Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Freaking Writer's Block...

As the title implies, I'm suffering from a bad case of writer's block today. Every time I try to type up something for the blog, my thought process grinds to a screeching halt and nothing gets done. So, instead of a normal post, here's a funny video I found on Youtube. Enjoy.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Random Wizard's Random 10 Questions

Who doesn't love a good questionnaire?

I've actually wanted to talk about some of these topics for awhile now. However, I never felt like I had enough to say about any one of these to justify dedicating an entire post to it. So, that just makes this questionnaire even more interesting.

(1). Race (Dwarf, Elf, Halfling) as a class? Yes or no?: Personally, I prefer a character's race be separate from their class. While I can see the appeal of "Race as Class" and I really like how ACK handles the situation, I prefer being able to mix and match the races and classes. I like that small level of customization.

(2). Do demi-humans have souls?: I would say yes, demi-humans for the most part have souls. However, I think it would be cool to run a campaign where elves didn't have souls and were basically physical manifestations of nature spirits. It could be really interesting.

(3). Ascending or descending armor class?: While I'm fine with either, I personally prefer Ascending AC over Descending AC. I personally find it to be easier than Descending AC and it's what I'm more used to.

(4). Demi-human level limits?: No, just no. From what I can remember, Gygax supposedly included level limits for the demi-humans so the world of the game would remain human-centric. However, I think he could have just written that into the fluff of the game instead of trying to hard-wire it into the mechanics. So, I think its clear that I'm not a big fan of this idea.

(5). Should thief be a class?: Yes, I think the thief/rogue should be a class. It's an archetype that can be easily found in the literary inspirations for the game (like the Gray Mouser and Bilbo Baggins) and I personally find the rogue an interesting class to play.

(6). Do characters get non-weapon skills?: If I had been asked this question a year or so ago, I would have said absolutely. However, I've been doing a lot of thinking and I'm not sure a set-in-stone skill list is all that necessary. I think it would be interesting to just have an "advantage" system where you make an ability check and if you are doing something your class would be good at (like a magic-user identifying a spell or a rogue trying to pick a lock), you would get some kind of bonus to the check. On the other hand, it is nice to be able to determine the specific areas that a character is trained in and skills do allow for a player to further customize their character. So, I think I'm going to say I'm not entirely sure on this topic.

(7). Are magic-users more powerful than fighters (and, if yes, what level do they take the lead)?: If they can still cast a spell and that last spell is an offensive or a really good utility spell, then I would say yes. However, if they've run out of spells for the day and have no scrolls or wands to fall back on, they are kind of screwed.

(8). Do you use alignment languages?: No. The idea of alignment languages have always seemed strange to me and I'm not entirely sure why that is. I do like the idea of some classes having secret languages (like Thieves' Cant for Rogues or Druidic for Druids) though.

(9). XP for gold, or XP for objectives (thieves disarming traps, etc...)?: Generally, characters in my game experience for defeating opponents (not necessarily killing them), defeating an obstacle (like disabling a trap or figuring out a puzzle), and completing an adventure or a goal for their character. If I was running a retro-clone or a game where treasure hunting was one of the main focuses, I'd probably use XP from gold as well.

(10). Which is the best edition; ODD, Holmes, Moldvay, Mentzer, Rules Cyclopedia, 1E ADD, 2E ADD, 3E ADD, 4E ADD, Next?: Such a loaded question. Personally, I don't believe there truly is a "best" edition of D&D. Each edition has their pros and cons. Now, if I had to personally pick my favorite edition, I would probably go with 3E/3.5 because its the edition I started with and the one I know the best. So, it really just comes down to personal preference.

Bonus Question: Unified XP level tables or individual XP level tables for each class?: I get the appeal of individual XP level tables and understand it helps with balance between the classes, but I just find a unified XP level table to be easier to use. Again, personal preference wins in the end.

For those of you who are interesting in filling out the questionnaire as well, you can find all the questions here.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Happy Belated Birthday Gary Gygax

Yesterday was the birthday of the late Ernest Gary Gygax, the man who co-created Dungeons & Dragons with the late Dave Arneson in 1974 and is considered by many as the "Father of D&D." In 2008, after suffering two strokes and narrowly avoiding a subsequent heart attack in 2004, Gary passed away due to an abdominal aortic aneurysm. At Gen Con the same year, a plaque dedicated to Gary was created and read: 
"He was the first DM, he taught us to roll the dice. He opened the door to new worlds. His work shaped our industry. He brought us Gen Con, for this we thank him. In fond memory of Gary Gygax, and in celebration of his spirit and accomplishments." 
Without the work of Gary Gygax, this hobby that I love so much wouldn't exist. I wouldn't have met some of my best friends and I probably would probably be a very different person. I wish I could have met Gary before he died so I could tell him two, simple words: Thank you.

