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Unleash Your Battle Cry

posted Friday, January 30th 2009 by Jonathan Drain
Player Advice

Kobold Quarterly issue 8 is here, and I’ve been reading with interest. One article in particular grabbed my attention, and that’s Inspiring Words: A Warlord’s Field Guide to Battle Cries by Mario Podeschi. It’s a list of ideas for war cries to add a little roleplaying flare to your martial characters, whether a 4E warlord or a 3E fighter.

History’s not without its great words and deeds, and great military leaders have said and done inspired their men. Take these tales from the Roman text, The Strategemata.

Alexander the Great

Marching along the desert roads of Africa, and suffering in common with his men from most distressing thirst, when some water was brought him in a helmet by a soldier, he poured it out upon the ground in the sight of all, in this way serving his soldiers better by his example of restraint than if he had been able to share the water with the rest.

Lucius Cornelius Sulla

When Sulla’s legions broke before the hosts of Mithridates led by Archelaus, Sulla advanced with drawn sword into the first line and, addressing his troops, told them, in case anybody asked where they had left their general, to answer: “Fighting in Boeotia.” Shamed by these words, they followed him to a man.

Julius Caesar

The deified Julius, when his troops gave way at Munda, ordered his horse to be removed from sight, and strode forward as a foot-soldier to the front line. His men, ashamed to desert their commander, thereupon renewed the fight.

Servius Tullius

In the battle in which King Tarquinius encountered the Sabines, Servius Tullius, then a young man, noticing that the standard-bearers fought halfheartedly, seized a standard and hurled it into the ranks of the enemy. To recover it, the Romans fought so furiously that they not only regained the standard, but also won the day.

Is Dungeons & Dragons a Communist Board Game?

posted Thursday, January 29th 2009 by Jonathan Drain
None of the Above

“Man, this is weird,” comes the message from a player in my new campaign. “I’m reading this 4e optimisation thread and apparently the wizard I made is pretty close to optimal, even though I literally made every chargen decision based on ‘How much does this resemble Karl Marx?’”

Even with an all-new group of D&D newbies, my players never cease to amaze. “Karl” the first level wizard is a follower of Pelor, an honest deity popular with the common worker. You can’t tell this in combat, until he insists while looting the bodies that everyone gets an even share. “To each according to his need,” says Karl, “and from each according to his ability.”

He’s not the only one. The cleric decides that he is not just neutral aligned but a staunch defender of neutrality: a libertarian laissez-faire advocate. A protector of economic and personal freedom, the cleric believes in the right of individuals to band together voluntarily, own weapons, earn money however they want, and pay no tax on the proceeds. From someone who’s never played D&D, this ideology sounds remarkably appropriate.

Unfortunately, real-world government isn’t always such a great model for a Dungeons & Dragons group. What would D&D be like if the players followed real-world political ideologies?

Democracy: Everyone votes on major decisions: how to distribute treasure, which skills to learn, and which spells to cast. Players spend a third of their resources convincing each other to vote in their favour.

Monarchy: The DM tells everyone what to do. Players complain that they’re being railroaded, but are docked treasure until they stop complaining.

Anarchism: The players deliberately ignore the DM’s plot hooks. They roam around fighting random encounters until a dragon eats them and takes their stuff.

Socialism: The GM takes a quarter of everyone’s treasure and hands them healing potions. Players complain when they can never buy anything good.

Neoconservativism: All monsters are either good or evil, depending on what the GM wants the players to do. The GM is allowed to railroad players, as long as they don’t find out.

Feudalism: Roll 1d20. On any number up to 19, your character is a peasant and cannot level up. On a natural 20, he earns gold pieces from the other players but can only fight when the GM tells him to.

I’m sure I’ve left a few out, so I’ll leave you to fill in your own.

D20 Source Hits 300 Posts!

posted Tuesday, January 27th 2009 by Jonathan Drain
Site Announcements

WordPress informs me that this blog has passed 300 posts! This works out to an average of around eight articles per month since posting began in December 2005.

As a sort of recap, I’ve compiled a list of the top ten articles since the site began, rated by number of page views. When the first on this list was linked from popular webcomic Penny Arcade, the surge of visitors collapsed the server for most of the day.

1. Deep Crow
Dungeons & Dragons third edition statistics for the Deep Crow, a fearsome magical beast from Penny Arcade.

2. Ioun Stone Complete Guide
A massive list of eighty-nine Ioun Stones from D&D history right through to fourth edition.

3. Playing the Rogue
A guide to making an effective rogue in D&D third edition.

4. Vow of Poverty
A guide to taking the infamous Vow of Poverty feat from the Book of Exalted Deeds.

5. Top Five Fighter Feats
An opinion on D&D third edition’s best Fighter bonus feat options.

6. Stalagmen
Another monster from Penny Arcade.

7. FATAL – Most Misogynistic RPG Ever?
A link to a review of what many reviewers consider to be the most offensive roleplaying game ever devised.

8. How Much Is a Gold Piece Worth?
An article calculating the value of one gold piece in modern world, using the prices of gold and beer as a guide.

