Friday, 14 December 2012

The Room of Many Gravities

Ever needed just one more interesting room in a dungeon?  Ever wished that combat was just a little more... twisty?  Do you simply hate static gravity?  Then have I got a room for you, friend DM. Have I got a room, for you.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Slow summer

Some of you may have wondered what happened to posts on this blog. Well, I'm currently not playing in any D&D games, so I haven't been doing much D&D stuff. That's pretty much it.
I imagine something will happen here when I eventually find another game to play.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

BEARS (or how to make ordinary animals scarier than monsters)

Dominic Matte
I watched the new Pixar movie, Brave, and was struck by how impressively terrifying an ordinary bear could be. And, of course, since I'm a huge nerd, that got me thinking about D&D.

Great writing, particularly horror, is often done by taking the familiar and making it somehow unfamiliar. Not totally alien, but just enough to throw you off and make you uncomfortable or unable to predict what's coming. D&D has big scary monsters and liches and dragons which are frightening because they're so powerful, but it's easy to make them feel too "out there", or even too familiar if you're really into fantasy.

Instead, you might want to scale things back and have the big scary bad guy of your campaign be... a bear.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Hobbit Board Game

Dallas Kasaboski
There has been a considerable lack of Dungeons and Dragons in my life as of late. Understandably so, as I just moved to Edmonton, only know a few people here, and getting a bunch of people together to play is hard enough, let alone when you don’t know a lot of people, or the ones you do are busy with work and living 2 time zones away. So, exploring the city as I have been, I was lucky enough to come by a comic book shop a couple of blocks from my new apartment.

I was looking for something interesting to play, something D&D related, and could be possibly played by 2 people. I didn’t want to pay a lot, and I’m not too sure about the newer D&D board games. My online search yielded two games which might prove interesting, namely Dungeon and The Hobbit board games. The problem with these is that they are hard to find as Dungeon was released in 1975 and even though several editions have been released, it’s not exactly flying off the shelves. The Hobbit has a similar history.

My mom says I am lucky, actually, the exact wording she uses is a little more colloquial, but the meaning is the same. Suffice it to say, as I was perusing the wares of this comic book shop, a Happy Harbor Comics, which is an amazing place full of games, comics, and all sorts of things, I came across The Hobbit board game!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Character Sheets as Monster Stats

Dominic Matte
Everyone's ready and excited for this week's session... except the one guy who can't make it today. Or perhaps your zombie-hunting paladin is making a guest appearance for a session, helping the party as an NPC ally.

While it's easy to simply say "Telia was knocked unconscious in the first fight", it can make more sense and be more enjoyable if you find a way to keep the character involved even when the player isn't present. It can also be great fun to use a character you've played as an NPC in another game. Of course, you don't want to be making roleplaying decisions for an absent player - it's their character, after all.

One of the simplest ways to keep a character involved is to create a monster stat block based on their character sheet. That way they can participate in combat and contribute to skill checks without worrying much about breaking character.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

PDFs and Piracy

Dominic Matte
As a disclaimer before I say anything at all, I don't work in publishing or the games industry and know very little about economics, so if you do know these things and what I say is ridiculous, I'd love to hear why.

Wizards of the Coast stopped selling PDF copies of D&D books a few years ago, despite the fact that demand is there, presumably because they were worried about piracy. Even a PDF that's somehow locked or protected can be broken into and released DRM-free, so Wizards' approach was to... stop selling PDFs.

There are a lot of people who either prefer PDFs, or would like the option of owning both print and PDF copies of their books (I personally like to have both because as a DM, it's hard to carry ten or more hardcover books to a session that's not at my place). 

And here's the key thing: not offering official PDF copies does not mean that PDFs don't exist. It's a simple matter to scan and compile a physical book into a digital copy and (illegally) distribute it for free, and if you do a quick search on The Pirate Bay, you can see that it's being done.

So my question is this: if people are going to distribute PDFs anyway, why not sell legal ones to capture at least some of that market? 

PDFs are relatively small files, so hosting is trivial. Not to mention that you don't need a warehouse like you do with physical books - one file is enough, and you send out copies to buyers with no printing costs or volume requirements.
Bandwidth may be more expensive, but again, they're smallish files.

