Sometimes, you just need to go a little crazy. In the d20 system, there was the house rule you could implement out of Unearthed Arcana or copy from the Call of Cthulhu Roleplaying Game (since it was still d20) to allow for characters going slowly insane. Whether it was from the sheer horror of their experiences, or the slow steady trickle of forbidden knowledge entering their ears, players got to experience some of the terror involved in losing control from a world too alien to comprehend.
Archive for April, 2011
Sometimes, you and your friends are sitting around and say “Hey, let’s play Dungeons and Dragons!” and sometimes, you intend to write a campaign before the game starts, but you just don’t feel inspired, and put it off till last minute. Whatever the case, every DM has at some point been forced to come up with an entire story as the players are settling into their chairs. How do you do it? My basic framework for how I get through those tough few minutes follows.
So, for the last few blog posts I’ve made, I’ve alluded to the fact that I think effort-based experience is superior to all other forms of player-leveling; however, I don’t think I’ve really ever explained why, or given a good comparison to the alternatives to show their weaknesses and strengths. I’ve tried a variety of systems, and I think it’s time I show you why I use the system that I do, and love it so much. At the very least, it makes planning out dungeons so much easier, since you never really have to worry about getting the encounter budget precisely correct!
Is your heart prone to failure? Do you get faint easily? Then this article may not be you. You should leave now. Are you gone? Yes? Alright. So: I think that it’s possible to use a character sheet instead of a monster stat block and have it be a balanced encounter.
There, I said it.
It’s inevitable. Given a long enough stretch of adventuring, all quests will eventually involve time travel. Maybe it won’t be much: sometimes, it’s as limited as time stop, or the party travels back a couple hours after a magical backlash. Traveling through the planes carries the slight risk of moving you back in time. Or maybe you design an adventure around time travel, Back to the Future style where the whole point is to travel around and see past sights and solve past mysteries. Regardless of how you do it, you’re going to need rules.
Have you heard of this thing? The five-minute work day? Basically, the issue is that a lot of 4th Edition Dungeon Masters have players who fight one massive battle, blow all of their daily powers and burn up a lot of healing surges, and then find a place to hole up for the next 24 hours so they can heal up, regain their powers, and then face encounter two in the adventure at full strength. Almost every week on the Wizards of the Coast forums, I see a Dungeon Master, young or old, asking for help trying to stop some variation of this problem. Today, I address it here.
I, like many Dungeon Masters, get conflicted when designing new dungeons before a game: the need to design realistic architecture for my dungeons, temples, or what-have-you, in order to impress and immerse my players is paramount to me, but the need to design such a building in ten minutes or less in order to have it ready before the players show up for the day is also sort of important, don’t you think? Any Dungeon Master who wants to have his cake and eat it, too–who wants to get a detailed, elaborate structure in ten minutes or less–needs to have a system. Ladies and gentlemen, this is that system.
One of the most unfortunate absences in 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons is the complete lack of Craft skills (or, if you go far back enough, a lack of nonweapon proficiencies; bookbinding, anyone?). This has been a flaw that Wizards of the Coast has tried to address time and time again, first through the addition of the Master Artisan martial practice, and again an address was attempted in the Essentials line of products, with almost all of the skills mentioning what kind of objects you can craft using that skill. But these are all dodges around the unfortunate truth: 4th Edition would probably have been better off having a straight-up, rarely-used Craft skill instead of all these clumsy kludges.
Which edition of Dungeons and Dragons was best at creating stories? I’m not talking about plots: the best plots are fun regardless of edition. I’m talking about stories, the things that players tell each other for years, reminiscing about and laughing about long after those characters are dead and the edition is out-of-print. So tell me, for you personally: which edition was the best at creating stories? I’m willing to wager that your answer is not 4th Edition (at the very least, it’s not for me), and I’m willing to wager that the primary reason is that 4th Edition forsakes all things random and out of the DM’s control.