Tuesday, April 29, 2014

D&D EXPLAINED: INTELLIGENCE

Haeg peered into the darkened tomb, taking in the dusty bones and clinging cobwebs with indifference. Something in the blackness glittered, and his face creased with a smile. He quickly lit a torch and moved toward the huge treasure chest, peering over his shoulder to make sure that his friend was still behind him. The hulking warrior threw open the lid, which burst into the air and closed once more, biting down on his head. Terrified, confused, and alone in the dark of the mimic's mouth as it clamped down on his neck, the barbarian wailed in pain. Behind him, the bright-eyed mage looked up from her book through a loose curtain of wind-blown hair. "Haeg, you consummate moron!" she yelled, a blue ball of fire snapping to life in her hand, "How many times do I have to tell you?"

Intelligence is one of my favorite attributes, because although it is often a dump stat, it affects many skills, and many of the role playing choices available to you as a player. Let me illustrate:

8…
...is below average. You're slow. Not retarded, but pretty damn close. More likely than not, you don't know how to read. If you do know, it isn't something you enjoy or that you have fun with. Brittany Pierce (Glee) has 8 intelligence. While playing, keep in mind that your character probably doesn't know very many big words. Magic probably scares you.

10…
...is considered average. You probably don't own any books, but you can find your way around in town without difficulty, and you probably know how to read. New skills are still difficult for you to grasp, but no more so for you than for anyone else. A great example would be Sansa Stark (A Song of Ice and Fire).

12…
...is above average. People around you can tell that you know what you are talking about, but you aren't infallible. You're about as smart as Amy Pond. You own a few books, and might enjoy reading. You might bring philosophical questions to light as your party explores questionable moral territory that isn't obvious to everyone around you.

14…
...is impressive. Sometimes you get lost in your own soliloquies. You probably have a vague grasp of magic, or at least understand the basic principles involved. You can think of interesting stories, even if you don't tell the well. You may have probably gone through some sort of formal educational system, so keep that in mind role playing. Mystique (X-Men) has 14 intelligence.

16…
...is among the top 5% or so. Think straight A's. Think Harvard. Think a lot, because you do. You're the master of almost any strategy games you find, and people around you know it. You're almost always reading, honing the greatest weapon you have: your mind. You are Hermione Granger.

18…
...is just too smart. That's all there is to it. You don't just out-think the people around you, you know what they're thinking before they do themselves. Your vocabulary doesn't just include a lot of words, it includes a lot of languages. You are River Tam.

Beyond these values, a character approaches frightening levels of intelligence. These gifts may be the product of years of study, or of some divine blessing, but they surprise anyone who encounters them.

When you're building your character, think about your educational background. Who taught you what you know? Where are they now? Do you know any spells? Rituals? What are your favorite books? Do you play an instrument? How do you keep your mind fresh? Why do you bother?

Friday, April 25, 2014

5 ENCOUNTERS TO KEEP IN YOUR POCKET

I don't generally "railroad" my games, but I like to have an idea about what direction the party is going in so I can flesh it out ahead of time. If the party wants to assassinate the corrupt Duke of Telvos, I'm going to want a bit of notice so that his keep will be an interesting and intelligently guarded place. There are alternatives to this, but those aren't a part of this article.

Unexpected pauses can buy time for planning, but they can also be boring for the players and can discourage creativity. Instead, I like to keep a few "pocket problems" in store to slow down the party as needed. These are the kinds of things that you can drop on them any time if you need to take a breather. By the time the party deals with the challenge, you'll be able to comfortably wrap things up for that evening and have a week or three to plan the next session. I don't like random encounters, so I also use this sort of thing instead.

PICKED POCKETS
A band of pickpockets steal from the adventurers in a crowded city. This works well if you make the pickpockets smallish children. I sprung this one on my party, and it led to one of the characters bleeding out in a forgotten back alley while the rest ran away, abandoning them.

While seeking information in the poor quarter, I rolled a few pickpocket attempts against random party members. A few minutes later, I told the fighter his purse was gone. The character grabbed one of the kids, beating him (to the horror of the rest of the players) into leading him back to the Theives' guild. By the time the crying child had led them to the warehouse to meet his handler, the player had lost all the good will of the party and was almost alone. From here things took a turn for the worse when the player tried to exchange the pickpocket as a hostage for his stolen money. The handler, a stubborn man who saw his 'crew' as his children, ordered the band of thieves (hidden among the shadows) to attack. Chaos ensued.

THAR BE DRAGONS
I like me some dragons. I put dragons in all my worlds, and generally imagine a dragon to rule over perhaps a 50-300 mile radius of their lair. As such, I make sure to announce dragon sightings on a regular basis off on the distance, if the party spends much time near a lair.

