Map: The Lair of the Fomorian King

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While it's true that I still haven't finished my 30 minute map tutorial I did find time to start another experiment randomly generating maps using clouds.  In this map I used clouds to randomly generate a cavern complex.  The random cavern only took about 5 minutes but I added some water and other window dressing.  Total time was about 15 minutes. 

Overall the cloud rendering works really well for making caverns and connecting the passages and chambers using the eraser tool is a simple thing.  This could turn out to be a great resource for quick random dungeon design.

Advanced Hackmaster Player's Hanbook Video

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Fans of Hackmaster have been (im)patiently awaiting the release of Kenzerco's Advanced Hackmaster.  Yes, we had Hackmaster Basic to wet our appetites, but I think we've long been ready for the main course!   The Hacklopedia of Beasts, the Hackmaster Bestiary, is already avilable in PDF with a print copy to follow in March, but how long will we have to wait for the all important Player's Handbook?  I don't know.  What I do know is that the book looks amazing, just like the Hacklopedia.  I know because Revil recently sent me a video that Jolly Blackburn posted of him working on the PHB.

Watch live video from KODT LIVE on

Gorgeous.   I don't know what else to say, I just love the look.  I'm very glad they are going with the same look as the Hacklopedia, both because it looks amazing and because I prefer a certain amount of continuity as far as look and layout go. 

Night of the Zombie King - Episode 5

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Episode 5: Thoughts of Darkness

Life continues to mirror the game as Jaz goes after Hicks to apologize.

Official Description: Jaz pursues Hicks, trying to coax him back into the game. Hicks explains his difficulty in coming to terms with the past, and they stumble upon a plan to salvage the adventure.

2011 Gen Con Hotel Rush

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Gen Con Housing opened at Noon and the Professor and made a coordinated effort to book rooms for our groups pilgrimage to Gen Con in August.  To be honest I was more than a little concerned given the reputation of Gen Con's online systems coupled with my group's past experiences, but it all worked out great.  We got our first choice, the Westin Indianapolis, right across the street from the convention center.  This will (hopefully) make our experience even better than last year where we had to drive back and forth from our hotel near the airport and carry our stuff around all day.

If you haven't booked your hotel room yet through the room block do so ASAP, especially if you are looking for one of the closer hotels!

Those of you who have booked your rooms and got what you wanted join me in a collective, "WOOT!"

I've played with the same group for about eight years now.  We have had many people come and go for various reasons over the years, but the core four members of the group have remain unchanged.  Recently we lost two members in quick succession and found ourselves down to just the aforementioned four players.  While it is certainly possible to play with four, and we have done it many times, it was the general preference that we add a few more members to fill out the table.  

Normally when we need new members we will invite a friend of one of the already existing members.  This is the easiest option for both the group who is getting a known quantity, and for the new player who already knows someone at the table.  However, after eight years we seem to have exhausted this option; none of us could think of a single person to invite to the game.  After a bid of head scratching we examined our options.  We do live in the information age after all, how hard could it be to reach out and pluck a prospective gamer from the orchard of the internet? 

As it turns out, pretty hard.

Now there are various ways to find new members, many of which I'm sure we weren't aware of., but of the ones we did know the three that seemed the most promising to us were message boards, Obsidian portal,  and Pen & Paper Games. 

Message boards for specific games have worked really well for people I know.  I once knew a guy who would hit the D&D boards and within a week would have a whole new group.  That man had a talent for finding people that it quickly became clear that I, and the other members of my group, lack.    The problem is that my group no longer plays just D&D anymore.  When 4e came out it became clear that the game was not for us and so we started looking elsewhere.  In the time since 4e came out we have played Hackmaster 4th Edition, Hackmaster Basic, Hackmaster Advanced, Aces & Eights, Pathfinder, Call of Cthulhu, 1st Edition D&D, 2nd Edition D&D, and D&D 3.5.  So though it was cool that the release of 4e caused us to branch out and leave our comfort zone a little bit, it no longer made it possible to hit the D&D boards looking for players.  Similarly, Paizo has prolific message boards, but by and large those players are Pathfinder players who might not be interested in switching systems should the need arise.  So in the end we didn't have much luck with message boards and decided to forgo others like ENWorld, RPGNet, and others. 

