Blows is an interesting Maneuver to use, sort of like Deadly Strike but trading certainty (you need to make an attack roll) for flexibility (you can target a different creature). I was disappointed in Ki Stroke, but only because my target (the goblin chieftain) made his saving throw so it never really went off. Overall it’s a solid design without being over-the-top. Much better than the first stabs at Warlock and Sorcerer.

I’m looking forward to next time.

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Let’s Get Rid Of Stat Scores

December 5, 2012 - Author: Brian Hudson

As I’ve been learning the D&D Next system more and more, I increasingly begin to wonder: is it time to do away with stat scores? I think that it might be.

The reason I say that is because the actual stat score is meaningless. Only the bonus matters. What is a Strength of 16, in-game? It’s a +3 to dice rolls. What is a Strength of 17, in-game? It’s a +3 to dice rolls. Functionally, on the tabletop, there is zero difference between them. There’s literally zero value for me, as a player, in knowing whether my +3 comes from a 16 or a 17 during play. So why the distinction?

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to streamline things a little, declutter the character sheet, and just assign each stat a plus-bonus. Cut out the 3-18 base score altogether and adjust the game to … well, not really to do anything, since the game already runs on plus-bonus, not stat score.

The only justification for the 3-18 stat scores in the current system, as I can see them, are the following: (more…)

2 Comments - Categories: games