All Quiet on the Western Front

Posted by Labyrinthian in

Sorry for my lack of activity as of late.  I started a new job this week and have been both busy and exhausted.  You should see a return to normal after this week, but for now I apologize for the general lack of content.  

Next week you should see movie reviews for Kick-Ass and the new Nightmare of Elm Street.  I'm also working on a list of my top 10 RPG books of all time (no easy task I assure you) that should be up sometime next week as well. 

Return to Hackmaster

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My group and I are now officially playtesting Advanced Hackmaster!  I'm not sure I can put into words how excited I am.  Obviously none of us can speak about the rules, but we can still give tales of the group's adventure, which I plan to do weekly. 

I'll be running the game, Revil and the Profressor will be players along with AngryBear and Moonxine.  We are starting out with Frandor's Keep, which only adds to the excitement. 

Unfortunately we won't be starting until May 11th (AngryBear has finals coming up), at which time we will commence a 2 game a week schedule.  Tuesday will be Hackmaster, and Pathfinder will continue on Thursdays. 

Overall this is an amazing opportunity and I can't wait to dive in.

Dice Quiz

Posted by Labyrinthian in ,

Everyone on the network has been taking this quiz over at  I've been fighting it but today while over at Geek Ken I finally caved and decided to go take the quiz. 

How did I do?  See for yourself...

I am a d8

"You are a d8: You are the true adventurer! Dragons rescued, princesses slayed, and all that business while O Fortuna plays in the background. Your social calender is crammed with heroic deeds, and you've personally saved the world from ultimate destruction at least twice. You are reliable, perhaps a bit predictable, but overall a shining example of what happens when courage meets determination."

Religion Map

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I've done a couple of copies of the Caliburn map to show religious affiliation throughout the continent in much the same way that the previous map showed ansestry

Originally this map showed three religions but as Constelanity, the religion of the Nordish people, is found in such small pockets throughout Northern Caliburn I didn't think it was worth displaying on this map.  Rather I focused on the two main religions, Druidism (a sort of Pagan tradition that was the original religion of Caliburn) and Seraphism (sort of a blend of several real world religions that has taken hold in most of Caliburn).  The conflict between the two religions is a central plot running throughout the setting.  The Old Ways are slowly but steadily being beaten back by the New Religion, and soon there may be nothing left for the supporters of the Old Ways to save.  I think you can get a sense of that when you look at the map.  The red has eaten away at most on the continent starting in the east where it was first introduced.  Now even parts of the far west are falling under its influence.

Now if I could just finish the regular map.  I'm sure I'll get there eventually.

How to Make a Great Map in Five Minutes

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Alright here is the first ever true tutorial here at the Cartographer's Corner.  This is method I developed yesterday while procrastinating when I was supposed to be finishing my Caliburn map.  It's simple and above all fast.  This tutorial assumes you are using Adobe Photoshop CS4.  Older versions of Photoshop will work though some of the menus or short cuts may be a little different.  So let's get started.

Step 1:  Create  a new project.  I used the following settings: Width 8.5in, Height 11in, Resolution 300px, Color Mode RGB 8-bit, Background transparent.

Step 2: Create Clouds.  Filter > Render > Clouds

Everything should now look like this.  

Step 3: Use Difference Clouds to Create the Base of your map.  Filter > Render > Difference Clouds.  You'll need to repeat this roughly 15 times so go ahead and just hold down ctrl and press the F key (that will repeat the last filter you used) repeatidly.  The final step for this is to expand the layer five times to get a sort of zoomed in version.  Click edit > transform > scale then at the top imput both height and width as 500%. 

  You should now have something that looks like this.

Step 4: Color in the Ocean. Create a new layer and name it Ocean.  Then click Edit > Fill and choose a nice blue color that you would like for your ocean.  (The example map has R: 62, G: 87, B 120)  Your whole screen will now be blue with nothing showing through.  Set the blend mode on the layer menu to 'Color'.

Everything should now looks blue

Step 5: Color the Land.  Create a new layer and call it 'Land'.  Now you'll need to take the magic selector tool and find select a Gray area (NOT a white area).  Then choose select > similar.  Now select edit > fill and choose a green color that you would like for your land.  (The example uses R: 85, G: 100, B: 73)  Again set the blend mode of this layer to Color.