Actually, a fantastically elegant solution would be to include a code in each physical book, and through the Wizards website, you can redeem the code for a PDF copy of that book. It wouldn't necessarily increase sales by vast margins, but it would be an excellent gesture and acknowledgement of the digital age and the difficulty of carrying around dozens of hardcover books.

EDIT: it's been pointed out to me that people could easily steal a card or snap a picture of the code unless the books are wrapped in plastic... which would increase manufacturing costs. Perhaps they should just sell PDFs on the website again.

As I said above, if this doesn't make sense for business reasons, I'd like to know why. I'd also like to know how D&D fans feel about PDFs in general - is there a big enough demand for PDFs for this to be worth Wizards' time, for example?

Monday, 4 June 2012

Legend of Korra's Pro Bending in D&D

Dominic Matte
Pro bending is a small-team sport that focuses on coordinated and cooperative combat. Sounds like a perfect fit for D&D, right?

At its simplest, pro bending involves two teams (3 players each in the show, but up to 5 or 6 for a D&D party) trying to push each other out of the arena. To make things work in D&D, we'll allow any class to play – you don't need to adapt Avatar's bending into your game. However, keep in mind that due to the nature of the game, some classes will be stronger than others.

Without using bending as it is in the TV show, some rules have to be modified, and others have to be added or considered because of how combat works in D&D. This way you can drop the sport into any existing game without needing to introduce new classes or change your campaign world to include bending.

Note: pro bending and D&D combat each use the word “round” to mean something different, so I'll make a distinction between the two:
a Round (capital R) is a sports round, ie you play for a certain amount of time and the Round ends.
A round (lowercase r) is the turn measurement in D&D combat rules, ie one full initiative rotation.

Cartoon images are from Avatar: The Legend of Korra and are copyright Nickelodeon.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Necromancer: A 4e Warlock Build

Dominic Matte
The necromancer is a classic character archetype featured in countless fantasy stories, but for some reason, it hasn't made its way into 4e D&D as a player option. You might think that 4e's focus on heroism naturally excludes necromancy as a player option, but on the other hand, lich is available as an epic destiny, so...

I decided to fix this gap in the available options. My solution was to use the wizard's summoning rules to create a master of undeath. But, of course, necromancy encompasses a lot more than summoning zombie minions, so I also included some simple rules for blood magic, which are entirely contained within a single keyword, as opposed to creating a whole new subsystem.

This is a full build writeup, containing new class features, at least one power for every level, feats, paragon paths, and magic items. 

Want to play a necromancer? Download the PDF from my Dropbox here, and read on if you're interested in the design notes!
(I apologize for the lack of images; I didn't want to risk any copyright issues)

Sunday, 27 May 2012

D&D Next: some thoughts

Dominic Matte

I've finally managed to get my hands on a copy of the D&D Next playtest materials, and they're definitely interesting. Before collecting my thoughts on the rules as a whole, I'll just go through some points that caught my interest as I read through. This is pretty much just a random collection of things that crossed my mind as I read the documents. I'll put together something more organized and collected soon.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Putting the Dread Back in the Undead

Okay, so you're running a game.  Things are getting real interesting.  The party has traced the mystery back to a dangerous cult hiding out in the cemetery, and the only thing standing between them and righteous, ecstatic justice is... An army of undead minions!

Oooooooh!  Oooga booga!

Friday, 11 May 2012

The Ultimate Zombie Hunter Part 5: Tactics & Wrap-Up

Dominic Matte
You've built your ultimate badass paladin who can totally kick the crap out of zombies. Or maybe you haven't and you're looking for a completed example. How should this paladin actually behave in combat, given the mix of powers and feats available to you? Read on for some tips, as well as some sample characters to show you what I'm talking about.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

The Ultimate Zombie Hunter Part 4: Weapons & Future Tiers

Dominic Matte
So far I've only really talked about the heroic tier. That's because Posse McToes never made it past level 11, so I never really got to continue expanding past there. I'll provide a quick overview of some of the standout options for paragon and epic tiers, but it won't be as comprehensive as my heroic tier coverage.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Ultimate Zombie Hunter Part 3: Feats

Dominic Matte

The paladin's powers are cool and all, but perhaps surprisingly, the feats are where you can make your zombie hunter really shine. That's because they'll give you specific bonuses and abilities against undead, or augment your best undead-killing powers, rather than simply dealing a chunk of radiant damage.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The Ultimate Zombie Hunter Part 2: Powers

Dominic Matte

Hopefully I've convinced you that paladin is the right class choice for killing zombies in 4th edition D&D. So now let's move on to power and feat selection.

