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.