 It's really coming together!

Step 6: Higher Elevations.  Create a new layer, call it Mountains.  Now take your magic selector tool and click on a White area.  Now choose Select > Similar and you should have only the lightest areas selected.  Next chose Edir > Fill and choose a brownish color (the example uses R: 106, G: 91, B:61).  Again set the blend mode 'Color'. 

And there you go!  The map is pretty much done.  Everything else is window dressing.  You'll see my finished example below where I  did some country outlines and some labeling, and a border, but that's all to taste.  You can do it anyway you want, or leave it blank and let your players explore, labeling as they go.

From here you can do whatever you want.  Experiment, that's half the fun!  Email me if you have any questions, or if I have omitted a step from this tutorial (as is likley!). 

The Five Minute Map

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I created this map in under five minutes using a strange new technique I created in a moment of inspiration today.  I am currently working on writing a tutorial post that will walk you though the steps you will need to create a map just like this in only five minutes.  I hope you have it up tomorrow, but if not then the day after is a certainty... eh... probably.

More Great Miniatures

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Dark Sword Miniatures is back at it with some more great ones.  The detail on these is as staggering as ever, and they continue to capture the feel of Martin's ASIF.

First up is Eddard Stark.  He is carrying his Valyrian steel great sword Ice and looking as somber as ever.  The second picture really shows the amount of details on his face.  My compliments to Tom Meier who sculpted this piece.

Next up is Shea, notice she is wearing the Hand's chain of office. 

The chain of office underwent several revisions.  Here is a view of the final version.  Shea was also sculpted by Tom Meier.

Again by Tom is Samwell Tarly, the portly man of the Night's Watch.  Sam The Slayer is shown carrying his Dragonglass dagger which he used to slay an other and claim in nickname.

Finally a new piece by Jeff Grace, Euron Greyjoy Crowseye is depicted with his deadly horn here.

A second version, depicted here, shows Greyjoy with a bag of gold in place of his magic horn.

Again you should check out other angles of these excellent minis as well as some of their past works at Dark Sword's website.

Hackmaster Basic Spell Cards

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CEBrown over at the Kenzerco boards has created some spell cards for HMB.  Though they are a work in progress I highly recomend you head over and check them out

The Adversarial GM

Posted by Labyrinthian in

Bad GM's can fall into a lot of different categories.  There are those who are disorganized, bad story tellers, and even those who just don't know the rules well enough to run a game. However, in my experience the Adversarial GM is the absolute worst.  

Some Games (I'm looking at you HM4!) actually encourage this sort of adversarial GM role, though perhaps some are more serious than others.  Yet other people seem to fall into the role with no coaxing what-so-ever from the authors of the system they run.  Perhaps it is part of their personalities that comes out while they run a game.

A highly competitive person may slip easily into the role of an Adversarial GM.  That person, always striving to win, will be happy when the PCs have been crushed under foot and disappointed when they vanquish his monsters.  This is not as it should be.  It is indeed the GMs job to challenge his players, but not to seek to destroy them.

At its heart the role of GM is not unlike the judge of a courtroom, it is imperative that he stay impartial.  Though the responsibility of running the monsters and other NPCs falls to him they are not his characters, as PC belong to a player.  Again, this does not mean that a GM should fail to play NPCs to the full of their potential, that is part of his job, but he should not take a special interest in their well being.  Nor should he play them beyond their capabilities so as to "beat" the players.  

I'm not going to get into fudging die rolls or breaking rules because people should already know that cheating is never a good idea.  I don't hold with fudging die rolls for any reason, not to save a character's life, and not to take it.  There is a tentative trust at a gaming table when rolling behind the shield.  If you violate that trust you may find your players no longer as interested in your game.   Fudging a die roll so your villain can live to fight another day is going to frustrate your players and make them feel they lack the ability to affect the world around them.  As for rules, if you want to make your own custom rules that is fine, but fudging them or ignoring them all together is not.  I once had a GM who allowed a minor globe of invulnerability to last for hours instead of rounds.  When we told him it was a rounds per level spell he disagreed so we looked it up .  When he found out I was right all he said was, "oh." When I asked if my spell went through he said, "uh, no" and continued on with his little farce.  That was the last night of that game. 