Obsidian Portal is an awesome site and a great resource for many things including finding games.  We used Obsidian Portal as kind of a passive way to look in the months leading up to our active search.  We listed the campaign we were playing along with some information on our group and tossed our line out, hoping some Gamer without a group would bite.  Alas, we had little to no luck.  We considered contacting some of the other groups in the immediate area, but many of them were playing 4e, so it was unlikely they would have been a good fit.  However, all was not lost.  Obsidian Portal partnered with Pen & Paper Games, a site dedicated to helping Gamers find Gamers.  We all figured this would be our best bet. 

It was at Pen & Paper Games that we made our last  ditch effort to find some new blood.  We threw a wide net over the area, opting for a "spray and pray" philosophy.  Rather than working our way down a long list of people one at a time, we just emailed everyone we thought might be a good fit.  So just how many was that? 

Thirty two.

That's right, thirty two people got messages from us offering them a seat at our table.  This was not just a quick "hey you don't know us but join our game" email.  No, this was thorough.  We talked about our group, how many members, what ages, our play styles, what games we play, what times, how long we had been together, what we were looking for, what we would be playing, and a host of other things.  We added a "no pressure clause" by stating that it was just a trial to see if the person was a good fit for the group and the group a good fit for the person.  When we finished writing the email (a group effort) I was sure that we had emailed too many people and would be bombarded with responses.  This was a little worrying because the table we play at is only so big.  Turns our I shouldn't have worried.  Go ahead and guess how many responses we got.

If you guessed one and a half, you are correct.  

What do I mean by that?  Well we got one ligit response by a guy who was interested, and one quick email from a guy who said he might play if we change the day we play on.  To say we were disheartened would be an understatement. 

Now I should mention that all of the people who we emailed were not held in equal regard.  We rated each person on a 1-10 basis and only emailed the top 32 people.  So naturally where was our one response from?

If you guessed the very bottom of the list, you are correct. 

Needless to say it was more than a little disheartening, but we emailed the guy (Doodle, by handle).  Doodle seemed nice enough via email and was very prompt in his responses so we invited him to come down for the start of our Call of Cthulhu game and roll up a character with us.  When he showed up we were all pleasantly surprised, he was friendly and very normal.  Hey, don't look at me like that... it's the internet you never know what you're gonna get.  Doodle had played CoC before so he was a help with some of the rules and his sense of humor really seemed to mesh with the rest of the group, something of underrated importance in my opinion. 

As I write this we are two weeks into our CoC and things are going great.  Everyone is very happy with Doodle and he seems reasonably happy with the group.  Still when I think of the process we went through to find and recruit him I have to ask myself, why the hell is it so hard to find new players? 

If you have a story of your own trials and tribulations of finding new group members please, let's hear it!  If you have any advice on finding new members, please share that too!

Arya Stark to the Second Power

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Billboard promos have been going up all over the UK to promote the upcoming series A Game of Thrones.  George recently posted a photo of Maisie Williams, the young lady to plays Arya Stark, posing in front of one near where she lives. 

A very amusing picture.  It's good to see that Ms. Williams is as excited about the release of the show as the rest of us! 

Another D&D TV Commercial

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Since earlier today I posted a pretty bad recent commercial for Dungeons and Dragons 4e I thought I should post this better commercial that I found for D&D Essentials.  It doesn't have the Beholder, but it also doesn't have the bizarre marketing strategy. 

Once again we see that Essentials is marketed for Old School Gamers rather than kids.  Something that Ryan Dancy thought very strange.  Still it is a quantum step forward from that other commercial.  This one makes me think about D&D and not about what the creators were thinking. 

Dungeons & Dragons TV Commercials Then and Now

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Dungeons and Dragons has changed a lot over the years. Yet one does not need to delve into the rulebooks to notice the alteration.  One only need to take a look at two commercials, a first edition commercial from the 80s and a much more recent commercial for 4e.


(Yes, that was Cameron Frye from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.)


(We got to see that Beholder last year in our trip to Gen Con.  He looks pretty awesome, and is really massive.  I'm sad to say the poor fellow has lost some teeth though.)