Monday, 7 May 2012

The Ultimate Zombie Hunter Part 1: Class and Race

Dominic Matte
If you know you're going to be facing a lot of zombies, or if you just hate them, the idea of creating a character who hunts the undead may have crossed your mind. In D&D, the cleric is typically seen as the undead-killer, with its ability to turn undead. But in 4th edition, the Paladin, ordinarily a tough defender, is really the best equipped for fighting zombies, and can actually exceed the damage output of a typical striker against the undead. And if you're playing a paladin, you'll want to choose the race that best complements its abilities.

Follow along as I provide some tips on how to build the best zombie-hunter, using my oddly-named human paladin Posse McToes as an example. But do keep in mind that overspecializing in zombie slaying will leave you a bit weak against other creatures.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Using All Skills as Passive Knowledge Skills

Dominic Matte
In 4e D&D, the Insight and Perception skills function passively as if you got a die roll of 10. This is pretty cool, and a good way to give your players some information if one or more of them have a high Insight or Perception.

On the other hand, if you're constantly giving one player little tips and tidbits because of a strong skill, the other players might start to feel left out even if they have strong skills of their own, because they're not used passively.

The solution? Passive everything!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Solo Design: Thunder Barbarian

Dominic Matte
Solo Design is a series of articles exploring solos -- monsters designed to engage an entire party -- using monsters I've designed for my own games.

Looking for a monster that terrifies the characters and their players? Fear effects and massive damage are the way to go.

Sir James the Black Knight is a ruthless military general who believes in quick victory through intimidation and overwhelming force. In combat he's fairly straightforward but uses his stature and rage to terrifying effect, barreling through his enemies with powerful combo attacks. And if you think that's scary, wait 'till he gets really mad.

Friday, 27 April 2012

4e Conversion: Raptoran

Dominic Matte
I keep mentioning my ongoing Dark Sun game here and there, but I just realized that I haven't really talked about the race of one of my players. She's a raptoran - a race I first encountered in 3.5. Raptorans are bird people with feathers instead of hair, talons on their feet, and huge wings. The 3.5 version of the race was a real one-trick pony: it was a race purely designed to give players flight on their own capabilities instead of relying on magic or class.

Raptorans also have an interesting cultural tradition that makes them perfect adventurers. The coming-of-age ritual is known as the Walk of the Four Winds, in which a young raptoran leaves the flock and can return only after they have learned to fly.

Since mountains are of major importance in Athas (there are lots of them!) I thought that the raptorans, as cliff-dwellers, would be a good fit in the world. So let's take a look at how I brought this race into 4e! You can download a PDF copy of the racial stats from my Dropbox.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Solo Design: Storm Sorcerer

Dominic Matte
Solo Design is a series of articles exploring solos -- monsters designed to engage an entire party -- using monsters I've designed for my own games. 

In one session I wanted my players to fight two back-to-back solo battles with no time to rest, against two almost-legendary knights in my campaign world. More than that, I wanted the two fights to feel very different, and for the stat blocks to match the personalities of the two generals.

The first of the pair is Sir Arthur the Grey Knight, a military general and powerful storm sorcerer who wields lightning and thunder against his enemies, and can turn those elements back on his attackers. Unlike many artillery monsters, he has a couple of tricks up his sleeves to remain mobile and avoid being pinned down by a defender.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Metagaming the Metagamers: Unwinnable Encounters

Dominic Matte
This article is part of a series on metagaming and how to challenge or discourage it in your games.