Even those GMs who play it by the book but seek to create a "You vs. Me" are failing.  The game isn't about the Players vs. the GM, it is about the Player Characters overcoming challenges.  Making it a player vs GM game can foster a lot of ill will around the gaming table leading players to think that the GM is "out to get them."  RPGs are a group storytelling game.  Everyone around the table is needed for it to work and if one side decided to get up and leave the game would be over just like that. 

In the end the Adversarial GM loses site of one of the major tenets of GMing, being impartial.  Yes you have to control the enemies and make sure they act as well as they are capable, but it isn't your job to alter rules on the fly or fudge die rolls to ensure their victory.  Let's face it, if it was a competition the GM would always win.  All one would have to do is send waves upon waves of monsters at the PCs until they were all dead. But if you attack the PCs with 25 Red Dragons and burn them to cinders you don't "win."  The game has become a joke and everyone loses.

A Great Day of Geekdom

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For those of you who didn't hear, Joss Whedon has been selected to direct the upcoming Avengers movie, set to film some time in 2011.  I love Joss Whedon, and nearly everything he does, so I consider this a great decision for Marvel.

It's also a great gig for Joss, who will finely be directing a feature film that is an almost garenteed hit.  This should banish any rumors that his films can't be comerical successes. 

Here is the article from CNN.

Final Ethnic Map

Posted by Labyrinthian in , , ,

Here is the final version of the ethnic version of the map.  I added a bit more detail and several filters on the landmass portion.  I also moved some of the labeling and set it to Luminocity which I think helps it blend with the rest of the map better.

Interested what people think, and very glad to be able to move onto something else.  This took longer than I thought it would. 

Professor Obsecure Saves GenCon

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Yesterday event registration opened for GenCon.  This posed a problem as I was quite busy.  Sundays are sports days for me and I leave early in the morning for football, continue right on to softball, basketball, and then ultimate frisbee.  This means that I usually don't get home until about 9pm, well after most of the tickets for great events are all taken up.  Other members of my group were similarly engaged, Revil was with me playing sports, ManOnFunTrip is in the air national guard and had drill this weekend, and AngryBear had to work. 

All this could have spelled disaster but the Professor stepped up and saved GenCon for our group, for which we are all grateful.  Perhaps we are doubly so as this is, for all of us, our first GenCon experience and, for all but one of us, our first gaming convention ever.  In short, this is a very important event for all of us.  We are very excited and didn't want anything to ruin it.  Thankfully nothing did.

Though we didn't get into the Convention's only Aces & Eights game (that's right, as of right now there is only ONE) we did get into some other great events including the two we were most excited about.

The first, probably to no one's surprise, is True Dungeon.  We have heard about it, seen pictures, and videos for years and always dreamed of going, and now that dreams will be coming to fruition in August.  We were fortunate enough to all get into the same dungeon run, despite a number of problems with the checkout system.  The other event we are all very excited about is an original I6 Ravenloft game.  Regulars on this site know how much I love the original Ravenloft, it is probably the greatest adventure of all time.  Though I have run it, I have never gotten a chance to play it.  Now I finally get to do so along with all the other members of my group.  I can't wait.

Aside from those we are playing the Castle of the Mad Archmage, and a Pathfinder game called Shadows Fall on Absalom.  Aside from those we signed up for a few seminars, including the one held by the fellas over at Gnom Stew.  We had been warned from a number of sources not to sign up for too many events so we left plenty of time to walk around and check things out.  Additionally we are still hopeful that there will be come Hackmaster events (that's right, as of right now there are ZERO Hackmaster games) so we are leaving time open in the hopes that there will be some.

I have great hopes for this trip, and my excitement is only likely to build in the coming months.  August can't get here fast enough! 

More Arya

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Valyriansteel has a couple more pictures of Maisie Williams practicing with the Needle replica. 

Arya Stark and her Needle Work

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Maisie Williams who is playing Arya Stark in HBO's production of A Game of Thrones has been working on her Needlework.  Here she is posing for some pictures holding the Needle replica.

She looks like she is going to make an amazing Arya Stark.  Even more reason to be excited about the show.