The two commercials are so vastly different that it's hard to believe that they are for different editions of the same game!

Now I want you to do me a favor, and I know this is going to be difficult.  

I want you to forget everything you know about roleplaying games.  Pretend you don't know anything about them.  You are just a someone who is bored and is looking fun to do.  You are watching TV, and these comercials air back to back.  

Which commercial do you like better? Which game do you buy? Why?

George Martin Rocks Out on MTV

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The prolific author was recently interviewed about HBO's upcoming adaptation of the first book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Game of Thrones. 

A Window into the Wars of the Roses

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Roleplayers and Wargamers spend a lot of time wondering what it must have been like to be on a medieval battlefield.  What would it be like to witness two massive armies clashing on the battlefield with nothing less than life or death stakes.  

Thanks to Cylopeatron for posting a link to this amazing article from the Economist which offers a lot of insight into what these types of battles were like through the window of a single battle during the Wars of the Roses.

The battle in question, perhaps one of the bloodiest battles in English history, took place in a small village named Towton, located between York and Leeds.  There two massive armies clashed on March 29th 1461.  How many men are we talking about?  Well it's a medieval battle so one might think the the conflict would have been small, especially by modern standards.  One would be wrong.  It is estimated that as many as 75,000 men took part in the fighting that day.  An epic clash that rivals even the sprawling battles found in a fantasy series such as George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, itself heavily influenced by the Wars of the Roses.

The Article has a wealth of information that fans of history are sure to enjoy, Including the tale of one casualty of the battle, christened "Towton 25" by researchers,  who met a grisly end.  I highly recommend you go and read the article, it is definitely worth your time, and may make you think differently about how you handle large scale conflict in your games. 

Of Wizards, Miniatures, and Robert Downey Jr.

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“Never mind, they are intent on running the concept behind a roleplaying game into the ground, then peeing on it, then stomping on it, then running off squealing.” -mxyzplk

Yes, another quote. This particular one comes from mxyzplk the writer of Geek RelatedLike me, he has taken exception to WotC's recent move to introduce a collectible card game element to D&D.   

After reading his article I picked up on another piece of news, D&D miniatures are being discontinued.

From WotC:

D&D RPG Product Release Updates

Despite the best laid plans, sometimes we make changes to the D&D product release schedule. Usually this happens well before we’ve communicated our plans, but sometimes we must make changes to schedules that have already been announced. That happens to be the case we have here.
We have made the decision to depart from prepainted plastic miniatures sets. Lords of Madness stands as the final release under that model. We will continue to release special collector’s sets (such as the Beholder Collector’s Set we released last fall), as well as make use of plastic figures in other product offerings. Check out the Wrath of Ashardalon board game next month for the latest example of this. Moving forward, we will continue to explore more options for players to represent characters and monsters on the tabletop, including Monster Vault and other D&D products that feature monster and character tokens.
The Heroes of Shadow product, originally scheduled for March and presented in digest-sized, paperback format, is moving to April to accommodate a change to hardcover format. Additionally, three D&D RPG products have been removed from the 2011 release schedule—Class Compendium: Heroes of Sword and Spell, Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium, and Hero Builder’s Handbook. While this means fewer books, we plan to deliver just as much great content for players this year through other formats, including board games, accessories, and digital offerings. I’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest releases each month as we go along.
Finally, I wanted to let you know that we’re making a change to the way we handle D&D Insider content. Subscriber data informs us that the vast majority of you consume our articles individually, when they are posted, as opposed to downloading the monthly compilations. So, starting this month, we’re just providing the articles. There won’t be any more monthly downloadable compilations. This is not a reduction in content, just a clarification of presentation and putting the emphasis where the majority of you are using it. Corrections and updates to articles which used to appear only in the compilations will now be made to the individual articles a few weeks after the original posting.

In addition to the end of the miniatures, three books have been canceled and there will be no more monthly compilations of Dragon or Dungeon on D&D Insider.  Personally, I don't care about the books (I wasn't going to buy them) or the monthly compilations (I don't have D&D Insider), but I did love those miniatures.  

