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Is 4E Combat Too Slow?

posted Friday, August 28th 2009 by Jonathan Drain
Fourth EditionNews, Reviews & Culture

There’s a particularly interesting article today on Chatty DM’s blog, asking if combat in D&D 4E takes too long. Game speed is a particular problem in online games or with new players, both important fronts for Dungeons & Dragons.

Leave a comment: What’s your method of keeping the game running quickly? What’s your favourite trick to avoid boring, drawn-out combats?

Keep Down-time Interesting

posted Wednesday, August 26th 2009 by Brandan Landgraff
Dungeon Mastering Advice

Whether it’s due to players catching the flu, summer vacations, overdue essays, or just the period between your regularly scheduled games, downtime can be a real downer. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of ways to make the time between sessions more productive, if you’re so inclined.

1. Run a one-shot

No need to worry about someone missing something important or falling behind. This idea is best suited to covering weeks where a given player is absent for whatever reason, since you still need to have enough players to run with, but if you can get enough people together for an impromptu session in between regular games this is a good choice. There are plenty of sources of pre-written one shots, such as Dungeon magazine or numerous third party resources, or you can always string together two or three short encounters into something to run for an evening’s play. Continue reading this article »

Podcast: Designing RPGs and Video Games

posted Monday, August 24th 2009 by Jonathan Drain
Game DesignNews, Reviews & Culture

Last week I guest-hosted an RPG podcast with Zeus Poplar.

This week sees the second part: Episode 012 – Authoring RPGs.

Read on for some interesting excerpts.

JD: When I was running my D&D game on the internet, one of the biggest problems was always trying to get enough people at the right time. If one of them drops out, are you going to find a guy to replace him? World of Warcraft, they’ve solved this problem. They have these twelve-man, sixteen-man raids. I think one of the reasons for that is, that in Dungeons & Dragons, there is generally only one of each class in a party. In World of Warcraft, you might have several druids, several paladins, and if one person drops out that week, it doesn’t matter. You can find new players really easily, because it’s the internet, effectively everyone is in one spot, at least everyone on one server. You have thousands of players.
Zeus: Yeah, it’s like every night is a huge convention. It’s like Comic-Con every night.
JD: That’s exactly why they got it work. World of Warcraft, you could say, it isn’t emulating a small group of tabletop players, it’s emulating the convention play, the tournament play. It’s very structured, the game master has very little say in the game, he just runs the adventure as it’s written. You get together with people you may not even know, and everyone goes on the same adventure. That actually works really well as a game.

Continue reading this article »

August RPG Blogosphere Round-Up

posted Friday, August 21st 2009 by Jonathan Drain
News, Reviews & Culture

This August has seen a great selection of articles in the D&D blogosphere, in spite of the usual Gencon season lull. In my opinion, here are some of the best.

Drop a comment below if there’s anything this month that I’ve missed.

“Inns” and Outs

posted Wednesday, August 19th 2009 by Brandan Landgraff

At the end of a hard day adventuring, the most popular place for PCs to rest their weary heads is typically the local inn. It is the adventurer’s home away from home, base of operations, and the best place to celebrate a successful journey.

As it is generally one of the places that you can expect your PCs to be spending a lot of time, it makes sense to put a bit of effort into making the inn more than just a place to sleep. A memorable inn can be so much more—a place to introduce new characters and plot hooks both major and minor, and a place that actually feels like home. It could even be possible to run an entire adventure based solely in the inn, if it is set up correctly. Continue reading this article »

Podcast: How D&D Influenced Video Games

posted Monday, August 17th 2009 by Jonathan Drain
Game DesignNews, Reviews & Culture

Recently I had the unexpected pleasure of guest hosting two weekly episodes of the Level Up Video Game RPG Podcast with Zeus Poplar. We discussed Dungeons & Dragons, its relationship with videogames, and how tabletop RPGs have inspired both videogame RPGs and other genres of videogame.

Episode 11 – How Dungeons & Dragons Influenced Video Games is up now. Read on for some interesting excerpts. Continue reading this article »

Survey Results Are In

posted Friday, August 14th 2009 by Jonathan Drain
Site Announcements

The results of last week’s survey are in. Here are the results.

1. Which edition do you play?

It’s almost even: 55% of readers play 4E, while 60% play 3E (there’s some overlap, of course). 28% play Paizo’s Pathfinder RPG, 27% play another D20 based RPG, and 19% play AD&D or another edition.

37% play some RPG other than D&D. Over fifty RPGs were mentioned. The most popular are Savage Worlds (6%), GURPS (4%) and Shadowrun (4%), with honourable mentions to Legend of the Five Rings and the World of Darkness games.