New Ethnic Map

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Here is a new version of the Ethnic group map of Caliburn that I posted the other day. 


1. Improved colors
2. Reduced Saturation
2. Less homogonous
3. Edge Fade

Overall this version is better.  I'll need one more version to finalize everything and add a little more detail.

Critical Hit Chart with Diagrams

Posted by Labyrinthian

I bought GameMastery's critical hit and critical miss decks, but they aren't universally loved in my group.  Perhaps it is for that reason that I started working on a critical hit chart that straddles the line between detail and efficiency. Well, that and the desire to incporporate the oft left out d30!  Though it is still very much a work in progress I thought I'd share with you what I have so far.

Initially when scoring a critical hit one rolls a d8 with the following result in addition to the normal critical damage (x2, x3, etc)

1. Equipment Damage
2. Muscle Damage
3. Extra Damage (Minor)
4. Bodily Jarred
5. Extra Damage (Major)
6. Free Additional Attack
7. Bleed Damage
8. Broken Bones

Equipment damage includes things like damaging an opponents armor, shield, or even weapon.  Muscle damage would result in penalties and reduced movement rates.  Minor extra damage adds even more damage to a critical, typically a single die, while major extra damage adds two dice.  Bodily Jarred includes things like losing a hold on weapon or shield, being knocked down, or knocked back, etc.  Free additional attack allows for the person who scored the critical to make another attack at the same bonus as that which scored the critical.  Bleed damage results in consistant loss of hp every round (see below).  Broken bones produce a variety of effects from reduced movement speed to paralysis (see below).

In addition to the additional charts, muscle damage, bleed damage, and broken bones.  First drafts for both Bleed Damage and Broken Bones can be found below.


That's all for now.  I'll post more when I have an update, the next step will be the muscle damage chart.

Ethnic Maps

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Naming has become the great bane of my existence.  Trying to find names that are both good and consistent with the setting has taken more time than I care to contemplate.  To take a break from all that hooplah I decided to work on the Ethnic version of the Caliburn map.  It's general goal is to depict which groups hail from which areas.

The first version of the map looked like this...

The Cymrians have sort of been on the chopping block for a while.  First of all I was never sure that I needed six ethnic groups, it seemed like it was starting to be too many.  The Cymrians really aren't all that different from the Albonese, the most populous group on Caliburn.  If they aren't unique, they they certainly are superfluous. The straw that broke the camles back though was this map.  It has an odd symetry about it that just doesn't strike me as realisitc. You have two groups up top, two in the middle, and two on the bottom.  It bugged me so much that I redid the rough draft without the Cymrians.  It looks like this...

Overall I like version 2 better.  Immedietly one can tell that the Albonese are the most populous group, and one can easily infer that they populated the entire south until the Tytherian pilgrams came and settled in the southeast.  For draft 2 I'll need to go back in and use more detail.  The Nordish are supposed to have settled the east coast as far down as the edge of the Moontrips.  The Prydainians should have pushed farther south into the edges of the lowlands of Norgales.  Even with those and a few other changes to makes the map is not terrible overall and does convey the information I am looking for.

Nightmare, Dragonstrike... Oh and Dr. Horrible too

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Gamers love game, and not just tabletop RPGs. As a kid I wasn't aloud to play D&D once my Mom found out (that is actually a true story) so often my group would look to board games and video games to fill the void.

Probably my all time favorite board game is Dragonstrike. Now many of you doubtless have never heard of it, and those you have are probably laughing hysterically right now. To the former, please educate yourselves on a classic, and for the latter please understand that it was the closest to actual D&D we were allowed to engage in.  The game is more of lesss a simplified version of D&D in board game form, and it came with a video that I watched constantly.  In retrospect this game was actually a great springboard into D&D and my group had countless hours of fun playing the game.  I love the game (and the video) so much that I included the Sunstone adventure in a recent campaign I ran. 

Want some third party evidence of just how amazing this game is?  Well you recall everyone in the Gaming community going bonkers (and rightly so!) over The Ultimate Game Room?  Well I'd like to draw your attention to exhibit A.