Many other people are also bemoaning the loss of these miniatures:

Product changes at WotC: no more Minis
WotC to Discontinue Plastic Minis
R.I.P. D&D Minis 2003-2010
News: Tales of WotC Woe

The bottom line is that many us of don't have the artistic ability to paint our own miniatures, so despite great companies like the late Ral Partha, Reaper, and Dark Sword have made many amazing works of art over the years, the majority of us have never been able to fully enjoy a painted miniature.
That is until 2003 when WotC launched one of their greatest products ever, D&D Miniatures. They were plastic which some disliked, but I was actually a fan of. The plastic, besides being much cheaper, was more likely to bend than break and were easily bent back. If one did break, a cheap replacement could always be found. They were pre-painted and looked great, which meant you could enjoy them right out of the box. There were such a wide variety of them available that you could almost certainly find whatever you were looking for.

It sucks to have WotC launching stupid products like these fortune cards, but discontinuing a quality product like their miniatures. So it seems that mxyzplk's concerns have been validated...

WotC has gone full retard.

Of 4e Sales, Ryan Dancy, and the End of D&D as we Know it

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I caught wind of Ryan Dancy's recent article over at ENWorld from JoeTheLawyer.

It's a very interesting read to say the least. 

Among the things he says Dancy states that, according to his industry sources, Pathfinder is outselling 4e.

Paizo couldn’t exist without the OGL and the D20 System Reference Document. And according to my industry sources, it’s outselling Dungeons & Dragons a feat (no pun intended) I would have considered almost impossible 10 years ago.

Pretty staggering no matter how you feel about 4e.  To think that ANY fantasy roleplaying game would outsell Dungeons and Dragons is mind blowing.  

He went on to say,

Three years ago I told people that it didn't matter if 4e was successful or not, because it was likely to be the last version of D&D that would be based on paper based tabletop gaming. I've seen nothing so far that changes my opinion about that.

To think that 4e would be the last version of D&D to be printed on paper is a little shocking.  Yes, PDFs have seen a mediocrity rise over the last ten years, but to think that people won't buy books any more...  

Guess I should get an ipad or one of those new ripoffs. 

Obviously D&D is changing, but what will it change into, will it be reconizable, and will it be something the majority of us enjoy? 

Those are the questions WotC and other industry leaders will have to answer in the coming years. 

Episode 4: NotZK is up!

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Episode four, Howls in the Night, is up on GOLD's website.

The Summary:

As Hicks had predicted, the decision to split the party results in disaster. When Jaz is unable to come up with a solution, Brian's anger boils over and he forces an out-of-game confrontation.

Night of the Zombie King continues to seriously impress, representing a Quantum leap forward in what we can expect from the producers of GOLD going forward.  

New Game of Thrones Trailer: The Game Begins

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Another great trailer!  This one features a number of the central characters sitting on the Iron Throne (Which looks awesome, by the way!) speaking a portion of their dialog.  Just when you thought you couldn't be any more excited...

Is it April yet?

GOLD is back!

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GOLD, the Series that does Double Damage, has finally returned!

They are currently following up their very successful first season with the first of their "companion adventures."  GOLD: Night of the Zombie King looks to take the series in a different direction, choosing to focus on the character of Jaz specifically.  NotZK seems to be going for a different tone than the original, but that doesn't mean the the humor is gone.

Have a look at the trailer below and head over to GOLD's website to check out the new season!

Gary Gygax Wasn't Perfect

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My last quote inspired article, "Game Balance and the Conformist Utopia" seemed to be greatly enjoyed by our readers so I decided to follow it up with another one.  

Gary Gygax, often dubbed the father of our hobby, is obviously beloved by nearly everyone.  Why not?  He inspired countless men and women, was friendly and welcoming to those he met, and above all passionate about what he did.  Yet Gary, like all of us, was not perfect.  For proof we need go no further than Gary himself.

"There's a number of things in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons that I never should have done. I shouldn't have put Psionics in there, but somebody talked me into it." -Gary Gygax

So as we see, Gary didn't regard himself as perfect, nor did he see his creation as a flawless masterpiece.  As seen above he particularly regretted addition psionics into the game.

