Archive for May, 2011

D&D 4e New Players and Playgroups: What to Buy

Monday, May 30th, 2011

alt textMemorial Day weekend essentially means summer is here, and after all your delicious BBQs, drinks of choice, lawn games and whatever crazy dancing you may or may not throw in, it’s also a great time of year to try some new things, including new games or returning to some gaming passions you’ve taken a break from.

Now that D&D 4th edition has been out a few years, if you have some friends you’d like to introduce to D&D 4e or want to start a new playgroup of your own or simply get everybody together again and relaunch one, it can be a little daunting or unclear as far as how to start, what to buy, and where to buy it. 

Want some help?  Here’s a few quick and simple lists:


Fight or Flight? Run Away!

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Retreat, fleeing  and withdrawing from combat could use more clarification or guidance as a standard part of the D&D 4e game rules. So could other encounter strategies like parlay and surrender.

Sure, lots if not most creatures will flee, to live and fight again, or just to live.  Many are willing to or are compelled to talk – for a variety of noble and practical reasons.  And some will even surrender, expecting their lives be spared per an arrangement or the unwritten rules of battle and war.

However, while all these alternatives to combat are quick and dirty to execute in many forms of cinema or literary works… doing so smoothly in D&D is hit or miss.


Fight the Power… Groups!

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

alt textSometimes the best monsters aren’t monsters but people.  Think cults, corrupt courts or government, mafia, drow cities, the Cult of Elder Elemental Eye and the Zhentarim from the Forgotten Realms, to name a few.   These are all power groups: intelligent and widespread organizations, factions and networks. 

What human and humanoid opponents and power groups offer in particular is a great combination of both shared and different goals (from simple to complex), intelligence, and an ever-present injection of mystery and political intrigue in your campaign.  There’s often a host of raw and classic human motives at work – individually, small scale and large scale. 


Attack With Your Social Skills!

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

alt textYour characters’ social or interaction skills are flexible tools and creative weapons against the monsters and opposition you face throughout your adventures. 

It’s important to remember that you can and should flex your reputation, physical presence and silver tongue to influence not only complex situations and help make critical greater-scope decisions, but to apply those same ideas in influencing the starting conditions or makeup of encounters. 

Armed with Bluff, Insight, Diplomacy and Intimidate, you can directly affect the odds and victory conditions of the encounters that stand between you and victory, glory or even simple survival – before an encounter begins or combat even breaks out.


Conan the Barbarian

Friday, May 20th, 2011

One of the defining fantasy movies of all time, the original Conan the Barbarian has inspired generations of D&D players since.  About twenty years later, the Lord of the Rings trilogy set a new standard of quality for the fantasy genre on the big screen, once again creating a new generation of fantasy fans while bringing long-time fans a veritable feast of fantasy film greatness. 

And now, nearly a decade after that, the original Conan the Barbarian (2011) returns!  Jason Momoa, of Stargate: Atlantis fame, carries the Conan torch – or rather, sword – forward.

Could it be yet another high water mark in fantasy filmmaking, attracting and inspiring both new and current generations of Conan, fantasy and D&D fans alike?   

Want more old school fantasy movies?  Check out the Top Fantasy Movies from the ’80s on Dungeon’s Master.  While Beastmaster is somewhat inexplicably missing from their list, it’s otherwise excellent. 

I wonder, which others on that list are due for a remake?  If Conan does well, perhaps a re-imagined, re-told (and mostly re-everything!) Red Sonja – with Megan Fox rumored to star – truly isn’t far behind?

See you and Conan in theatres in August!

D&D 4e: What Works and What Doesn’t Work for DMs

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

alt textJust this past April, Wizards of the Coast asked the Character Optimization Forum folks – people and D&D 4e players like you and me – what the good, bad and ugly is in D&D 4e.  They’re listening to and interacting with the D&D community more than ever, so it’s no wonder hundreds and hundreds of posts came back. 

What about DMs?  No worries, Popesixtus and Wrecan have us player/DMs and full time DMs covered!  Or even full time players who are curious what DMs think!  What I really like most about the DM version of this effort is that DMs tend to think at and communicate a more macro level view of D&D’s core principles, elements and features. 

After all, DMs run games, so they experience quite a lot from many different perspectives. 

And player/DMs?  Is there a greater state of D&D enlightenment?


Monster Complexity and Selection

Monday, May 16th, 2011

alt textRecognizing and reducing game slowdown caused by a proliferation of triggers or immediate actions and interrupts isn’t just a player character issue in combat encounters.  Dungeon Masters must also do themselves and the playgroup a favor by analyzing monster complexity and making smarter monster selections when encounter building. 

The (unfortunate) reality is, monster or encounter themes, flavor and atmosphere don’t always mesh with a smooth and easy-to-run encounter.  It’s important to look over monsters and understand their complexity and potential slowdown impact when put together, not just individually.

To illustrate where monster complexity and selection can easily cross the slowdown line, allow me to briefly recount a thematically flavorful early paragon tier encounter I created and ran a few months ago.


Not So Immediate Actions

Friday, May 13th, 2011

alt textOne of the major problems with D&D 4e combat is its average length, typically caused by the tremendous slowdown that occurs during combat due to the multitude of options the all-important action economy offers.  Consider that a character has at least three actions he or she can take on every turn (standard, move and minor, plus a few free actions). 

Now add in the immediate action every round, the opportunity action per other creature’s turn, and other immediate action-like or triggered free actions a character can take, and you’re looking at one bloated action economy.  It’s no wonder turns – either yours or someone else’s – grind to a screeching halt. 


Kilsek’s D&D 4e Buff Cards

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

How many times have you forgotten this or that small buff,  temporary bonus, or helpful feat, racial or class feature in your games? Make it stop with Kilsek’s D&D 4e Buff Cards!

The Problem

We’ve all been there.  While Weem’s D&D 4e Condition Cards are absolutely fantastic references and reminders for all the ever-present conditions in play, I found myself needing more help and visual aids for those other common game situations where we have all these cool little buffs or temporary modifiers that are harder to track and easier to miss or forget, especially between turns, as Robert Schwalb talks about in Reasonable Choices.

The Solution

And so, inspired by both Weem’s condition cards and this critical 4e gaming need, I created my own custom Buff Cards


Attack the Darkness: Roll a d6!

Monday, May 9th, 2011

One of the most wonderful things about the age we play D&D in today is all the access to different technology and media we have and all the creative genius emerging through it.  While the “I Attack the Darkness!” video is indeed classic, here’s another, fresh D&D video gem – complete with music:

While I’m more of a progressive rock, hard rock, alt rock, symphonic metal and electronica and trance music lover, this video was incredibly well done by a creative and passionate group of D&D guy and girl gamers and I wanted to make sure you didn’t miss it!