That's right!  The Ultimate Game Room was not content with a mere ONE copy of Dragonstrike, it had to have TWO.   You say you're still not convinced, you say you want more.  Well folks here is exhibit B, the video that went with Dragonstrike.

Ok, this video is really terrible. But to a young lad it was once the coolest thing in the world.

Though Dragonstike is my all time favorite board game, my single favorite board game experience actually came while playing a game of Nightmare with my older brother and my parents. Nightmare was released in 1991 and was a horror based board game that relied on a video to play. The video had the timer for the game as well as a character who ran the game for all the players, a sort of video GM. Now I have played many different versions of Nightmare, and each expansion has a different character acting as GM, but none compare to the original, The Gatekeeper.

Just as none can compare to the original video guide, nothing could ever compare to that first time playing the game.  It was nearly impossible to get my Dad to play board games of any sort, I'm still not sure why.  He loved video games, especially sports video games, but I could never get him to play Dragonstike with us once.  Anyway my Mom must have blackmailed him or something because he was there and sat down with the rest of us to play the game.  My mom shut off all the lights, and lit some candles to create a spooky environment (she loves Horror movies) and we all sat down to play the game. 

Though Nightmare isn't a cooprative give, it managed to create a real sense that it was us (The "Maggots") against the Gatekeeper.  We were cheering each other on when things were going well, and lamenting "our" bad luck when something bad happened or the Gatekeeper screwed us over.  The game lasts exactly one hour, that is how much time someone has to win before its over and you all lose.  Well this particular game went down to the wire.  My dad got all his keys and reached the center of the board with about 3-5 seconds left.  We were all screaming at him to get up and shut the tape off (The final step to end the game).  He tripped over the couch and dove to shut the VCR off.

It was epic.

I don't think I'll ever have a board game experience that amazing ever again, but it does show how much fun they can be.  To give those of you a tase of the game, and its immortal character, the Gatekeeper, here is a highlight real.

Finally, at the time I was playing Dragonstike and Nightmare I also loved playing video games.  I was never a huge Sega fan, but I loved Nintendo.  8-bit games still have a special place in my heart.  For that reason I was pretty entertained when Revil sent me the link to a video of a Dr. Horrible Sing Along Blog 8-bit Video game.  If you love Dr. Horrible and/or old school Nintendo games you should check it out.


Posted by Labyrinthian in ,

At Kevin's recomendation I decided to check out Save Versus Death, a fellow gaming blog.  SVD specializes in producing challenging material for 4th edition, it's an interesting read and a good resource for those of you who play 4th ed and like a challenge.

One of the things that really caught my attention were imbeded videos of a show from the 80s called Knightmare.  Knightmare is a British gameshow, sort of a Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego meets D&D.  It ran for a somewhat shocking 8 seasons, from 1987 to 1994.  Even today it maintains a great website brimming with information.

All I can say is that I would have been a Knightmare addict if this show aired where I lived.  Even now I think it's pretty cool.  Check it out for yourselves, here is the first episode of season 1 (You can see many, if not all, of the episodes on youtube). 

Epsiode 2 Review has Finally Arrived!

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RedletterMedia has stuck again!  This time it is their long awaited review of Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones.  This review is longer (approx 90 min) than any of their past reviews, but no less funny.  I've embedded all nine parts for your viewing pleasure.


Happy Easter

Posted by Labyrinthian

A very happy Easter to all of our readers!  May your holiday be filled with children, colored eggs, bunnies, and other plesant things.  Because we here at The Labyrinth are always interested in history, here is brief explanation of the origins of these traditions curtosy of yahoo. 

...And I'm Back!

Posted by Labyrinthian in

 Well the weekend getaway was cut short because the wife contracted a case of Strep Throat.  Ah, the dangers of teaching I suppose. 

While I was gone the debate raged on.  Too often these things just descend into name calling so I'm pleased to see that everyone conducted themselves civilly.  For those of you who haven't read it, Graham provided excellent counterpoints to my concerns regarding 4E over at his website. Thank you to all those who provided their own thoughts and opinions on the subject.  We really got a good dialog going.

