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World Building 101: Friends on the Other Side

posted Thursday, April 29th 2010 by Brandan Landgraff
Dungeon Mastering Advice

It’s easy to forget, as a DM, how things feel on the other side of the table. You might introduce a character intended to be helpful and provide information and exposition, only to have your players–who don’t know the motivation of the character in question–be suspicious and refuse to trust the character. You might jot notes on answers to questions you expect your players to ask, only to find their line of questioning proceeds in a completely different direction, leaving them with a gap in their information that you now have to fill in some other way. A puzzle that seems simple to you might stump and frustrate the players for hours simply because the perspective they have on it is different from what you pictured in your head.

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Robot Chicken D&D: DM’s Commentary 1-25

posted Saturday, April 24th 2010 by Jonathan Drain
News, Reviews & Culture

Here is a complete playlist of D&D Robot Chicken, the DM’s commentary version. Recommended viewing for all Dungeon Masters.

D&D Robot Chicken: Complete Series

posted Saturday, April 24th 2010 by Jonathan Drain
News, Reviews & Culture

Here’s a playlist of the complete series.

Bronzemurder’s Bravest Sons

posted Friday, April 23rd 2010 by Jonathan Drain

Today I’m sharing two links on Dwarf Fortress, a dwarven settlement management game with deep gameplay and nethack-style ASCII graphics.

The first is Bronzemurder, the epic tale of a fortress whose well drilling efforts are blocked by a deadly winged lizard. The story is beautifully depicted by the author, who happens to be a graphic artist.

A legendary fell beast rests on the first pump in a mighty pump stack, a grand project that has taken years of concerted dwarfen effort in order to bring running water to the fort.

All 23 pumps are in place, and the dwarves have finally figured out how to bring power to the pumps from the windmills above ground. The only problem is one small engineering error; the first pump, the lowest one, needs to be pumped manually.

A dwarf has to go down there and operate it.

The second is Ashmalice, here in a comment on a blog entry. Ashmalice is the story of a dwarf settlement attacked by an unstoppable horde of demons, and the lengths the dwarves are prepared to go to to defend their settlement.

Ashmalice was a fire demon of legendary status. Not only had he existed in the prehistory of the fort, but he had over 550 kills – which included 2 entire tribes of goblins, a handful of elves, and a terrifying ammound of dwarves… one of whom was the king of the mountain-homes.

Fast forwarding to the present time major construction was underway of the fort. Many many immigrants had arrived over the years and times were good for the dwarves. Having many legendary carvers and warriors my friend grew lax in his defenses. And his dwarves paid the price when a miner unearthed a glowing pit deep below the dungeons carved into the mountain.

Within an hour my friend’s fortress was besieged by a nearly unending horde of demonic horrors. Ill equipped to deal with the threat immediately, the population of the Hamlet began dropping exponentially. Not even a panicked redirection of the river into the lower levels was enough to staunch the influx of demons, only enough to slow them long enough for the major walkways to be collapsed to buy some precious time.

Links: Bronzemurder / Ashmalice

World Building 101: Campaign Styles – Part Two

posted Thursday, April 22nd 2010 by Brandan Landgraff
Dungeon Mastering Advice

Last week we began an examination different styles of campaign that can be run. This week we continue exploring the strengths, weaknesses, tips, and pitfalls for a few more campaign styles.

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Monte Cook: Writers in Movies

posted Friday, April 16th 2010 by Jonathan Drain
News, Reviews & Culture

“In movies with college students about to graduate but unsure if they want to join the workforce, or movies with people unhappy with their lives or their jobs, characters state they want to become writers as though it’s some kind of luxurious non-job. An escape. A back door out of an otherwise humdrum life. That might be all well and good, I suppose, but writing’s hard work. It’s long hours and not great pay. It requires passion, not resignation. It’s not something that’s out there for everyone who doesn’t know what to do with their life. Ask a successful writer how he or she got into writing and it’s pretty unlikely that they’ll say, “well, I was graduating from school and didn’t know what else I wanted to do, so I figured, ‘eh, I guess I’ll write.’” or, “well, I was a high-paid lawyer but I got tired of the pressure, and writing sounded like an easy way out.”