Psionics remains something of a hot button issue today.  Most people harbor a strong dislike for them, preferring to leave them out of their own games.  Others harbor a strong and fervent love of them and tend to lash out at those who take pot shots at one of their favorite parts of D&D. 

I gave psionics a go multiple times, but just found that they generally don't fit in games and settings that I play.  They are too close to magic to have each be special and play a vital role in both the setting and the story.  I have played with people who used psionics to replace magic altogether, and in my opinion this would probably work better than having both and creating a big jumbled mess, but would alter the feel to be something other than a typical fantasy setting.  Given the psionic abilities in 3rd edition the game would probably feel more like a sci-fi game than a fantasy one, though it would probably be really cool if you were playing a post-apocalyptic fantasy game.

Giving the Mega-Dungeon a whole new meaning

Game Balance and the Conformist Utopia

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Reducing everything down to the point where everything is mechanically identical may be balanced, but it will be just as fun as a conformist utopia. -Korjik

I came across this quote over at EnWorld.  Besides being funny, it is also absolutely true.  In my youth I always thought game balance was a good thing, something that one should strike for.  However, over the years I've come to question whether a balanced game is always a good idea.  Now I'm not saying one should throw game balance to the wind, just that balanced isn't always better.   

Take D&D as an example.  In first and second edition you have no real balance between the classes, at least not in the modern sense.  The fighter is great at the beginning, but gives up the crown fairly early on to the magic using classes.  This is further balanced out by the fact that the magic wielding classes all took far more experience to advance in level.   Yet a 18th level fighter and a 18th level wizard were not balanced against one another.  

Third edition came along and did away with differing experience table and so undertook the difficult task of balancing each class against each other each level.   At this task, they failed terribly.  That isn't to say they didn't go a great job, I'm not bashing 3rd edition here, but the classes were not all made equal.  A 12th level Wizard is orders of magnitude better than a 12th level Ranger.  Other classes were very well balanced, like the Wizard and the Sorcerer, but by and large there was a pecking order as to how powerful the classes were.  The reason they couldn't all be perfectly balanced is that they all did different things, and did them in different ways. The classes all had their own feel and their own niche within the game.  

Soon after 3.0 came 3.5.  It attempted to fix the issues in the original 3rd edition design, including some of the balance issues between the classes.  Rangers, for example got much better, but still the classes were not perfectly balanced against one another and the pecking order still was there, albeit in a slightly different order.  The jam was still in the cog, which is to say that the classes were still so widely different, and had abilities that couldn't be quantified to match each of the other classes perfectly.   
Enter 4th edition.  Game developers had been questing for balance for a long time now and finally come up with a way to balance all the classes almost perfectly, give them all comparable abilities.   Now I'm not saying that all the classes from 4e are the same, but they are much more similar to one another than in any other version of the game.  Each has dailies, per encounter, and once a day abilities that can be easily balanced against one another.  Now I'm not saying that 4e is perfectly balanced, but it is the closest thing to perfectly balanced that exists out there.  

WotC finally hit the mother-load of balance, finally reached the promised land it had long search for.  Hell I had been looking for it myself for a while, but now that I got to look on it, I didn't really like what I saw.  Gone was the unique feel of each class, gone was what made each of them special.  They just all felt the same, uniform, homogeneous. 

That's when I realized that the White Whale I was chasing was something of a poisoned prize.  To get balance you have to give something up, a certain amount of flavor and texture.  You have to be willing to part with the differences that make things unique and interesting.  Balance craves uniformity and consistency, and those things just aren't very interesting. 

So I am done chasing game balance as the ultimate prize.  Instead I'll keep it on the shelf with the other things.  It has it's place, but it isn't higher than a host of other factors that make up a great game.  

Got Any Cthulhu Tips?

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My group is beginning our long awaited Call of Cthulhu campaign this Thursday. To that end I have decided to elicit any advice those more knowledgeable (just about everyone) might have on the subject.  

I've done some prep to get geared up for said campaign.  I've read a bit of Lovecraft (not my favorite writer to be honest), some Mythos fiction by other writers, got and plan to play Arkham Horror tonight (woot!), and looked over the rulebook (6th edition is what we are playing) for Chaosium's CoC system as well as the Miskatonic University book (we are playing student investigators).