So often even an open forum such as this fails to change people's opinions because everyone is so entrenched in their own beliefs and fails to come to the discussion with an open mind.  But as I said over at CriticalAnkleBites, While people may never agree on what constitutes a good system I do think that we could all do with a little more understanding and a lot more tolerance. I certainly feel more informed about 4th edition than in the past, with more insight than ever about why those who play it love it. Though gamers will likely never all agree that one system is best we are still on the same side on one issue. We all want the hobby to not only survive, but to thrive.

Anti 4th Edition?

Posted by Labyrinthian in ,

It amazes me that 4th edition is still such a hot button topic. Gamers are a passionate people who will debate, usually heatedly, topics which pull at their heart strings. No game is so dear to the gaming community at large than Dungeons and Dragons. The short little piece I wrote about an editorial in Knights of the Dinner Table has caused a number of comments, and emails on the topic. Most have come from fans of 4th edition who feel that their system is being slandered. Perhaps these people are highly defensive because of the years of fourth edition hate, but whatever the reason it proves that this is an issue that still divides the Gaming Community. While some people descend to petty things like insults and name calling it is good to see people like Graham who provide well thought-out responses to concerns regarding the system. Furthering understanding within the community rather than offering nothing more than scorn. For those of you who enjoy or are curious about 4th edition I encourage you to head over to Graham’s website.

Are we here at the Labyrinth anti 4th Edition? It was never something that I ever stopped to consider. We have three writers here: myself, Revil, and the Professor. All of us have varying opinions on all things RPG and we certainly don’t have any “company line” here. I can tell you that we don’t play 4th edition, have never played 4th edition, and currently have no plans to play it. None us of like the game preferring to play other systems, but does that make us anti 4th edition?

For myself I have read the 4th edition core rulebooks, though not cover to cover, and as I said I haven’t played the game. That having been said I have never written down some of the things that I dislike about the system and have kept me away from it for the last few years. Graham said in my last post that he would be happy to clear up any misunderstandings that I have about the rules so I started listing them, but they quickly became too long for a comment so I thought I would post them and move the discussion to a new venue.

As this isn’t a review of 4th edition I am not listing everything I dislike about the game, just enough to have a civil debate about various aspects of the system. Also, some of my problems are not with the game but more with Wizards of the Coast and how they have conducted themselves in the “4th edition Era.” I felt this is relevant because the way the company has conducted itself has caused me to be very disinclined to purchase their products. I’ve also listed those below.

Problems with the Books and Rules

1. Dumbed down
The game has been simplified, I would even go so far as to say oversimplified. This is because Wizards was attempting to draw in a new audience, a younger generation including those from the MMORPG market, and they felt that a simple game would serve better as an introduction to the hobby in general. I am always in favor of bringing new people into the hobby, but I feel to keep them you have to show them why the hobby is great. I don’t feel that 4th edition does that. Rather I feel it does a poor job of replicating the environment from which they were drawn.

2. Core Races
The Gnome, a staple PC race for many years, has been tossed out in favor of, “Cooler Races.” These races, Tiefling (why not the assamir as well?) and Dragonborn, remind me too much of other cheesy races like Eberron’s ever crappy Warforged. The Half-Orc also got the axe (har-har). Once races such as these were supposed to be exotic, but as core races they merely represent the new bizarre standard.

3. Classes
Druids, Monks, Bards and Sorcerers are out (I’ve only read the 3 original core rulebooks. I haven’t read the PHB 2 or 3, but it was my understanding some of these would appear there.) My theory is that they left out established D&D classes that people liked to ensure sales of later books while replacing them in the first core books with new untested classes such as the Warlord.

3. World of Warcraft
The Game is heavily influenced by World of Warcraft and a few other MMORPGs but WoW is principal among them. People who deny this are just engaging in a futile effort. I have no problem with World of Warcraft, have played it quite a bit and even enjoyed it. But that is a computer game. I expect more from D&D.

4. Skill merging
This is also a problem I have with Pathfinder. In their design notes one WotC writer asked, “Why would anyone want to hide and NOT move silently?” This seems a silly question to me. If one was in the woods and not wanting to move, but rather let someone move past them they would hide without moving silently.  Merging skills was completely unnecessary and leads to a problem common in my group’s Pathfinder game, the overuse of a single skill. Perception is used about 87 times a night by each character and it gets old. Fast. I realize the change was to streamline the skill system, but logically why couldn’t a character be better at searching than listening?