If I need a bit of time, the dragon can cause some chaos nearby. Setting fire to a nearby farm is a good option, but dragons can do so much more! Maybe the party encounters a band of dragon-slayers, alive or dead. The party could seek out the lair or rescue a town's "tribute". They could be hired by a high-level dragon to do any sort of job, which would explain the dragon seeking them out by reputation. The options are limitless.

TRAVELING BAND
While traveling, the party encounters a band of entertainers who carry ill tidings from a nearby town. This is a good way to force a quest hook on the party if they missed the one in town. They can spend the night with the entertainers, who could number anywhere from 4 (small family) to several dozen (traveling troupe or circus) depending on your world. The party might dine with the travelers, or could merely speak with them and then seek out the relevant quest hook.

A larger caravan could hire the adventurers on as guards, or include their talents as part of their act. The fighter could act as strong man, the rogue as acrobat, the wizard as magician, etc. This can also serve as a way to get the party from one place to another across a guarded border, or to allow them to travel through dangerous land.

Later, the DM can tug on the players' heartstrings by allowing the players to find the caravan destroyed/killed/burned down to introduce a new villain/dragon/band of assassins after one of the characters.

ASSASSIN'S GREED
The party is attacked during the night, and the assassin carries instructions signed by a local lord. This can lead into almost any sort of villain with resources. A good way to spin this is to introduce a friendly NPC and then have him betray the party when they are vulnerable. Maybe their guide in the mountain pass cuts their rope and then flees into the forest. The acolyte leading them into the catacombs below a church could trigger a trap or lock them into a dangerous room. An innkeeper or friendly noble could poison their food, or a fellow thief could turn them in to the guards. In any case, this serves as a setback and that can also work as a flexible hook to a longer adventure.

SPACE PIRATES!
For the truly desperate DM, there are planar pirates. You can rip open a rift and sail a ship through it, literally anywhere, to throw pirates at the players. Like the dragon, these can drop anywhere, and could even seek out the players as a quest hook. The ship can be anything you could imagine, though I personally enjoy Eberron's elemental-driven vessels. The crew could vary wildly among races, and could consist of a anywhere from four to several dozen members.

As an alternative to this, the party could discover a ship or village that had been attacked by planar pirates. This is also a great way to foreshadow a later planar campaign by getting the players familiar with the idea of the planes. To expand on it, the pirates could be fleeing some other threat; like a flying inter-planar riftbeast covered in writhing tentacles and mind-breaking fangs. Much cooler than bandits.

These are only seeds to an adventure, of course, but hopefully they prove useful or inspirational. These can each easily be stretched into something more developed, but I include them as a challenge that would take about 1/2 a session to solve. They can all be dropped almost anywhere with minor changes, and although they aren't subtle, they are also rather varied and should keep the party's attention.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

D&D EXPLAINED: CONSTITUTION

Constitution is an interesting stat. For most players, it breaks down to their hit point total and their fortitude defense, but there is a lot more to it than that. A character with outstanding constitution can take more hits, survive harsher conditions, and survive poisons that would leave a lesser character twitching in their death throes.  I usually imagine that constitution also encompasses, to some extent, physical combat training, determination, and a basic medical knowledge. Having a high constitution doesn't necessarily mean that your character is a beefcake, just that they’re really hard to kill. Here are some example constitution scores:
8…
...is below average. You aren't well. You might have asthma or low blood sugar, or maybe lactose intolerance or IBS. (You should totally run a character with IBS!) You look tired, with a sickly complexion and maybe a slight wheeze. Sam Tarly (Game of Thrones) has 8 constitution.
10…
...is an average constitution score for any generic fantasy world. You can take a punch, but a couple would probably lay you out. Sometimes you get sick, but you generally get better. You might have a minor condition, maybe allergies, but nine times out of ten it doesn't stop you from functioning. Doctor Horrible is a solid example of a character with a constitution score of 10.

12…
...is above average. Think James Bond. You eat well, get enough sleep, and are in good physical health. You exercise regularly, can definitely hold your own in a fist fight, and are rarely floored in a drinking contest.

14…
...is impressive, but not truly staggering. You have been in a number of physical scrapes, and survived them. You probably have some pretty impressive scars to show for it. You’re about as tough as Batman. You train daily to stay in shape, and it shows in your physique.