Happy birthday Mr. Gygax. We all miss you.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Psionic Musings

Art By Wayne Reynolds
When it comes to Dungeons & Dragons and its cousin Pathfinder, Psionics (or psyhic magic, whichever floats your boat) has always seemed to be one of those "hot button" topics. Some people seem to hate them with every fiber of their being, and others love them more than life itself.

Personally, I have always found myself lurking somewhere in the middle of this debate. I like the idea of psionics and I feel like they do have a place in D&D/Pathfinder. However, I have never been the biggest fan of the "power point" system that psionics used in 3rd Edition and 3.5. I know a lot of people who really love psionics also love the power point system, and I that's perfectly fine. I'm just not a big fan of point-based power systems in tabletop games. It's a weird quirk of mine. 

Recently, I've been thinking some of the things that I'd like to see in Pathfinder at sometime in the future and psionics keeps popping up. However, since I've made it pretty clear I don't want a system similar to the one found in the Expanded Psionics Handbook, I've been trying to think of a different way to handle psionics. After thinking long and hard about it, I think I've narrowed it down to one of two different methods. 

The first method, I will admit, would be something of a compromise for those psionics fans who really enjoy the power point system. This method would pretty much utilize the ki pool of the monk and ninja classes. At 1st level, the psion would gain access to a ki pool based on his Intelligence modifier and would use their ki points to manifest a small number of powers based on their chosen discipline and a few "universal" powers that would probably resemble some of the more mystical ninja tricks in design. I think this would be a nice compromise since it allows those who like the power point system to have a point-based magic system, but it wouldn't require the designers to make a whole new subsystem. It would also match some of the fluff surrounding the land of Vudra, the region in the Pathfinder Campaign Setting where psionics is supposed to be the most common. 

The second method, which would probably anger some fans of psionics, is to make the psionics work exactly like magic does. The psion, in my mind, would probably work a lot like the sorcerer and be able to "spontaneously manifest" his powers. However, instead of having magical bloodlines, the psion would have mental disciplines that grant him certain abilities and powers. If this method was used, you could easily add psionics into any published adventure or supplement since you wouldn't have to add the new subsystem as well because it would work just like magic. Sadly, like I've already said, most fans of psionics would probably reject this method. 

 Now, if I had to be honest, I think I'd prefer the second method over the first. While it would pretty much eliminate the "Psionics Are Different Than Magic" option from the game, I think it would make things a lot easier and would allow psionics to actually be used more often than it would be if it had its own, separate subsystem. However, I know some fans of the concept would hate this method and that's fine. If they want a power point system, they could always use the material that Dreamscarred Press has been making. As I've said before, I'm not the biggest fan of the power point system, but the designers at Dreamscarred Press have done a good job at converting the system to Pathfinder and fans of the Expanded Psionics Handbook should enjoy it. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Decisions, Decisions

As some of you probably noticed, I kind of disappeared for a while. There were a couple of reasons for my disappearance: 1) There were a lot of real-world issues that I had to take care of, 2) Most of my gaming group went out of town for the summer break and it would have been too hard to transition to an online game, and 3) I was starting to feel somewhat burned out and I needed a break from the hobby.

Thankfully, I've taken care of most of those real-life issues and my enthusiasm for the hobby has been renewed. Now, I'm itching to get back behind the screen and run a game or two. However, I need to find a few players and figure out what kind of game do I want to run. 

If I wanted to keep things simple, I'd probably run a Pathfinder game. It's a game that I and a lot of players know and it would be really easy for me to slip back into. However, if I were to run a Pathfinder game, I'd probably limit players to the Core Rulebook at first so I don't have to worry about all of the feats, archetypes, alternate classes, and other options. 

Another game that I've been wanting to run for a very long time is The Dresden Files RPG by Evil Hat Studios. I've always been a big fan of the FATE system and I love Jim Butcher's books. However, FATE isn't as ubiquitous as Pathfinder and I'd probably have to teach it to new players and there's always the chance they might want to try the system in the first place. 

Mutants & Masterminds is also another fall back system for me. While it does have its fair share of crunch, it's surprisingly simple once you get the hang of it and it would be fun to run a light-hearted, four-color superhero game. However, the crunch might be intimidating to new players. 

Finally, I think it would be pretty fun to run a Science Fiction game using Savage Worlds. The system is relatively simple and it would be perfect for a more pulpy, space fantasy game that I'd probably want to run. However, I'd have to create a lot from scratch and there's a good chance the players might not be into the flavor of science fiction I'd like to run. 

So, I have a decision to make. Should I just go with the familiar Pathfinder so I can ease myself back into the GM chair? Should I go with Dresden and FATE? Should I give the capes and superpowers a try? Or should I do the work and run a fun, space fantasy game powered by Savage Worlds? 

