Monday, October 31, 2011

LEGO Heroica: The Greatest D&D Children’s Toy Ever

Did D&D just become mainstream?  I was looking in Harrods a few weeks ago, and stumbled across this:

image from kaboodle.

Pelor’s beard! It’s a LEGO board game where each player chooses a class, each with different weapons and special abilities, and proceeds through a dungeon crawl where they fight monsters and collect treasure on the way towards a goal, either a defeating a boss monster or collecting an artifact.  More skills can be purchased over time, essentially leveling up your character. Does this all sound familiar?  I sincerely hope it does.  With classes like Barbarian, Druid, Knight, Mage, Ranger and Rogue, it all sounds an awful lot like our favourite game.  Wow.

You can rearrange the map tiles in each set to provide new dungeons.  You can buy multiple sets and connect them to make a series of adventures; dare I call it a campaign? (Brilliant marketing by the way!  I want them all!)  And as with all LEGO games, you are encouraged to change the rules, and take it from a simple children’s version of the game to require a rulebook to rival the Player’s Handbook.

I can’t recommend this enough.  It’s fantastic, and if you edit the rules a bit you can make this a really entertaining game, and it’s so good to see the basic principles of RPGs and so forth entering further into the mainstream children’s toys market.

Friday, October 21, 2011

30 Days of Dungeons and Dragons Day 30: Best DM You’ve Had

            Well, here we are.  It’s the last day and conclusion of the 30 Days of Dungeons and Dragons challenge.  And the question is an incredibly tricky one, and awkwardly personal.  Strictly in D&D, I have only ever had 5 DMs, to the best of my memory.  This is already a tough call, so I’m discounting those who ran games for me that were of a different system (and sorry to all of you.  You know who you are and you’ve all been fantastic).  I have to say, I’ve never had a bad DM.  I’ve never had a game which I didn’t enjoy at all.  Oh, actually, thinking about it, there were technically a few other DMs back when I tried play-by-forum D&D, but they don’t count at all.

            In that case, this comes down to a rather close call.  In fact, out of three in particular, I’m really not sure who to choose. 

            Rich, you’ve only DM’d a few games for me, but every single one has been phenomenal.  I’ve already listed your incredible achievement which was the Labyrinth of Madness, and the castle with shifting gravity was fantastic.  You’ve been absolutely consistent in delivering an engrossing, action-packed plot.  If I can give a single point of criticism, sometimes play stops for ten minutes because you’re explaining a minute point.  But it’s always interesting.  Thank you.

            A Dungeon Master is an incredibly complex role, much more complicated than even the craziest multi-class.  They have to deliver a comfortable location to play in, an intense atmosphere within the game, a story which is gripping but not restrictive or backstory-heavy, a flowing, simple gameplay, and so much more.  It is a very difficult task.  I have had a number of outstanding Dungeon Masters, both in D&D and in other systems.  Mastering this … masterdom myself is a bit of an ongoing quest for me, and I always struggle to run more serious games.  I can do silly very well, but moving, meaningful plot sometimes eludes me, though often I find the players are the best at creating meaning in a game.  Rich, you’re the best I’ve seen, though I won’t deny that several others come very close.  Well done.  You mark the end of the 30 Days of D&D Challenge quite appropriately, and I've even found a tribute:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

30DODND Day 29: What is the number you always seem to roll on a d20?

            Probability.  Everyone respects it to some degree.  Most game shows are based on it, all casinos, the economy and almost all aspects of international politics are predicated on our assessments of risks, chances and uncertainty.  It is everywhere.  We place so much importance in it.  On top of that, we have developed a thousand superstitions about luck and fortune, sometimes placing total confidence on something which has no real meaning.

I have never really believed in dice superstitions.  I’ll go along with a few things, like rolling a new d20 to see how it rolls, or switching dice if one is rolling poorly, but in general I don’t believe that any of it actually works.  Switching d8s is perhaps the only thing I really believe in, just because it rolls poorly, and changing which I use is a good way of getting different results.  I find them fun, but not useful.  I really don’t think I have number that comes up more than others, though I did once have a d20 which was flawed and weighted towards the number 2.  I didn’t like that die.

I could talk about probability for a long time, and I probably will at some point in the future.  It’s a fascinating concept, which dominates so much of our outlook on life.  In a world where the gambling industry is so massive, and where security consultancy and risk management are major career paths, it is important to think about exactly what probability is.  But that’s another story.  So no.  No number. Sorry.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

30DODND Day 28: A character you will never play ever again

Now this is hard.  I have really enjoyed every character I’ve played, as far as I can remember.  Johin, Mogo, Alarum, Martel, Kuraileon, Robin, Arken, William, Jonathan…. I’ve really enjoyed all of them.  As I think back though, there was one which was my least favourite.