16…
...is truly amazing. You are at the peak of physical fitness, can drink almost anyone under the table, and can run several miles before your hands start to shake. Your body is built like a well oiled machine. You are Jason Bourne.
18…
...is utterly phenomenal. You are built like a tank; you probably look like a football player, even though you aren't wearing any armor. A good example would be Edmond Honda, from Street Fighter. You are nearly unkillable. You might be covered in scars, giving you a rough, layered hide.
The human body can only change so much, so higher scores in constitution really don’t yield a physical result. You become tougher, sure, but those changes are more than skin deep. You perfect your ability to absorb damage, moving with the punch to soften the blow. You sample poisons in small doses to build up immunities. The first impression of townsfolk in the world though, will remain unchanged.
When you are plugging in your constitution stat, think about some of these questions: How well do you take a punch? Where did you grow up, and how did the dangers of that place shape your body? Do you ignore pain, deal with it, or relish coming close to death? Do you have any physical problems that bring your constitution down, like addictions or wasting sicknesses? What reasons do you have to live?

Friday, April 18, 2014

SIDEQUESTS: I SMELL A RAT

"And the dust did settle in the crypt of the great king, and amid the broken bones of his enemies there crawled a teeming swarm of bright eyed vermin. Choking the floor, they did move in a carpet of teeming bodies, digging violently into and through each other, trampling some beneath. They pressed out and beyond the crypt, and where they led, death followed."
-The Green Empire, vol 3



Some time ago I heard about “Rat Kings”, a real-world phenomena where groups of rats grow connected at the tail. They are occasionally discovered inside walls or sewer tunnels. I thought to myself for a bit about “Rat Kings”, and decided that they were an alarming way to include rats in a Dungeons and Dragons game as something other than a starting monster.

Rats are one of the more tame monsters in Dungeons and Dragons, and generally pose no threat to most adventurers. To change that, I wrote this low-level sidequest idea, which focuses not only to put your party on edge but also to treat rats with a dignity I believe they are due. The trick here is numbers. This idea hinges on the party quickly becoming overwhelmed as they discover more and more rats, and retreat is not an option.

The town of Mornvale is relatively new, but has been expanding quickly in recent years. Lately though, three different buildings have had a rat problem. The general store, tavern, and an old warehouse have all been experiencing missing stores, chewed rafters, and an unidentifiable stench of death.

The party explores these three ‘mini dungeons’, each bookended by a conversation with the shop keeper or custodian, and a hint about what is going on. Put a few rats in each room, but nothing overly challenging. The point here is to lull the party into a false sense of security. In one of the three buildings, there is a hidden tunnel, or a deep crack in the stone floor. This is the source of the rats.

There’s a bit of railroading here; the party will want to explore the crack, especially if you put something shiny at the bottom of it. After they repel down though, something chews through the rope, or they find some reason to remain in the tunnel. These are general ideas; choose the one that reflects your party the best.

What the party has discovered is a tunnel leading through an old, abandoned orc temple to Yurtrus, their god of death and decay. Half of the fun of running a dungeon crawl, as a DM, is building the dungeon, so I leave that to you. Just use a lot of rats. More rats than the party can handle. You can use zombies or oozes too, and make them fit by describing them as ‘desiccated corpses covered with writhing furry bodies’. If a rat swarm seems too boring, describe them as ‘green eyed, skeletal plague rats’ and all will be forgiven. Use a few different diseases too; rats are full of nasty things.

The temple contains a supernatural Rat King as a sort of "boss monster”. Depending on which edition you're running, you could use the stat block from an Otyugh, Beholder, or Hydra as a good starting point, and flavor it up to be a massive tangle of large rats, connected at the tails, with glowing eyes. As far as attacks, anything goes: it could spew plague-ridden filth, bite and scratch, detach smaller clusters of rats when struck, or dissolve into a ghostly rat swarm and re-solidify somewhere else… the sky is the limit.

A large statue of Yurtrus (I couldn’t find a description of him, but I like the idea of a fat, rotting orc with rats crawling from his eye sockets) sits against the far wall in this chamber, casting a glowing aura of decay that seems to empower the Rat King. Maybe it gives the Rat King the ability to fly, boosts its damage, adds more hit points, grants it additional effects for attacks… whatever sounds appropriate. A cleric could spend an action chanting (Knowledge: Religion or Spell check) to disable that empowerment, or a strong character can attempt to smash the statue (Strength check or attack) to disable the effect more directly.

Destroying the statue, in any case, will get rid of the rats (they are drawn to it, or created by it) and solve the town’s problems. The party can either leave through some side tunnel, transition to the underdark, or discover a portal to another plane. Maybe this shrine is only a piece of an entire orcish ruin.

You can extend the temple by adding additional challenges, or rat-themed traps. Things like a pit trap with rats at the bottom, or a room that gets flooded by rats. You could fire or flood-based trap signaled by the squeals of panicked rodents, too.

