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The Three Minute Monster

posted Sunday, July 27th 2008 by Jonathan Drain
Dungeon Mastering AdviceFourth EditionThird Edition

Picture the scene: You’re in the middle of running a hectic game of Dungeons & Dragons, and the party is getting along well with Bunky, your ad-hoc monster NPC. Suddenly, one of the players springs an idea: “I wait until we rest, then kill Bunky.”

Suddenly, you need stats for your off-the-cuff creature. You have three minutes.

Rule 1: Generate only as much as you need.
Don’t bother calculating skill points, ability scores or anything you don’t think the monster will use. Some creatures only need a hit point total, attack bonus and damage, and perhaps Fort/Ref/Will.

Rule 2: Estimate!
Third edition has detailed and specific rules for how to calculate hit dice and ability score modifiers. You have three minutes. Borrow the hit points from a similar monster or guesstimate the stats; say, +10 to attack, 1d8+4 bite damage and 6×9 = 54 HP.

Rule 3: Stick to the rules
You have three minutes, not three seconds. Pay at least some attention to the way the game builds monsters. The third edition Monster Manual and fourth edition Dungeon Master’s Guide can give you some insights on this.

Atomic Array: New Gaming Podcast

posted Tuesday, July 8th 2008 by Jonathan Drain
Links and ResourcesNews, Reviews & Culture

Heads up: There’s a new gaming podcast out, titled Atomic Array. This week, hosts Ed Healy and Rone Barton discuss historical fantasy and historical fantasy, including a roleplaying game set during Colonial era America.

Atomic Array – it’s like a blog that you listen to!™

4E: Is it D&D?

posted Sunday, July 6th 2008 by Jonathan Drain
Fourth EditionNone of the Above

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of this sentiment that D&D 4th edition “isn’t Dungeons & Dragons”. One guy tells me it’s no longer a roleplaying game, but “a miniatures wargame which just happens to use one mini per player”. I’m reasonably sure he’s trolling me.

This raises a good question, however: what is Dungeons & Dragons? How do you define it?

Someone gave a very good answer, which I have to agree with: D&D is whatever you’ve learned it as.

Consider this hypothetical situation. You grew up playing D&D as a monster-bashing game, but never used the trap rules. Now a new edition comes out and it removes traps. Is it still D&D?

If you never played with traps, then it’s still D&D. If you did, they’ve just cut a significant proportion of the gameplay and created something that’s not the game as you know it. You can either accept that this is a new and different form of the game, or decide it’s not for you and stick with the old edition.

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