Some players assume that their DM wouldn't give them a challenge they can't beat. This can mean combat encounters, skill challenges, puzzles -- whatever. This isn't a terrible assumption to make, but it can cause problems on both sides of the screen. The players can get themselves into an extremely dangerous situation and risk one or more character deaths, and the DM might lose control of a key scene or plot point.

How do you teach your players that some challenges can't be beaten? Give them a challenge they can't beat.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Dice Stacking Like A Pro

Alright.  Lets talk dice.

The game’s been going for almost two hours.  You’re waiting for your turn to come up in the initiative so you can lay the smackdown on those filthy orcs. Your drink is empty.  You’ve had your fill of cheetos.
What do you do?

Friday, 20 April 2012

D&D Next: Class Variety

Dominic Matte
The D&D Next discussions of character creation that introduce theme and background are excellent, and look like they'll really help create some interesting and unique characters on a fairly level playing field. There are a few concerns for balance, but that's not what I want to talk about here.

There have been some rumblings that seem to imply that the designers think that theme and background choices can fill in for certain classes, keeping the number of core classes small.

This can't happen!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Metagaming the Metagamers: Minions

Dominic Matte
In a previous article I looked at the definition and a few examples of metagaming. There are many ways to deal with metagaming players, such as simply talking to them and explaining that a really good roleplayer acts only on information known by the character, or that the player's metagaming is having a negative effect on the game.

The more entertaining (and possibly evil) option is to observe how your players metagame, build situations and encounters to exploit their thinking, and teach them a lesson by turning their expectations on their heads.

This time I'm taking a look at how you can use minions in an encounter to force players to reconsider their assumptions.

Monday, 16 April 2012

How do you organize your dungeon tiles?

Dominic Matte
I'm slowly building a collection of maps and dungeon tiles for my D&D games. I know how I'm going to organize my poster maps because of this excellent article from TheSheDM, but I'm not too sure what to do with my tiles.

Among other things, I have the City, Dungeon, and Wilderness master set boxes. I'm thinking that I should divide my tiles up to fit those themes and put them in ziplock bags in the relevant box. For example, my Dark Sun tiles would go in their own bag in the Wilderness box, and the Underdark tiles would fit in the Dungeon box.

But this solution seems a little lacking given the sheer variety in each tile set. It did occur to me to keep each tile sheet in a plastic protector like in the above solution for poster maps. That would allow me to see both sides of each tile easily, but it comes with the functional downside of having to put the tiles back into the sheet every time I use some, and it won't stop them from falling out of the slots and clumping at the bottom during transport.

Should I have a bag for major battlefield landmarks, like the Wilderness set's cabin, ruined tower, and giant skeleton? 
Should I have subcategories for the size of tiles, even though similarly-sized tiles don't have much in common?
Should I categorize tiles by content, like pits or ruins? That ignores the back side of the tile.

What are your dungeon tile organization solutions? I'd love to hear about them in the comments, and feature my favourites in a future article.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Dynamic Encounters: King-of-the-Hill

Dominic Matte
Looking for ways to keep your combats engaging and exciting? The Dynamic Encounters series will get you started!

A good way to keep encounters exciting is to use special terrain features that change the rules of the battle in a small area. Features that give bonuses will be contested points that everyone wants to hold, leading to frantic races and struggles for territory. 

The terrain features in the Dungeon Master's Guide(s) can do a pretty good job of this, but they tend to be smaller terrain features. If you want an entire battle to be about a desperate struggle to capture and hold a single location, try a king-of-the-hill battle.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Party sizes: A Player's Perspective

Dallas Kasaboski
So, I've been thinking about this topic a little bit, and I realized I had more than a little to say on the matter. In this post, I will outline my thoughts on how the size of a party can affect the experience and offer some tips for players and DMs alike for running parties of varying sizes.