2. How often do you visit?

31% of readers visit multiple times per week, and 15% say they visit weekly or so. 14% visit less often. Surprisingly, 40% of D20 Source readers only read the RSS feed.

3. Favourite types of content?

Dungeon mastering advice is by far the most popular topic, with 70% of you asking for more DMing articles. Only 1% wanted less on this topic. Second is player advice, with 55% in favour of more and only 5% wanting to see less. On fluff/inspiration, opinion articles, and product reviews, about 50% are happy with the current amount while around a third would like to see more.

4. Which edition for new content?

Around half of users were happy with the amount of content appearing for third edition, edition-netural, and other RPGs. The exception is D&D fourth edition, which as expected is heavily polarized: about one third wants to see more 4E, while around one third wants less.

Edition-neutral content is popular with the most readers, with only 3% asking to see less of it.

5. Miniatures

Surprisingly, the vast majority of D20 Source readers use some sort of minis or equivalent in their game.

60% use official D&D miniatures, while 61% (some overlap here of course) use other miniatures. 46% employ various objects (including dice, coins or pieces from board games), and 38% create paper or card tokens. 13% use a computer software solution like Gametable. Only 17% game with no miniatures at all.

6. PDF sales

On an idea, I asked readers if they’d be interested in a D20 Source line of PDF-based RPG products. 73% of you answered yes to one or more product types. The most popular suggestion was 4th edition adventure modules with 52%, followed by 3rd edition adventure modules at 43%.

7. Update frequency

Most of you responded that you were happy with the current update schedule of three articles per week: 75%. Only 6% think that’s too much, while 19% would like to see a new article every day.

8. Overall rating

The average rating was four stars out of five, with 72%. 17% voted five stars, and 10% three stars. No readers voted one or two stars.

Thanks for your feedback! We’ll use this information to (hopefully) improve the quality of D20 Source.

The Do’s and Don’ts of “Blue-Booking”

posted Wednesday, August 12th 2009 by Brandan Landgraff
Dungeon Mastering Advice

Blue-booking refers to passing notes between DM and players for individual in-character actions during downtime. The name, apparently, comes from the color of the college exam booklets commonly used for this purpose during the early days of this practice.

With the sheer variety of communications technologies available nowadays, though, there are dozens of other ways to engage in a bit of between-session development. If your gaming group is looking for that little bit of extra character development opportunity, there are some important considerations to keep in mind to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Continue reading this article »

Two Epic Campaign Ideas

posted Monday, August 10th 2009 by Jonathan Drain
Dungeon Mastering Advice

Two rather excellent ideas for epic D&D campaigns have surfaced lately.

Sandbox campaign with an epic threat

Veteran RPG blogger Jeff Rients recently offered a simple formula for an epic sandbox campaign.

The idea is this: The player characters chance upon a single piece of the Rod of Seven Parts, one of D&D’s best-known artifacts. Fate bestows it upon them to seek out the other six parts and combine them to unlock the artifact’s full power. They rod is the only object powerful enough to defeat its own creators, a powerful extraplanar race who are returning to destroy or conquer the world they saved in ancient times.

The Rod of Seven Parts can have whatever powers the DM decides, or you could use the rules given in one of various sourcebooks (AD&D 1E DMG, AD&D The Rod Of Seven Parts, or other). A popular notion is that each individual piece has its own power, while certain segments when re-attached to each other unlock greater powers. The staff’s ultimate power can only be used when all seven parts are assembled, but the staff may shatter.

Fighting while falling through an abyss

Webcomic Penny Arcade are big fans of Dungeons & Dragons. For his 11th level epic battle, Gabe had his players freefall for several rounds while fighting, in an battle reminiscent of a similar event in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. To accomplish this, he created an impressive diorama to enable 3D combat.

Gabe also posted his 4E house rules on freefalling.

Take the D20 Source Survey

posted Saturday, August 8th 2009 by Jonathan Drain
Site Announcements

As ever, I’m always looking for ways to provide D20 Source readers with a better experience. Today I’ve drawn up a quick survey that shouldn’t take more than five minutes to complete.

Click here to take the survey.

Five Ways to Involve Character Backgrounds

posted Wednesday, August 5th 2009 by Brandan Landgraff
Dungeon Mastering Advice

Today’s is another guest article by Brandan Landgraff. Brandan is a Canadian roleplayer and has written seven articles for D20 Source so far this year.

Recently I discussed players providing good character backgrounds with plot hooks for their DMs to use. Once you have backgrounds from your players, though, it becomes your responsibility to see to it that their work is put to good use. In some cases the background provided will mesh very well with your intentions for the game, but other times even with guidance the background your players submit may be difficult to work with. This problem can also arise if you are running published material but want to engage your players a little bit more. Here are five ways to incorporate backgrounds into a campaign without needing to derail. Continue reading this article »

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