–Monte Cook, Writers in Movies.

World Building 101: Campaign Styles – Part One

posted Thursday, April 15th 2010 by Brandan Landgraff
Dungeon Mastering Advice

Everyone who plays D&D, DM and player alike, has a different style of play. Some prefer campaigns with strong narrative elements, others, the freedom to go where they will, when they will. Some prefer to focus on characterization, giving priority to scenes that will allow them to explore different aspects of their character’s personality, while others aim for something more akin to cinematic action.

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The Modrons are here!

posted Sunday, April 11th 2010 by Jonathan Drain
Fourth EditionNews, Reviews & Culture

Randall Walker from blog Initiative or What? has fulfilled my dream of finding modron stats for D&D 4th edition (previously appeared here).

The modrons are AD&D-era geometric shape creatures from Mechanus, a plane of pure law. They’re also really stupid-looking, which is why they’re so awesome. In this PDF, Randy stats up modrons from the mechanical Monodrone to the deific Primus.

Third edition players will find Ken Marable’s v3.5 modron stats in a back issue of Dragon magazine #354.

How to Write for D&D Insider

posted Friday, April 9th 2010 by Jonathan Drain
Fourth EditionGame Design

Over at Chris Youngs has posted some quick D&D Insider writer’s guidelines (link requires a D&D Community account, a D&D Insider account, and the planets to align the right way). If you’re interested in writing for the online Dragon/Dungeon, read this article to find out what has a good chance of success. If you can’t access it, don’t worry, as I’ll cover it here.

What they want

In Dragon, they’re after more assassin material, especially Class Acts. Assassin isn’t getting much coverage in the main books, so D&D Insider is a good niche for assassin support. They’re also looking for psionics material to complement the battlemind, monk and psion classes from Player’s Handbook 3.

Dungeon wants Campaign Workbook articles, individual elements which are easy to drop into a campaign. Single villains, dungeon rooms and encounters are in demand, especially if they’re particularly cool. Dungeon also wants Chaos Scar adventures, which will probably give you the best wordcount of all the articles Youngs is requesting.

What they don’t want

D&D Insider doesn’t want any new races, classes, or builds. While new character options are useful and interesting, they’re mainly the territory of official books, not D&D Insider articles. Adventures featuring new monsters are also out, since there are already over 3,000 creatures in the D&D Compendium database.

They also don’t want anything that’s just a direct update from a previous edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Anything you write should be new and interesting.

Links: Freelancing 101

Critical Hits has a new article titled Freelancing 101, in which former D&D Insider editor Chris Sims gives first-hand advice on how to write freelance for D&D Insider or an RPG publisher, and what editors want to see.

World Building 101: Finding Ideas

posted Thursday, April 8th 2010 by Brandan Landgraff
Dungeon Mastering Advice

The most difficult part of world building or campaign building alike is writer’s block. Realizing that you have a blank in your setting that needs to be filled, but having no idea what to fill it with can be a brutally difficult experience to overcome. Often, flipping through your RPG library will be able to provide you with something cool to use, but sometimes that’s just not the direction that fits best.

Another suggestion often offered is to take ideas from popular movies or books. While these can provide ideas or influences, they can also be very derivative. One frequently overlooked source to tackle for ideas is heading to your local library and picking a topic to research.

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Robot Chicken D&D: Epilogue

posted Saturday, April 3rd 2010 by Jonathan Drain
Links and Resources

Meeh meeh caheeh Robot Chicken.

World Building 101: This One’s For the Players

posted Thursday, April 1st 2010 by Brandan Landgraff
Player Advice

World building is traditionally considered to be the DM’s task. After all, the DM is responsible for setting the stage, portraying the NPCs, controlling the monsters and hazards faced by the player characters, and generally doing all that sort of behind the scenes heavy lifting so that the players can experience the mystery and wonder of the world the DM creates.

Today I’m going to discuss why that’s an inaccurate view. As players you (we!) have a responsibility, nay, a duty, to assist in the process of creating the world in which we play. From locations to NPCs, from magic items to story hooks, players can provide the DM with some much-needed direction and feedback to ensure that the game the DM is running is exactly the one the players want to be playing.

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