D&D is a fascinating game for many reasons, but the one thing which makes it so fun, for me, is the interaction of people in entirely new and unexpected ways. The way a group of players interact is just as important, if not more so, than the way the characters mesh together. One factor which can seriously affect this experience is the size of the party and here's how, as outlined in different party sizes.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Diversity in D&D

Dominic Matte
Today io9 informed me that Mordicai Knode wrote an article asking Wizards of the Coast for more diversity in the next edition of Dungeons & Dragons, since there isn't much in existing editions. In a very non-scientific flip through the books, Mordicai noted only four black humans in the 4e Player's Handbook, and just one in the 3e PHB.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Why I Like Grid-Based Combat and What's Needed in D&D Next

Dominic Matte
I'm a huge fan of full-on tactical grid-based combat in D&D. I know that some people don't really care how combat plays out, and some are against using a battle grid and prefer the 'theatre of the mind', but I like grids and I'm going to tell you why.

I started playing D&D with 3rd edition. This is probably a huge part of the reason why I prefer grids. In 3e, the range of attacks and spells were all listed in feet, as were speed values. Grid-based combat was recommended, but not assumed or mandatory, so I didn't use it at all in my early games.

Problems started to arise when my players decided to fight tactically. For example, the wizard wanted to maximize the effectiveness of his fireball, so he had to know how many monsters were within the blast radius. As another example, the enemy troops were equipped with shortbows, so the player characters, with their longbows and magic missiles, could outrange them - but they also had to know exactly where the cavalry was at any given time to know if they had to back up or not. We all had a really hard time keeping track of the exact positions of every creature on the field, so we started using rough sketches.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Metagaming: Dealing With It The Polite Way

Dominic Matte
In an earlier article I talked about what metagaming is, and as promised, this is the first article with how to deal with it. This is just a quick one on how to deal with metagaming out-of-game by addressing your players directly. In other words, let's get the boring friendly stuff out of the way first.

If one or more players are metagaming, much of the time you can deal with it with a simple "your character doesn't know that". This is probably the best method if they're not intentionally metagaming or don't realize or remember that their character doesn't know certain information (such as "hit that guy first, he's just a minion").

If you have a player who's a recurring problem with metagaming, the best option is probably to take them aside and politely inform them that you'd like them to stick with what the characters know, because it's causing you a little trouble as a DM or because it's bad for the players' immersion. Unless the player is a total jerk, they'll understand and try to stop. And if you're playing with a total jerk, you have bigger problems than one person metagaming.

And that's pretty much it. Like I said, this is just a short article to deal with players directly. Keep an eye out for the much more interesting articles on how to subvert metagaming expectations within the game.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Conquest of Nerath: Play Impressions

Dominic Matte
I just finished my first game of D&D Conquest of Nerath. What did I think? Read on!

(spoiler alert: it was pretty cool)

Friday, 6 April 2012

Metagaming: A Player's Perspective

Dallas Kasaboski

This is in response to Dominic Matte's article on Metagaming, or using knowledge of game mechanics to influence character choices. In this article, I will attempt to give some advice and perspective on what a player should consider involving Metagaming.

D&D Next: "Beyond Class & Race"

Dominic Matte
To summarize: Wizards wants to simplify character creation down to only 4 choices, while still allowing the complete customization that veteran players know and love. Those choices are race, class, theme, and background.

Background is a set of skills and knowledge based on your character history; for example, the thief background gives you Pick Pocket, Stealth, Streetwise, and Thieves' Cant, while the soldier background gives you Endurance, Intimidate, Survival, and an extra language.

Theme is your class specialization, or how you do things - melee or ranged fighter, for example. These sound like 4e's builds.

Thursday, 5 April 2012


Dominic Matte
If you're new to tabletop gaming or you don't spend much time on RPG forums, you might be unfamiliar with the term "metagaming". At its most basic, metagaming means using knowledge from outside the game to influence events inside the game. In practice, this typically means that the players are using information that their characters couldn't possibly know to affect their characters' actions.

Metagaming, while useful in some ways, can potentially be a very negative and destructive practice in your game. Read on for tips on how to recognize various types of metagaming.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Conquest of Nerath: First Impressions

Dominic Matte
I received a copy of the D&D board game Conquest of Nerath for my birthday, so I figured I'd write up my impressions upon cracking open the box and flipping through the rules.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Assaulting Immunity

Dominic Matte
Lately I've been thinking about monsters with immunity or resistance to a certain damage type.