Just like this guy... only not awesome.

It was back in a time when I tried forum-based RPGs, and played a few games which all failed quite quickly.  I don’t remember this character’s name, but for a very short lived campaign I created a Halfling Psion Pyrokineticist – so a flame wielding psion.  I took a bit of an overused trope though and made him have a split personality.  I’m currently in a party where three of the characters have another voice in their heads, but that’s from two psicrystals and a demon-possession.  So totally legitimate.  This guy had an arsonist inside, who would come out in battle and make him pretty nasty.  The character was flawed, annoying to use, and relied on a few too many tropes.  Not that I’m against references, but this guy was just a fiery little killing machine.  That can be fun, but it’s not really my style.  I don’t think I’d play him again, whatever his name was.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

30DODND Day 27: A character you want to play in the future

            Character generation is one of my favourite past times.  Whenever I’m bored, I make characters, and while rolling stats is fun (my phone has a random game which rolls 2d6 over and over again.  I can’t change the dice at all, but for 4d6 best 3 character stats it is pretty handy) it is the character concepts I am more interested in.  Here are just a few:
-Traveling wizard – more utility than combat.  I’ve played this in various forms, even as a Psion
-A Level 20 fighter tooled for dagger throwing and stealth, a rogue without the stealing as it were.  Works as a lone hero sort of thing.  I once planned out how he could single-handedly destroy an army occupying a city.  Awesome.
-A character with fairly low stat rolls, with their highest stats being Charisma and Wisdom, followed by Intelligence.  They wouldn’t have player levels, instead taking NPC levels in Expert.  Either a scholar or a crafter/tinkerer, they would have to survive in the world using their winning personality (not deceiving everyone like a con-artist, but a largely good character) and just being nice.  Combat would largely be done using Tanglefoot Bags, Alchemist’s Fire, and the like.  It would be really interesting to play a character with NO real abilities at all.

The character I would most like to play though is one that has to be played with the agreement of another player.  Art, the pacifist Warforged, is the character I mentioned on Day 2, who is bound to a wizard and must obey this character in the party.  I was thinking about him today, and I decided on a full backstory for him.  It was a different wizard that created Art, experimenting in whether constructs can learn to believe, instead of just knowing.  So Art is a cleric.  The wizard imbued a few basic rules into Art, the most significant being that he would always obey his master, he would never harm his master, and that he would never kill another living being.  The wizard eventually died, and Art found himself in the control of this other player’s character, presumably another wizard, but not necessarily.  Art is a generally good soul, as it were, and given the choice will work for the forces of good.  However the other player can command him to commit evil acts, as long as they don’t violate his basic rules, such as killing people.  I would love to play a character which has a good combat ability, but cannot kill; has a good heart, but doesn’t have total autonomy; and is also a construct with a belief in a particular deity.  It sounds like such fun.  Hopefully I’ll get to play him sometime.

Monday, October 17, 2011

30 DODND Day 26: Favourite nonmagic item (your character’s or someone else’s)

            I’ve seen a number of people having a favourite nonmagic item, and in many ways I think that this one of the best parts about D&D, creatively using simple items.  Darths and Droids mentioned this yesterday, actually ( 
Gotrek, the notorious dwarven warlord from the Kaldahar Chronicles I’ve been posting up, had an unhealthy obsession with the portable battering ram.  Not sure how well it was used, but it was certainly used often.  The series of assassins played by another friend of mine of course found the grappling hook to be essential.
From the WOTC website.  Its the one that looks like it would tangle your feet.

As for myself, there is one item that has recently leapt ahead in my esteem as the most useful nonmagic item in the game.  Though I would normally cite Samwise Gamgee’s recommendation of rope as the essential item for any adventure, I have to revise my opinion and put forward the Tanglefoot Bag as my favourite item, because this is the item which let a level 6 party completely annihilate a powerful lich in his own tower.  In an encounter which was intended for our party of thieves to sneak past the wizard and steal his thing without going anywhere near him, the DM managed to push all of my characters buttons at once, and so I rushed forward, dump tackled the undead monstrosity and threw a tanglefoot bag on him.  A wizard on the ground, surrounded by fighters and covered in goo is done for, no matter his level.

I never go without a tanglefoot bag anymore.  Several if I can afford it.