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Israeli Military Doesn’t Mind D&D After All

posted Saturday, July 15th 2006 by Jonathan Drain
News, Reviews & Culture

Remember the news story from a while back that the Israeli military was stripping high-security clearance from soldiers who play D&D, on the argument that they “live in a fantasy world”? Seems like it was a bit of an overstatement. In a message board post on the Paizo forums, a sergeant in the IDF finally clears up this mess:

Now here’s what’s really going on: the Israeli LARP community is made of junkies, drunks and freaks (real ones) and in local slang is called RD&D (Real D&D) those idiots run about with real swords and armor and quite often really wound one another. Some general heard about them and said that these folks shouldn’t get responsible jobs in the army because they live in a fantasy world. The aforementioned article, not making the fine distinction between D&D and RD&D wrote that D&D players are classified as “madâ€? in the IDF and started all this mess.

So it seems the IDF don’t penalize soldiers’ security clearance for playing D&D after all. Common sense reigns once again. Feel free to link this on your own blog – we have trackbacks and pingbacks and all kinds of awesome stuff here.

Like Greyhawk? Chat With Us

posted Sunday, July 9th 2006 by Jonathan Drain
Links and ResourcesNews, Reviews & Culture

I linked an Eberron IRC Channel back in March. Since then I’ve happened upon another channel, this time for the Greyhawk campaign setting. Greyhawk is a classic setting that provides the basis for the third edition of D&D, most visibly in the Player’s Handbook selection of deities and in spells named after NPCs like Mordenkainen, Otiluke and Tenser.

The channel is #greytalk at irc.psionics.net – that’s the Psionics-Anlarye IRC network. If you’re a fan of Greyhawk, please add it to your auto-join list and stick around.

Writing Adventures? Take Some Advice From Dungeon

posted Wednesday, July 5th 2006 by Jonathan Drain
Game DesignLinks and ResourcesNews, Reviews & Culture

Are you writing your own adventures, or at least planning before a game? Even if you don’t think you’re up to the standards of Dungeon magazine – and considering twelve-issue Adventure Paths™ series they’re now only publishing twenty-four adventures per year, so those it’s pretty competetive – you would still do well to look at Dungeon magazine’s submissions guidelines. This is free adventure writing advice from the people who have been publishing such things for twenty years now, so it’s worth checking out!

I’m particularly amused by the list of stereotypical adventure ideas to avoid, since I’m guilty of at least half of these myself:

Avoid stereotypical material. We usually reject adventures in which the heroes must:

  • Rescue someone’s kidnapped daughter.
  • Solve a murder perpetrated by a doppelganger.
  • Retrieve an ancient artifact.
  • Battle a deranged wizard or sorcerer.
  • Repel a simple humanoid infestation.
  • Defeat an undead army.
  • Prevent the “assimilationâ€? of their town.

This list is not all-inclusive. There are many more overused plot devices that might seem new and fresh to you, but that we see many times each month. (This includes beginning your adventure in a tavern or inn. Don’t do it.)

Dungeon magazine’s submissions guidelines. Clicky clicky.

Challenge Rating Equals Level? Maybe not

posted Sunday, July 2nd 2006 by Jonathan Drain
Game DesignThird Edition

Something I’ve been noticing lately when building NPCs is that although the basis of challenge rating is that a character’s CR is equal to his level, in practice this is often not the case. Wizards of the Coast’s research and development team think the same thing:

The rule that says “an nth-level NPC is a CR n monster�?… well, let’s just say that the rule isn’t beyond reproach. It’s true of some classes within some level ranges, but it’s simply not accurate as a general rule. I don’t think any designer will tell you with a straight face that a 1st-level NPC wizard is a good challenge for four 1st-level PCs. (Better hope the NPC gets that sleep spell off, huh?)

One of the reasons is that the character classes are based on the players having them, and the players usually have oodles more magic items than their opponents – they spend almost all of their money on magic items and tend to steal other peoples’ equpiment with alarming regularity. The other reason is that a level 10 wizard is balanced assuming that he will cast his spells gradually over the course of several encounters and that he will do so with the support of the rest of his adventuring party.

At low levels, the formula holds up reasonably well. Compare a level 3 half-orc fighter with a challenge rating 3 ogre. The fighter, assuming generous ability scores, will have 27 hit points, +8 to hit with 2d6+6 damage, an armor class of 20 and saves of +6/+2/+1, with additional feats. The ogre at the same challenge rating will have 2 hit points and on average 2 damage more per hit, with 4 lower AC and a 2 lower Reflex save, and the added benefit of longer reach. The two are sufficiently close.

At high levels, things change. Compare the same fighter at level 11 to the CR 11 cloud giant. The fighter has 83 hit points to the giant’s 178, his AC is still 20 before magic items compared to the giant’s 25, and the fighter’s saves will be +10/+5/+3 against the giant’s impressive +16/+6/+10. The fighter’s improved Strength gives him an attack set of +17/+12/+7 with 2d6+9 damage before magic weapons are considered, but you can be assured that the giant will have a magic weapon improving his existing array of +22/+17/+12 each dealing a fearsome 4d6+18 damage. That’s an average hit of 32 with reach versus the half-orc’s 16 – exactly double. The half-orc, appropriately enough, is half as survivable and half as lethal!

The net result is that as player characters rise in level, human (or humanoid) villains simply aren’t up to the “challenge rating = level” rule, and in the absence of a reliable formula, ought to have their CR determined through ad-hoc ruling. It’s an elephant in the living-room situation where nobody wants to admit that the rule has been inaccurate all along, and so when writing adventures will often either ignore it or find ad-hoc ways to beef up the character. One such adventure had a sorcerer possessed by a demon such that his ability scores were basically all eighteens and he was granted various resistances, in addition to being behind bars. Another made him a ghost and had him effectively “possess” an earth elemental in order that he be survivable enough not to need endless minions, ad-hoc effects and terrain features to protect him.

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