Immunity to a certain damage source makes sense in a lot of situations. The dragon that lives inside an active volcano and bathes in lava isn't going to worry about, say, stepping in a campfire. It makes an equal amount of sense that such a dragon could easily shrug off a wizard's fireball. Or, coming from a different direction, it makes sense that a gelatinous cube is immune to a sneak attack that targets a creature's vital areas.

On the other hand, it isn't fun.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Solo Design: Geomancer

Dominic Matte
Solo Design is a series of articles exploring solos -- monsters designed to engage an entire party -- using monsters I've designed for my own games.

What's the easiest way to create a really dynamic encounter that forces the players to think on their feet? To run a monster that alters the battlefield itself, of course! I wanted a dynamic encounter, so what better way to do that than to build a monster that alters the battlefield to his advantage every single turn?

Brigadier Stonefist is a high-ranking military officer and geomancer. He's a goliath with the ability to move and control the earth and stone around him. In combat, Stonefist is a tough and durable controller who focuses on splitting up and engaging the party one at a time. He can take a flat, boring battlefield and turn it into a blasted rocky maze of a wasteland in only a few turns.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Thought Experiment: A Very Modular 5e

There's a lot of talk about D&D Next / 5e being very modular, where you can mix and match elements depending on the desired level of complexity.

What if character classes were extremely modular and flexible?

Essentially you'd have a giant list of 'feats' divided up into categories. For example, you could have categories like weapon proficiencies, weapon tricks, damage boosts, control spells, healing spells... whatever.

Classes would be differentiated in two ways:

1. By having a few basic abilities that modify their feats -- fighters gain greater benefit from proficiency feats while rogues gain greater benefit from movement feats; wizards add an extra die to damaging spells while clerics add an extra die to healing spells

2. By the number and categories of feats they can choose -- fighters get more proficiency feats while rogues get more movement feats; wizards get more control and utility spell feats while clerics get more healing and buff spell feats.

As an example of potential feats within the category of damaging spells, you could have an at-will fire bolt; a more powerful encounter fireball; or a very strong daily inferno. You could choose any one of these at a given level, or over time you could take all of them to build a versatile pyromancer.

At any given level you could also choose to take racial feats instead of class feats -- if you really wanted to, you could define yourself as a dwarf first and a fighter second, or the other way around.

This would give you a huge level of freedom in character creation while still allowing you to keep it simple: you could build a fighter with a lot of tactical feats, or one that's dead simple with lots of bonus damage feats. You could build a wizard who can cast a few high-power spells per day, or one that can cast many lower-power spells.

Do you think this kind of approach would work?
Would classes feel unique enough?
Would it take too much work to categorize feats and decide how many of which types each class would get?
Do you see any major flaws that I'm missing?

Monday, 26 March 2012

Solo Design

Dominic Matte
Solos are single monsters designed to take on an entire party at once. They're used to give the players an epic battle against a powerful creature, and are often featured as boss battles. A dragon is a classic example: a huge challenge that a party needs to work together to overcome.

There are a few very important design considerations that go into building a solo monster. A typical party of four or five players has four or five times as many actions as a single monster, and a lot more options at their disposal.

In this article I'll explain what you need to consider when designing a solo monster, and as an ongoing series, I'll examine solo monsters I've designed for my games to fit certain themes or roles in gameplay.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Antimagic and 4e: King Duncan

Dominic Matte

The last stat block is King Duncan himself, leading the campaign to purge magic from the country. He's not the kind of king who has others fight for him -- as a solo soldier he's tough all around and exerts some control over his enemies' movement and abilities. He's also an expert wielder of antimagic, able to disrupt his enemies' connection to the very source of their power and take advantage of their weakness.

Read on for stats.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Antimagic and 4e: AM Grenades

Dominic Matte

Looking for a fast and dirty way to test out antimagic in your 4th edition game? Try throwing this power onto one or two monsters in an encounter, or simply using the hazard:

Antimagic Grenades (3/encounter, standard action)                     
Choose a square within 10 squares of this creature. Those squares and each adjacent square become antimagic zones until the end of the encounter.