Maybe I should just roll a d4 and see where my luck takes me. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Dungeon World, or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Enjoy the Game

Last Saturday, I attended a party that was being thrown by this local RPG Meetup group that I happen to belong to. Since I had been on hiatus from the hobby (and the group as well), I thought it would be nice to drop by, have a beer or two, and maybe play a game if the opportunity presented itself.

When I arrived with a two-liter of coke in hand and a set of dice in my pocket, I quickly found myself at the large table in the dining room watching a few of the party guests playing a game of Pirate Fluxx. While they were playing, another guest mentioned they'd be playing a game of Pathfinder later and I was welcome to roll up a character. Seeing that I had been itching to play some Pathfinder already, I was happy to oblige and ended up generating your typical, mercenary fighter (I felt like keeping things simple since it was just a one-shot. 

However, I slowly noticed the group who would be playing Pathfinder was growing bigger and bigger by the second. After all the party guests had arrived, I believed the final number of players was about nine. I've never been a big fan of playing in huge groups, I decided to bow out and spend my time chatting with a friend I hadn't seen in awhile who wasn't interested in playing either. 

After chatting for awhile and finishing off a bottle of Honey Brown Lager (which was delicious by the way), this friend mentioned he has brought a few games as well and if we could find a few more players, he'd be willing to run one of them. He brought Apocalypse World, Coyote Trail, Don't Rest Your HeadDungeon World, FATE: Accelerated Edition, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, and My Ex-Wife. While I personally wanted to give FATE: Accelerated a try, we eventually ended up playing Dungeon World

Now, I will make a quick confession: I had never played Dungeon World before that night and I was actually kind of nervous about it. While I had heard great things about the game, I always seem to get nervous when playing a game for the first time. If I had to take a guess why that is, I'd probably say its because I'm afraid I might mess something up since I'm not familiar with the rules and ruin the other players' time at the table. 

However, once I finished creating my dwarf fighter named Jarl Goblinslayer, I noticed my nerves slowly melting away and my excitement growing. There was just something about creating a character for Dungeon World that made me stop worrying about things and just enjoy myself. After everyone created their characters and we entered the Desecrated Temple of the Snake God Undu, I ended up having one of the most insane dungeon crawls of my life...and it was utterly awesome. So awesome in fact that I plan on purchasing the Dungeon World rulebook as soon as I have the money and playing it again as soon as I get the chance to. 

So, while it might sound cliche, I learned something last Saturday. I should let my nerves get to me when playing a game that I've never played before. Instead, I should focus on the excitement of playing a new game and seeing what this new system has to offer. From now on, I'm going to do my best to just put my nervousness towards new games aside and just let myself enjoy the experience. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Success & Failure

Art by Mike Krahulik
Imagine the following scenario. You are playing the stereotypical dungeon crawl and your party has reached the final room of the dungeon and are face to face with the big bad which happens to be a dragon. The ensuing fight is arduous and both sides have suffered serious wounds. It is the fighter's turn and if his attack roll hits, the dragon will be slain and the party of adventurers will be victorious.

The player scoops up his lucky d20, gives it a vigorous shake, and tosses it to the table. The die bounces across the wooden surface and the player crosses his fingers, hoping his roll will be successful. Finally, the die rolls to a stop and sadly, the player has rolled a dreaded 1. 

The mighty beast laughs as the fighter fumbles his attack. The dragon takes his turn and finishes off the party and the session sadly ends. 

I think everyone has experienced a moment like the one I just described. Your character only had a few hit points left and had everything riding on one, simple roll. However, Fate decided to be a troll and your lucky die landed on a 1, causing you to fail horribly. As a player, this can be downright annoying. You were trying to do something awesome, but you feel like the dice robbed you of your success. 

However, I don't think failure has to be a bad thing. For an example, let's take the situation I described above. The fighter fumbles his attack and the dragon retaliates, killing the party. However, instead of discarding their character sheets and creating new characters, the party finds themselves in the Afterlife and are brought before the deity of death so their souls can be judged. However, not wanting to give up just yet, the party tries to convince the deity to return them to life. After hearing their pleas, the deity agrees, but only after they complete a special quest. 

While I could have let the players make new characters and start a new campaign, I give them a chance to save their characters with the possibility of taking both the characters and the campaigns in a new, interesting direction. The deity of death's quest might send them to the Abyss to collect a few souls that a group of demons have kidnapped on their way to be judged or to capture a soul that is trying to avoid being judged. After completing the quest and returning to life, some extra-dimensional forces might have their eyes on the characters now which could lead to new adventures. 