Even with all that though I still don't feel like I know everything I need to know.  That's where you come in!  Here are some questions/issues I have. 

These guys looked screwed.  I'm hoping to avoid this.
1. How to I maximize PC survivability?
I enjoy games where the same cast of characters sticks around for most if not all of the campaign.  The long running bonds between characters and the trails they make it through together is one thing that keeps me coming back week after week in most games.  That having been said, I keep reading that CoC isn't a game with a great survivability rate... so how do I maximize PC survivability? 

2. What type of skills will prove the most useful?
As I stated above, we are playing matriculating freshmen at Miskatonic University so we don't really get a whole lot skill point to work with.  I want to make sure I use mine on skills that I'll actually use, so what are some good useful skills?  

3. What are some common pitfalls for new/inexperienced players?
Obviously I'm not going to take a swim looking for the city of R'lyeh, but what are some common missteps people have encountered?  

Watch out for this guy... check!
4.  What are some good ways of preserving sanity?
I've heard that becoming insane is just as big a danger as dying, so what steps can be taken to help prevent that?  Should ancient tomes be avoided at all cost?  I've heard those can be dangerous.

5.  How much combat can I expect?
There see to be a number of combat related skills in the game, but the game doesn't seem like it focuses on combat.  Are these skills worth investing in, and how much fighting can I really expect in CoC?

6. I rolled some pretty pedestrian stats
Which stats would everyone say is the most important?  My best stat by far is intelligence (14) my worst is Con (8).

7.  Got any other tips I should know?
I'm not sure what else to ask, but I'm sure there is more good advice to be had! 

This will be a first for everyone in the my group. Though I have limited knowledge of the Mythos and the game itself, I would certainly categorize myself as both excited and enthusiastic.  There are high expectation from every member of the group this game is going to be one to remember.  Any help you can offer to ensure that we are right would be much appreciated! 

If you can't beat em, join em?

Confusion About Fortune Cards: Why the 900 Pound Elephant is on the Toilet

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Based on some of the comments from my previous post, "D&D Flushed Down the Toilet by Wizards of the Coast," I felt like I should really clear up some of the confusion.

1.  D&D has offered these types of cards before.

Spellfire was introduced in 1994
There have been cards that have been released and had the name D&D slapped on them.  For example, D&D tried to capitalize on the success of Magic: The Gathering by releasing what is widely considered to be among the worst collectible card games in history, Spellfire.  It was a flop and didn't hang around too long.  However, Spellfire was a stand alone game.  These were not cards that you used within your D&D games to give your characters extra powers.

Spell cards for Wizards and Priests were for use in a D&D game, but they were just easy reference cards.  Much like those people who wrote the spell info down on an index card, these cards offered no advantage short of easy access to the information presented in the Player's Handbook.

2.  These New Fortune Cards are just like the various Game Mastery Decks available

No.  Paizo offers many different decks, including a critical hit deck.  That is not a CCG being driven into an rpg.  It is a single deck that everyone draws from when scoring a critical hit.  Honestly, when we played with them most people just felt that they would rather have the double damage.  That sad fact, along with the fact that the DM also draws from the deck means that everyone is on a level playing field. 

3. Buying those cards to increase character power is just like buying a new supplement book

Uh, no.  If one buys a splat book to increase character power then they are buying it for a new feat, skill, or spell.  If the DM allows access to the book then he allows access for everyone, not just the person who bought the book.  If a DM only allows you to choose things from books that you physically own, leave the game. With D&D Insider and the character builder there is little to no reason to own all of these supplemental books as it pertains to making characters.  Players have access to all the feats from the various books through that program. 

4.  D&D is not Changing

People for some reason (probably because they didn't actually read what I wrote) accused me of saying that, "D&D is dying."  I never said that, and that certainly isn't what I meant.  What I said is that D&D is changing, and changing into something that isn't much like what it was.  

It is changing like it or not.  I don't like it, some people no doubt will.  I'm not saying that this product will be a failure, far from it.  I think it will make a ton of money.  I just don't think it is good for the game.  D&D will continue, it just probably won't be D&D the way many people know it, like it, and/or play it. 