Antimagic Zone
Creatures within the zone cannot use powers with the Arcane / Divine / Primal / Psionic / Shadow  keywords. *

Continue reading after the break for tips on how to use them effectively.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Making Friends. From Scratch!


First rule of Dungons and Dragons, Fight Club allusions aside, is that at its heart it is a cooperative game.

It seems obvious. You and your party spend every session struggling together against impossible odds after all. But try to remember that through all this you're also cooperating with a DM who's furiously trying to keep up with all the hair brained, half-cocked, deliciously ridiculous, unquestionably brilliant schemes you lot come up with. It's a miracle he lets you out of the Inn.

So I figure, what the hell. I like backstory, you like backstory. I like dice, you like dice. Let's take this relationship to the next level. Let's get the party involved in a bit of pre-game worldbuilding. I know, I know. I'm kinky like that.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Antimagic and 4e: Brigadier Hazen

Dominic Matte

Brigadier Hazen is another ranking officer of King Duncan's military and antimagic specialist. He would prefer to work alone, but as a sniper he's vulnerable and reluctantly keeps a spotting team and guard. Hazen has several large antennae strapped to his back, designed to collect magical energy and funnel it into his rifle (or crossbow if you don't like guns in your D&D).

Read on for stats.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Antimagic and 4e: Brigadier Hawkeye

Dominic Matte

Brigadier Hawkeye is the first major enemy I designed as an antimagic specialist for 4th edition. He's a high-ranking officer in King Duncan's military, in charge of a small black ops unit that assassinates key magical targets. Not only is he an elite soldier with some leadership ability, he's also slightly psionic and trained to counter users of arcane and divine magic.

Let's take a look at his stats.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Antimagic and 4e: Beyond No-Magic Zones

Dominic Matte

Articles in This Series:
1: Antimagic and 4e
2: Beyond No Magic Zones
3: Brigadier Hawkeye
4: Brigadier Hazen
5: Antimagic grenades
6: King Duncan

The response to my first article on antimagic in 4e has been overwhelmingly against the mechanic (although I'm hoping that's because people commented on the idea of antimagic without reading the article) so I'd like to explore some more specific reasons for using it, and how I used it.

First off, I didn't decide to try antimagic in 4e just for fun. A war against magic and magic-users was the major plot arc of the game in which I used antimagic in 4e. If the king makes it his mission to purge all magic from the land, you can bet he's got a few tricks up his sleeve to deal with spellcasters. He's not going to throw wave after wave of soldiers at the archmage in the hope that maybe some of the army will survive the fight; he's going to send in a small assassination squad that's specifically trained to break wards and resist magical assault. 

Second, I never used traditional antimagic fields that block all magic. Not once. Over the entire campaign, only three specific encounters contained an antimagic specialist, and two of those couldn't stop casters from casting if they'd wanted to. I would never ever EVER run a combat entirely within an antimagic field because that's frustrating for everyone.

Starting with Monster Manual 3, Wizards drastically reduced the number of monsters with resistances, because it's no fun for a player built around fire attacks to come up against a monster that's highly resistant (or worse, immune) to fire. Instead, fire monsters have traits or abilities that activate or become more powerful when they're hit with fire. Instead of feeling useless, the player deals full damage and is faced with the tactical decision of when to use fire-based attacks. 

This is the approach I was aiming for when I built my antimagic specialists. In the next few days I'll be posting the three stat blocks to give you a better idea of exactly what I mean.

Antimagic and 4e

Dominic Matte
Articles in This Series:

Remember antimagic back in the older editions? I had a lot of fun with antimagic as a DM, until I realized that not letting the wizard cast spells is less of a suspenseful combat situation and more of a "go away until the encounter is over".

While antimagic could be used to create unexpected tactical situations, it did more harm than good. Plus, the rules didn't always make clear distinctions as to what was magic and what wasn't. It's obvious that you can't cast spells in an antimagic field, but can a dragon disciple use his breath weapon? Are psionics magic, or something else? What happens to magical constructs like familiars?

