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Psychology of the Grognard

posted Monday, June 29th 2009 by Jonathan Drain
Game DesignNone of the Above

Three gamers sit around a table in a friendly local gaming store. A customer walks in and asks for a sourcebook for Dungeons & Dragons, Fourth Edition.

“Bah,” says one of the gamers as he strokes his beard. “Fourth Edition’s nothing but a Wizards of the Coast cash-in. In my group at home, we play nothing but Three-Point-Five Edition.”

“Three-Point-Five?” says another. “My group only plays original Third Edition – Three-Point-Oh! None of your money-grabbing rules revisions!”

The last says nothing, and strokes his long beard as he calculates his THAC0.

Psychology of the Grognard

The name “grognard” comes from the French meaning “grumbler”, historically a soldier in Napoleon’s army. From there, the term entered the vocabulary of historical wargaming enthusiasts in the 1970s to mean a veteran wargamer, and eventually referred to a Dungeons & Dragons player who stayed with a classic version of the game long after the release of one or more new editions.

But what makes the grognard tick? How do we explain the mindset of a gamer who still plays an outdated version of a game – perhaps even AD&D First Edition, or older? Continue reading this article »

Last Chance D&D Insider On the Cheap

posted Sunday, June 28th 2009 by Jonathan Drain
Fourth EditionNews, Reviews & Culture

Heads up, 4E players: Tuesday is your last chance to buy a year’s subscription to D&D D&D Insider before Wizards of the Coast increases the price by 20%.

I was initially skeptical about D&D Insider, but having used it for a few weeks now I’m pleased with the service. I gave an overview last month, but now that I’ve had a chance to use it as a DM, click and read on for my brief review. (If you’re still not convinced, read on anyway for some free alternatives.) Continue reading this article »

Hit Points And You

posted Friday, June 26th 2009 by Jonathan Drain
Fourth EditionGame DesignOther SystemsPlayer AdviceThird Edition

In every edition it has baffled new players: “If a first-level character can take two or three sword hits, what does it mean when a high-level character can take ten or fifty? Can the 20th-level fighter really survive being stabbed that many times?” The confusion between hit points and physical injury led many groups to adopt the nifty wounds and vitality system, which fell out of favour when it was discovered that the increasingly lethal critical hits gave every character a 50% of being killed outright by a stray bolt before level 20.

The following article should help you to add a narrative explanation to the cold abstraction of the hit points system, including its results: damage, healing, temporary HP, and those fourth edition specifics, healing surges and minions. Continue reading this article »

Goodman Games: “4E is Doing Fine”

posted Sunday, June 21st 2009 by Jonathan Drain
Fourth EditionNews, Reviews & Culture

Joseph Goodman isn’t as famous in the RPG industry as Monte Cook or Erik Mona, but his company Goodman Games is a well known publisher of third-party D20 material. In an unorthodox move this week, Joseph shares some insider knowledge on 4E success:

The pre-orders on Dungeon Crawl Classics #53, #54, and #55 were larger than anything I had seen in years. More recently, Level Up #1 sold out its first wave of distribution sales in under 48 hours, then sold out the second wave of distributor restocks a week later, and distributors continue to place huge restocks. There is significant distributor support for 4E.

A few interesting points from his post:

  • PDF sales are tiny compared to print book sales. This probably being the case with Wizards of the Coast too, it now makes more sense why cancelled their PDF line in April. Wizards may have judged the PDF sales to be insufficient to be worth the increased online piracy rates.
  • Some companies are comparing sales of similar 3E and 4E products to judge 4E’s success, but Joseph argues that this isn’t accurate measure: differences in WotC’s books, D&D Insider and the difference in user base eight years after 3E’s launch have changed the playing field, and this is affecting what people will buy.
  • Despite rumours that game stores aren’t supporting 4E, Joseph Goodman is in frequent contact with over a hundred stores, and it seems that the stores which don’t support 4E are in the minority. Conversely, it’s very difficult to argue with someone online who says “my local store doesn’t support 4E”, as you have no way to check.
  • Many compare 4E sales to D&D in 1982 or D&D 3E in 2001, both record highs for D&D sales. It’s arguably unfair to do so, since by that logic D&D has been failing for 33 years out of the 35 since its release. The global economy downturn is also hitting D&D sales, and this may reveal a sales improvement when the recession lifts.

Of course, as ever, the best advice is to play whichever edition, RPG or game you enjoy. Games are to be enjoyed, not quibbled over!

Mediaeval Wrestling Recreation Video

posted Monday, June 8th 2009 by Jonathan Drain

The Medieval European Martial Arts Guild is a modern group dedicated to reconstructing the fencing styles and martial arts of mediaeval and renaissance Europe. According to enthusiasts, the armed and unarmed fighting styles of the time were surprisingly effective, and in many cases European combat styles were comparable with east Asian martial arts of the period. Modern HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) groups attempt to bring back these fighting styles based on surviving manuals and historical documentation.

Here’s a video demonstrating hand-to-hand grappling techniques, reconstructed from a 15th Century German fechtbuch or combat manual, the Codex Wallerstein.

You can find more videos like this the MEMAG Youtube channel.

DM’s Guide to Converting 3E Adventures to 4E

posted Wednesday, June 3rd 2009 by Jonathan Drain
Dungeon Mastering AdviceFourth Edition

Lately I’ve had a dilemma: my D&D group wants me to run D&D fourth edition, but I’ve got three years of Dungeon magazine back issues full of unused adventures for D&D third edition. There’s a lot of excellent adventure material in there (around a hundred adventure modules in all), enough to run a level 1-20 campaign several times over. My solution has been to try and convert some of these third edition modules to D&D 4E.

It’s not an exact process, and I’ve only converted a few modules so far, but here’s what I’ve learned about converting 3E adventures to 4E.


The most significant change I’ve noticed is in monsters and monster encounters. In addition to a radically different monster stat block format, 4E introduces a shift from one or two monsters in an average encounter, to perhaps four, five or more. There’s greater attention paid to how different monsters work together, such as combining two ranged attackers (like wizards) with tough melee attackers (like fighters, hobgoblins or ogres). Several monsters either don’t exist in the 4E Monster Manual, or have radically changed in level from their third edition versions. Continue reading this article »

If You’re Going To Bash 4E, Do It Properly

posted Monday, June 1st 2009 by Jonathan Drain
Fourth EditionNone of the Above

It’s Monday, and time for you to enjoy my opinion. I’m fed up with the 4E-bashing, for several reasons.

  • It’s been almost a year and still people are complaining about the quality of a game they don’t play.
  • The complaints are usually in vague and relative terms, rather than critical terms that could be used to improve the game or measure its flaws.
  • Some compare the game to something else (WoW, Pokémon, anime), but have neither tried the game nor the something else (and the something else is actually rather good).
  • Some insist that 4E players can’t possibly enjoy the game (however, they have no problem accepting difference in taste in film, videogames or other forms of entertainment).
  • Logic is sometimes optional: “You can’t roleplay, because they took out the craft rules.”
  • Finally, the 4E bashing began before anyone had sampled the rules, since they were to replace an edition most current players enjoyed and were heavily invested in.

If you’re going to wail on D&D4, at least give some solid reasons. Take the following examples: Continue reading this article »

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