5.  You have no idea what the cards are like

I do, actually.  They have sample cards posted online.  I posted one of them in the original article and I've posted two below in the Card Comparison section.

Card Comparisons

To help people who believe that these cards are the same as those that have been offered before I've posted five different cards below for people to look at. 

The first is a critical hit card from GameMastery's critical hit deck.  As you can see there is a real give and take to these cards.  If you are using them you may end up doing half the damage that you would with your only compensation that your target is sickened for one round.  It's happened to me folks, and it sucks.

The second card is a spell reference card.  As you can see it gives no advantage short of you not having to look the spell up.  Handy?  Yes.  Power increasing?  No.

The third card is a Spellfire card.  It's a bad CCG, a Magic: The Gathering rip off, and has nothing to do with D&D save the fact that they slapped the brand name on it to aid sales.

A Card from the GameMastery Critical Hit Deck

A 3rd Edition Spell Reference Card

A Spellfire Card

One of the new Fortune Cards

One of the new Fortune Cards

The final two cards are these new fortune cards.  As you can see all advantage, no disadvantage.  The only disadvantage you'll encounter with these cards is not having a deck when everyone else does.  I've seen people say draw from someone else's deck, but right away I see a few issues there.

  1. What is just one player buys them and everyone wants to draw from his deck?  How would he feel basically being the one to supply the entire group with cards?  I'm sure some people would be fine with that, but I could see it being a problem for others.  Especially when playing in games where the Players don't know each other.
  2. People are encouraged to build a deck that has been tailored to their specific character.  If a wizard filled his deck with magic boosting cards to maximize his potential, what good would it be for the fighter to draw from his deck? 
  3. Does the DM also draw from the deck?  These are player cards and don't seem to be meant for the DM, but 4th edition is the ultimate edition of Game Balance.  I'd say the game is almost perfectly balanced, but with these cards the balance get's thrown out of wack.  Even if the DM does draw, the added flexibility of being able to play the cards on any of the monsters in the game makes the cards more powerful in his hands than in the hands of the players.  I'm sure it won't be long before we see DM cards..

So in conclusion, these cards are indeed a new thing.  This new thing is changing the what D&D is, with more changes likely to come in the near future.  Finally, this is not the end of D&D.  It will survive, though perhaps not in a form that is appealing to many. 

I Repeat, the sky is not falling (unless the sky is general respect for Wizards of the Coast's integrity). 

IGN Previews HBO's A Game of Thrones

Posted by Labyrinthian in ,

IGN recently got to sit down and watch 15 minutes of footage from HBO's upcoming series, A Game of Thrones.  You can read all about what they saw and what they thought about it here

Among the most interesting parts of the article was the writer's thoughts on Eddard Stark's character.

I really got a great "retired gunslinger" feel from Bean's performance as Ned - a man who's tried very hard to leave his past life of warring and violence behind him but gets sucked back in to a world that he's desperately tried to protect his family from.

I never really thought of Ned in those terms, and if that is the way Sean Bean is trying to play it I'll be very interested to see how that comes out on screen.  

All of the footage seen seems to have impressed, and the writer has nothing but good things to say about the upcoming series. 

As for the rest of us poor shmucks, we'll just have to wait for April 17th. 

Sell Me on Your Favorite Mass Combat System - Part 3: What I'm looking for

Posted by Labyrinthian in ,

To bring you up to speed on what I am trying to accomplish here I will quickly summarize...

In part 1 of this series I explained that  I needed a good Mass Combat System for a game I am designing.  Since I had never read one myself I asked for recommendations from our readers about what their favorites were.

In part 2 I took all the suggestions I had received and added a number of other systems I had read about while doing research on the subject to come up with a top 20 list.  

My plan is to examine examine each of these systems in turn, determining the strengths and weaknesses of each and comparing them to my needs to make a final decision on which system to use in my upcoming game.

So before I can begin to look at the mass combat systems themselves I need to determine what I want out of the rules. 

Alright, let's give it a shot...