D&D 4e got rid of antimagic, and that was a good design choice. But when I wanted to adapt an old campaign up to 4e and realized that my story about a king trying to destroy all magic relied heavily on antimagic, I had to make a choice: radically alter the story and game world, or find a way to make antimagic work in 4e. 

I chose the latter.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Creating a character you and your friends will love! Part Four: Becoming your character!

Dallas Kasaboski
The last three blog posts have been working toward this. I wrote those so we would be on equal footing at this point, but the entire purpose was to get you here. In my opinion, this is the most fascinating part of D&D, the development of a character, turning that character sheet into, well, one which you and your friends will love and remember/reference for campaigns to come!

So, let's just quickly review. You've made a character. You've spent so much time, maybe too much, poring over books and things and you've statistically made your character, all the appropriate boxes are filled in. On top of that, you've given some serious thought as to backstory. You've made a way for your character to fit into the DM's world and given your character some general motivation in life. Perhaps, you've thought of personality traits already, perhaps not. Either way, you are ready to play, but you're a little unsure.

What is my character like?

This question, and variations of it, come up so often in D&D. You want to role-play, but unless your character is you, or you're just a really good actor, you have no idea where to go from here. The Player's Handbook is generally good about what makes a character tick, asking questions to determine how you might handle certain situations. But, it's one thing to say, "My character is brave" and quite another to prove it. When it comes to showcasing your character, actions speak louder than words.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Creating a character you and your friends will love! Part Three: Powers, Feats, and Skills

Dallas Kasaboski
So, last time, I gave you more or less the same information as the Player's Handbook when it comes to Class and Race. I tried to make it a little more interesting by providing some examples of my own experience.

Today's topic goes a little more in-depth, transitioning from the character sheet, to the performance at the table. I will start with a quick couple of words concerning choosing powers, feats, and skills.

As should be obvious, your choice of powers, feats, and skills is vitally important. It will affect how you play your character, what you can do, what you're good at, and thus will affect your character's personality. Obviously, you are free to choose whatever you want, but as much as I generally choose the features which will make my character more awesome, effective in and out of combat, I absolutely love the chance to harmonize my choices with my character's backstory and personality.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Character Death

Dominic Matte
Character death can be a contentious topic. Some DMs and players expect characters to die as part of the game. Some players are outraged when all the time and energy they've invested into a character comes apart, while others see an opportunity to try something different and move on. Some DMs want all the characters to make it through the story alive, and others just don't think they're doing their job if everyone's character sheets are still intact.

Personally, my perspective as both DM and player is that the group should talk about how to handle character death before the game begins, or whenever a new player joins the group. Players can get very invested in their characters, and you want to make sure everyone is on the same page so there are no surprises. A DM wouldn't want to plan a party wipe as a plot point only to have half the group quit the game when their characters are brutally murdered by the big bad.

With that out of the way, let's take a look at a few different ways to handle character death in your campaign... at least mechanically.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Creating a character you and your friends will love! Part Two: Class and Race

Dallas Kasaboski

Last time, we discussed some considerations you should have before even narrowing down any choices. Hopefully, after talking with the DM, and maybe the other players, you have interesting and exciting options in mind.

So, now you've got the books in front of you, or maybe the Character Builder program, and you want to create your character. Today, we will discuss Class and Race and I will provide you with some thoughts and tips concerning choosing what might be right for you.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Better Minions Part Two: Tactical Minions

Dominic Matte
A lot of the official D&D 4e published material doesn't make very good use of minions. Much of the time they're just extra bodies to distract and slow down the players, rather than actual tactical elements. Here are a few ideas to make minions more interesting in combat. Use these with either regular minions or two-hit minions.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Creating a character you and your friends will love! Part one: Considerations

Dallas Kasaboski
Whether you're familiar with D&D and character creation or not, this guide will attempt to provide some helpful tips and suggestions for making a character you will enjoy playing, and one which your friends will remember for years to come! Obviously, as the game changes over time, and different editions are added, the way you create your character can drastically change. But, this is 4e, so that's where we'll be putting our focus.

So, where to get started?

Sometimes, there are so many choices and options that it can be overwhelming. Let's look at potential first steps.