9. Vow of Poverty, Revisited
A follow-up to an earlier article on Vow of Poverty.

10. How Do You Roll Characters?
An article on methods of rolling for ability scores.

Here’s to the next three hundred! Leave me a comment with any suggestions you have for future articles – what would you like to see in 2009?

Weekly D&D Link-Around: Jan 25th

posted Sunday, January 25th 2009 by Jonathan Drain
Links and ResourcesNews, Reviews & Culture

The week in links.


Dungeon Mastering Advice

Game Design & Publishing

Playing the Game


Other Game Systems

And the Rest

Pathfinder Writers Wanted!

posted Thursday, January 22nd 2009 by Jonathan Drain
News, Reviews & Culture

Paizo is currently looking for writers to handle two Pathfinder Society adventure modules. It’s an open call, so anyone can enter. Pathfinder adventures run on the D&D 3.5 rules system.

The deadline is the 30th of January 2009, so get writing! (Thanks to Lilith and NiTessine for correcting errors in this post.)

Start Your D&D Campaign with Google Calendar

posted Tuesday, January 20th 2009 by Jonathan Drain
Dungeon Mastering Advice

I’d like to share a handy tool that I’m currently using to organize an online D&D campaign. It’s called Google Calendar, it’s free to use, and as I’ll explain, it’s very useful for bringing players together.

Not so long ago I ran a D&D campaign over internet chat, with players spanning four continents at once. I had players from England, Canada, the US, Finland, South Korea and Australia. The most difficult task was organizing a game time. In order to play, we had to settle on a weekly four hour time slot when a DM and four or more players were available, and these players had wildly differing schedules and time zones.

This time, I’m using Google Calendar. The first step is to sign up and create a new calendar for your group – you’ll need a Google Account or GMail address, but these are free. Pick a week, and then, entering “Day” or “Week” mode by the tab at the calendar’s top-right, mark with your name the times you’re available to play.

Next, enter the calendar sharing options and invite players by entering their e-mail address, giving the permission to “Make changes to events”. Ask them to do mark their times available the same as you did. Be sure that everyone has configured the correct time zone in their Google Calendar settings.

Now, you can use this calendar to look for matches where five or more people are marked available for a contiguous four-hour period. Pick one of these as your game time.

Of course, there are a few drawbacks. In a truly international D&D game you will have a lot of people who can’t make times match up; this isn’t the calendar’s fault, but it is rather frustrating to put a lot of work in only to find nobody’s available at the same times. It also requires each player to contact you in order to ask for an invite. Still, if that’s not a problem, then this may be a useful effort-saver.

Weekly RPG Link-Around: January

posted Friday, January 16th 2009 by Jonathan Drain
Links and ResourcesNews, Reviews & Culture

The past week in RPG links.

News & Announcements

Products & Reviews


Fourth Edition

Dungeon Mastering

Game Design

And the Rest

Dice Contest Winners Announced

posted Thursday, January 8th 2009 by Jonathan Drain
Site Announcements

December’s dice contest received twenty-four entries, and picking winners was especially tough. First and second place each win a set of dice from Game Master Dice.

First Place

Winner of first place is Trask, with his anecdote about Jack the Barbarian. Trask’s tale of incredible ineptitude is something most players can relate to. I think we’ve all gamed with a “Jack” at one point or another, or perhaps been Jack ourselves.

Second Place

Second place goes to Patriarch917, with his short and hilarious tale:

The player was looking through a portal into a room that contained a demon. The demon entreated the player to join him in his war against humanity, offering power, treasure, etc. The player, trying to buy a little time, mumbled “I don’t know, I’ll have to think about it. How’s your dental plan?â€? The demon, without missing a beat, replied “Excellent. All the teeth you want.”


Unfortunately there are only two prizes available, but if I had more, they’d go to these witty gamers:

  • Kayumi’s epic tale of the most horrible DM of 2008
  • Samuel Van Der Wall, with his ledge-battling vampire story
  • Berman’s heavy dwarf forsaker

Worst Pun Award

A special award goes to Bog97th for the “Deck of Many Things” story, for the most groanworthy pun of the contest. It may take you a while to get it.

Thanks to all who entered, and thank you for continuing to read D20 Source!

Happy New Year 2009!

posted Thursday, January 1st 2009 by Jonathan Drain
Site Announcements

Merry Needfest to D20 Source readers!

I’ve been going over the statistics for this site, and 2008 has seen a fantastic rise in popularity. Unique visitors are up 155% from 49,615 in 2007 to 126,796 in 2008. The number of feed subscribers has risen from under 150 to around 600.

There’s still time to enter the D20 Source gaming anecdotes contest, which closes on Tuesday 6th. The contest is open to all stories from the gaming table, and you may enter more than once, but remember that it’s quality over quantity.

Thank you for more than doubling D20 Source’s readership during 2008, a feat which I hope we can repeat in 2009. We return in a week’s time with the regular content – special thanks if you’ve got any ideas for future articles, which you can e-mail in or leave as a comment.

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