  1. The system should allow for exceptional individuals such as the PCs to make a tangible difference on the battlefield. 
  2. It should be easy to learn but not be over simplified.
  3. It should realistically simulate medieval combat.
  4. It should allow for tactical decisions that have pros and cons.
  5. There should be some type of skill that characters can invest in to make them more effective commanders.
  6. There should be some way to seamlessly integrate magic into large scale battles.
  7. It should use a grid map of some kind.  Square are fine, but my preference is hexes. 
  8. It should integrate miniatures or some other kind of physical representation to be used on the grid.
  9. Rules for Logistics on recruiting, equipping, feeding, and moving armies should be included.
  10. The system should be scalable.  That is to say that it could be used on a smaller scale with hundreds of soldiers involved or with massive armies of thousands.  

So as you can see I'm not asking for much (har har).  If a system is missing one or more of these basic concepts it certainly isn't a deal breaker.  Rather my perfect system would be able to accomplish hall of these things.    

As much as I'd like the mechanics to be related to the base combat mechanics of the system I am using, I don't think that is a realistic request.  Additionally, by choosing an unrelated system I'll have the flexibility to use it again later even if I change the system I am using. 

With an idea of what I want it is now time to delve into one of the twenty mass combat systems on the list!

D&D Flushed Down the Toilet by Wizard of the Coast

Posted by Labyrinthian in , ,

I hate collectible games.  I've tried to get into them, but it just never works out.  I played magic for a while, but dropped it because I didn't have the money to really compete with the other kids who had a lot of money.  I played HeroClix for a while, but that soured too.  I just don't like games where the playing field is slanted in favor of those who are willing and able to just continually throw money at the game.  

That's something I've always liked about RPGs including D&D.  Having more money didn't present you with any kind of real advantage.  You might have cooler looking dice, or more books, but everyone plays on a level playing field.  

Not anymore.  

Wizards recently announced their new line of products, collectible cards for your 4e D&D game.  Called, "Fortune Cards," this really heralds the death knell for D&D as we knew it.  We can squabble over editions all we want, but this is a real rift between what we have known as a roleplaying game.  

From the announcement:

Fortune Cards are available in 8-card booster packs with differing levels of rarity (common, uncommon, and rare), and serve as another avenue for excitement at the game table. Players can crack open boosters of cards just prior to participating in a game session, or come to their game with pre-built decks. With each booster, a player’s tactical options for their character during the game alter and expand in interesting new ways. Integrated into all Wizards Play Network programs and other D&D organized play games in 2011, Fortune Cards create an instant, inexpensive purchase for players on the day of a D&D event at your store. For players playing at home, Fortune Card decks can be customized to suit a player’s character in an ongoing campaign as well. Players can also collect and trade cards with their friends as they build their Fortune Card decks.

I really was in disbelief when I read it, but I probably shouldn't have been.   I went so far as to check my calendar to make sure it wasn't one of those online April Fool's Day jokes.  

No folks, this is for real.  D&D is official branching out into the collectible card game arena.  

Now obviously WotC can't put a gun to your head and make you use them.  But if you want to play D&D in organized play the cards will be there.  Would you sit down at a table and be the only one who didn't have a set of cards?  I wouldn't.  Why would I want to play in a game where I couldn't be an equal with the other party members because I hadn't put together a deck for my character?  That doesn't sound fun to me.  Hell, you may even be required to a deck to play in some games aimed at more "experienced" players. 

Many 4e players are already saying that they want nothing to do with these ridiculous cards.  So now it seems that a rift between 4e players is all but inevitable.  There will be those who favor the cards and will be willing to spend obscene amounts of money on them (just like any other collectible game) and there will be those who feel that D&D should be an RPG but a collectible card game.  What do you do if half of your group feels one way and half feels another?  I don't think a game can succeed with only some of the players reaping the benefits of these cards.  Even if your group all wants to play with cards what do you do with inequities among the group's financial situations.  One player may have a ton of disposable income and go nuts buying entire sets of these cards, building a deck that "pwns" while another member may be broke and only able to afford a booster or two.  

The question now remains, what is D&D becoming?  Is it changing into something else, more of a card game like Magic the Gathering?  Or is it becoming more of a board game with a hand of cards, miniatures and a board?  I'm not sure, but with these cards it sure isn't an RPG the way we have previously defined them.