Failure can be annoying at times, but it doesn't have to be. It can lead to an interesting twist in the campaign or adventure that you didn't think of before. Failure doesn't have to be the end of the story. It can lead to a new beginning. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Roleplaying & Maturity

A few days ago, I was browsing the Paizo forums and I found myself reading this thread. As the name of the threat implies, the OP's wife hates that he plays roleplaying games and regularly mocks his hobby. After reading through the thread, I started to think about the times in my life when someone has mocked me for playing D&D and other roleplaying games.

I remember when I was still in junior high and I had just discovered the hobby. I would carry around my 3.5 Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide in my backpack and pull them out during my free time to leaf through them. Occasionally, someone would spot me holding the book and would approach me, asking me what I was reading. I would tell them and they would laugh, asking me why I would do something so childish and weird.

Those jabs at the hobby that I had grown to love always hurt me. I put a lot of effort into running this game and had fun at the gaming table. However, people were making fun of me for that, calling my choice of entertainment "silly" and "childish". Even today, some people will ask me why do I play a "kid's game" and that I just don't want to grow up.

For the longest time, I didn't really have a comeback and just tried my hardest to ignore them. A few years ago, I discovered a quote from C.S. Lewis that perfectly fits this situation. Here's the quote:
"When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”
Whenever someone makes fun of my hobbies, calling me "childish" for playing roleplaying games and the like, I always think back to this quote and ask, "Isn't it more childish to make fun of another person's hobby and be so obsessed with maturity?" I'm sure the person making fun of RPGs has a hobby that I could ridicule as well, but I choose not to because that's an immature thing to do.

For example, I have never been a big fan of sports. While I played baseball, basketball, and soccer when I was younger, I never really enjoyed it all that much and was glad when my parent's let me quit. I always found watching sports on television incredibly boring. With that being said, I know a lot of people who absolutely love sports (my girlfriend being one of those people) and I don't ridicule them for it. While I personally don't like sports, they do and they have the right to enjoy them, just like I have a right to enjoy roleplaying.

Being tolerant and understanding of other people's likes and hobbies is a sign of maturity in my eyes. While you might not like or understand why someone enjoys a certain thing or hobby, you shouldn't ridicule them for it. If you do, you're just being a dick.

((Question Time: Have you ever had one of your hobbies ridiculed? How did it make you feel? How did you respond to the ridicule? Let me know in the comments)) 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Death & Dying in Pathfinder

I have always hated how character death works in Pathfinder (and 3.5 as well). For those of you who are not familiar with the d20 system and how it handles the death of a character, I'll elaborate.

Once a character has a negative total of hit points, they are considered unconscious and dying. Unless they are stabilized (whether it be through magical healing, a successful DC 10 Fortitude save with a penalty equal to your negative hit point total, or an ally making a DC 15 Heal check), the character loses an additional 1 hit point every round. When his negative hit point total is equal to his Constitution score, the character is dead.

Now, I understand why the injury and death rules work this way. The negative hit points act as a safety net and make it harder for a character to actually die since many players hate seeing the character they've put so much time and effort into kick the bucket. However, I have never found these rules to be fun. On the contrary, I feel like they are just tedious. If you are unconscious and dying, you spend most of your turns making Fortitude checks and slowly raising your negative hit point total if you fail.

So, with that in mind, I've been thinking about different ways to handle injury and death in my Pathfinder games. One solution is to have the characters receive Constitution damage instead of negative hit points and when their Constitution is 0, they die. While this could be an interesting alternative, I feel like I'm just replacing one secondary hit point track with another.

The other solution, which I kind of like, is basically a "Three Strikes and Your Out" rule. For the most part, the rules stay the same. When a character's hit point total drops below 0, they are unconscious and dying. However, instead of going the negative hit point route, the player makes three Fortitude saves with a DC of 10. If he manages to succeed at just one of the saves, his character is stabilized, but still unconscious. However, if he fails all three saves, the character dies. Receiving magical healing or having an ally making a DC 15 Heal check still automatically stabilizes you.

The reason why I like this alternative is that it's rather simple to understand, keeps the game moving, and also makes the game a little more lethal than before. I'm also thinking about adding an additional element where a character receives a -2 penalty each time they fail a check to show their weakening state. However, I'm still a little bit unsure about it and might test it out a little first before fully implementing it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Long Time No Post

As the title implies, it's been awhile since I've made a post on this site. I thought I should explain why that is. The main reason is that real life has been really hectic lately, I've been doing a lot of job hunting, and I haven't been doing a lot of gaming recently.

However, since my life is starting to slowly return to normal and things are getting better (I've even lost a few pounds, which is great), I'm going to be going back to my normal "Monday-Wednesday-Friday" schedule next week. I'm going to keep things simple to ease myself back into the process, but hopefully I'll be back into the swing of things really soon.

So, until then!