5. Tactical Miniatures
Forth edition seem much more like a Tactical Miniatures game than a Roleplaying game to me. In fact, reading the rules I couldn’t imagine playing the game without miniatures.  I wouldn't even know where to start.

6. Art
Not all of the art is bad, but it is woefully inconsistent. A wide range of artists were used and rather than conforming to a single style they all produced works that varied greatly. Second edition was the same way, some of the art was amazing and other parts terrible. The Pathfinder books are a breath of fresh air here. They provide consistent high quality art of a matching style. In the end this really comes down to personal preference, you either like the art or you don’t. I’m one who just doesn’t, but hey you can’t please everyone.

7. Book Layout
The book just seems disorganized to me. Maybe I’m alone on this or maybe it is force of habit i.e. I think things would be in a certain place but they aren’t. The index seems too small to be useful and there wasn’t a glossary in the version I was reading, but maybe the second printing corrected that.

8. Labels
The game tells you what you should be doing by labeling you a certain kind of character. Controller, Striker, Leader, or Protector, terms derived from MMORPGs define what your character should be doing rather than letter you decide that for yourself. The game used to be about characters and stories, now it is about how much ranged DPS your striker Ranger can dish out. Different classes with the same label end up being much the same. Two Striker characters seem like they would play much the same regardless of their character class.

9. Resource Management Vs. At Will
D&D used to be about playing intelligently. Resource management was important for nearly all classes, Wizards perhaps most of all. They had spells, but few at early levels, so they needed to use them intelligently. 4th edition solves that “problem” by providing everyone with at will powers. However, at-will powers seem like they would often be used over and over again the majority of the time, and they seem to have the same basic effect for most of the classes.

10. The Mage’s Versatility
Mages used to make great versatile characters. They could have a large number of spells and study different ones depending on what they expected to encounter that day. This required things like planning, foresight, and intelligence. Now instead of the thirty spells he once had to choose from he has about five power choices.  There are rituals, but these are not things that can be used in combat as they take a good deal of time and materials to use.

11. Casters vs. Noncasters
Speaking of the Mage what he used to be able to do made him special, but later in the game more dangerous than his fighter counterpart. That was deemed bad so instead he gets powers, the same number as many other classes. Not only that they function much the same. Since casters no longer have spells but rather have powers just as non-spellcasters it was easy to perfectly balance the game. Many caster powers seem to do things very similar to other characters of the same label. The end result being that what they do is really no longer all that special and there is very little difference between casters and non-casters of the same label. It is balanced though, you’ll get no argument from me on that front.

12. Healing Surges
I don’t like healing surges. They just don’t make much sense to me. I realize that some people felt that the cleric wasn’t much fun since he was designated the healer class by many, but I don’t agree with that. Healing surges are a contrived way to make the game easier, which seems to be a pretty common theme in 4th edition. Dying just isn’t fun for people so lets make it nearly impossible. They just seem to want to take the challenge out of the game, and if so then what is the point? Additionally healing surges just aren’t realistic. People don’t spontaneously regenerate “just because,” and I find it aggravating when WoTC writers write that, “People just aren’t thinking about Hit Points in the abstract.” Thank god I have them around to explain it to me. Bottom line is that I don’t like Healing surges, in fact I hate them.

13. Magic Items in the PHB
Why are the magic items in the Player’s Handbook rather than the Dungeon Master’s Guide? This isn’t a major issue in and of itself, but it speaks to a change in the culture of the game. By placing them in the Players Handbook you are saying that, like the general equipment, these items should be readily available to PCs with the amount of money listed. Another example of high fantasy getting too high for my taste.

14. Combat Focus
This game focuses nearly all of its attention on combat rather than roleplaying, plain and simple.

15. The Feel
The game just doesn’t feel like D&D to me. It is difficult to put into words what that means, but it is really that simple. For this reason above all I just don’t think 4th edition is the game for me. 

Problems Wizards of the Coast

1. The Joke
When originally asked about 4th edition WoTC responded that there was no 4th edition, nor any plans to produce one yet. Rather they claimed it was an inner office joke.

2. Splat Books
I don’t like splat books, generally speaking. I didn’t buy any of the awful “Complete” series from 3.5 because they were downright terrible. With 4th edition even the core rulebooks are splat books. Do you really need a Players Handbook 3? The Players Handbook has always been a core rulebook so one might think that the PHB3 would also qualify based on its name, but I have my doubts.

3. Wizards vs. Technology
This isn’t new to 4th edition since WoTC completely abandon their original character generator released with 3.0 and then abandon E-Tools, a program with a lot of promise. However, the 4th edition era brought a new level of apparent incompetence. All the initial plans seemed good. Their forums would become a place where gamers could connect and they had an amazing virtual gaming table on the way light years beyond what anyone else was producing. Well that virtual gaming table STILL hasn’t appeared years later and word is that Wizards has all but abandon its development. As for their forums, their Gleemax experiment didn’t last long, and their forums are still a terror to visit. Oh that reminds me…

4. Condescension
The books published by WoTC leading up to 4th edition, Races & Classes for example, were the most condescending garbage I have ever read in my life. I really mean that. I realize those were design notes and not actual rules for 4th edition and that is why I have listed it here rather than above.

5. Character Conversion
When third edition was released I was excited. Not just at the long awaited new edition, but at the prospect of converting the characters from our long running campaign using the conversion guide. Second edition and third edition were as different as night and day, but Wizards still provided a conversion guide. Third edition and fourth edition are far more similar yet for some reason no conversion guide was supplied. When asked in an interview about that one of the Wizards reps responded with something that amount to, “Don’t Bother even trying.” You don’t have to tell me twice!

7. Don’t blink or You might miss the New Edition
When 3rd edition came out many people were clamoring for it. There was a large gap between 2nd edition and 3E (11 years to be exact) so few saw the release as early or unnecessary. However, just 3 years later 3.5 was released. This was very early in my estimation, especially considering each book was now $30 rather than the $20 for the 3.0 books. But ok, now all was right, the rules had been patched and we wouldn’t see a new edition for quite some time. No, wrong again. Just four years after 3.5 Wizards announced 4th edition at GenCon. The game was released in 2008 making a grand total of three editions in eight years.

I’d like to end with one thing at least that I like about 4th edition (Yes, it’s true. I don’t hate the game, “Just Cause” nor would I say that nothing good was produced). My favorite part of the new rules is the “bloodied” condition that changes combat rules once a character is significantly wounded. This strikes me as very realistic. In real life fighters find that their combat skills diminish as they become tired and wounded, often leaving themselves open to devastating blows.  I only wish that they had taken it a step further and provided penalties to attack rolls and maybe even AC.

In closing let me just say that I wanted to like 4th edition. Who wouldn’t want to like a new edition of the game they have loved since they were a kid? What possible good does it do me to dislike 4th edition? I don’t know that I hate 4th edition as much as it just isn’t the game for me. If it is the game for you then I am happy, and even a little envious of you. For me, it looks like this is my stop. Maybe I’ll hop back on when 5th edition rolls around. Maybe the pendulum will swing back the other way. Only time will tell.

Asinine Statement

Posted by Labyrinthian in ,

Rarely have I had my disdain for 4th edition articulated half so well as by one Rick Moscatello who, in a recent issue of Knights of the Dinner Table, offered up a guest editorial attempting to defend 4th edition from all the "haters."  For those of you who didn't read the article let me provide you with some highlights.

"Granted, one can claim all the classes play more or less the same (a Mage can hold a sword as well as any Fighter), and balance is achieve by simply removing quite a bit from 3.5... Even if a Fighter is now pretty much the same thing as a Wizard, at least all players are always playing an even game." 

Why the hell would I want to play a game where all classes were the same?  How is that a selling point?  Is this where the pursuit of game balance has lead us?  If so get me off this train immediately! 

Maybe instead of focusing on balancing each class at each level designers should focus on balancing them over the life of the campaign.  Sure fighters might shine at low levels, while at higher levels Mages shine.  That's the way it used to be, and while it wasn't perfect, it worked a hell of a lot better than this sloppy mess that this guy is describing. 

I am all for game balance, but what this guy is talking about is simply asinine and, as he himself points out in the article, not D&D.