To expand this into something larger, think about what happened before the adventurers showed up. Why wasn't the statue's power evident before the town was founded? Where did the crack/tunnel come from? What happened to the orcs who worshipped here? Did Yurtus's shrine have a relic of unholy power? How will the adventurers get rid of it?

In any case, the goal with this dungeon crawl is to make players see rats with something more than the normal boredom associated with them. If you opt to run this, let me know how it goes!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

D&D EXPLAINED: STRENGTH

The fighter rolls his stats, and he plugs his highest number, 17, into Strength. He calculates his carry weight limit, his dead lift stat, his attack modifier, and what equipment he qualifies for. Does he think about what his strength really means? Usually no. Here’s a pretty good breakdown: 
8…
...is below average for most gaming worlds, but honestly is probably about where you, the gamer, would rank. You generally don’t do anything physical, and might even suffer from some medical condition. Tyrion Lannister (Game of Thrones) has about 8 strength.
10…
...is generally considered average, for somebody who doesn’t live on a computer. Think Luke Skywalker. Nobody is going to be terribly intimidated by you, but at the same time, you aren’t out of shape. 
12…
...is above average. Not unbelievable, but impressive. The hero might not be a professional athelete, but he certainly stays fit. Indiana Jones would be a great example.
14…
...is impressive, but believable. People in town will generally admire your brawn. You could hold your own in a fight; Jayne Cobb (Firefly) has about 14 strength.

16…
...reaches the limits of physical prowess. Townsfolk stop and stare. Provided your Charisma is high enough, the women swoon. Your life has been geared toward building muscle, and it is clearly evident to look at you. You are the Bowflex guy.
18…
...borders on unbelievable, but when people see you, they kind of have to. You don’t even accept challenges to arm wrestle, because you would win hands down. Your armor feels like a second skin, and you can easily piggyback the rest of your party. You look like Conan the Barbarian. 
Anything beyond this really looks about the same, and is the result of legendary training, magical enhancement, or benefits credited to gods or prophecy.

When you set your stats at character creation, think about how you justify them. If you grew up on a farm, why did you drive yourself to new muscular standards? What kind of physical training do you perform on a day to day basis? How has that regime impacted your life? Where will it end? 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

PLAY THE DCC RPG

"You’re no hero. You’re an adventurer: a reaver, a cutpurse, a heathen-slayer, a tight-lipped warlock guarding long-dead secrets. You seek gold and glory, winning it with sword and spell, caked in the blood and filth of the weak, the dark, the demons, and the vanquished. There are treasures to be won deep underneath, and you shall have them. Return to the glory days of fantasy with the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game. Adventure as 1974 intended you to, with modern rules grounded in the origins of sword & sorcery. Fast play, cryptic secrets, and a mysterious past await you: turn the page…"
-Goodman Games

WHAT DO I KNOW ABOUT IT?
For the last several months I have been DMing the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, and loving every second of it. The party has stormed a goblin stronghold, fought vampires, negotiated a treacherous forest, and taken possession of a teleporting wizard tower. They have lost adventurers to bear traps (nasty double-mastectomy),  venomous spiders, fire, goblin attacks, dark sorcery, and an unfortunate encounter with a city thieves' guild. Having ran about a dozen systems, I can say firsthand that this is by far the most dangerous system I have played for PCs. Beyond that, the game embraces a sense of danger and randomness that most games seem to avoid, and does so masterfully.

HOW DOES IT PLAY?
The DCC RPG is a role-playing game in the spirit of dark, gonzo pulp fantasy. Your character will die. That's why you make several of them. Hopefully one of your characters will stay alive long enough to reach first level. In any case, when they do die, the rest of their party will take their stuff, forget their name, and move on. Most likely, the ones who survived the fight ran away dragging your corpse. Or half of it.

DCC is based on free-use 3rd edition DnD rules, but has no feats, skills, or prestige classes. Races and classes are the same thing (sound familiar?), so you could be a wizard or a dwarf, but not both. Wisdom does not exist. Instead the game uses a "Luck" stat that characters can permanently burn to reroll things, and which affects their position on various critical hit charts.

I love Luck as a stat in games whenever I see it, and replacing Wisdom with Luck actually works rather well. Skills like "Listen", "Search", or "Sense motive" can be written down to luck easily enough, since they are as much the result of the other character's failure as they are your character's success. You were lucky enough to find the hidden door, or to hear the thief stumble, or to catch the odd expression on the thug's face during interrogation.

My favorite thing about the game is magic. Playing Dungeons and Dragons, one of my biggest complaints is that magic is either overpowered, pointlessly limited, or both. Magic in DCC is weird and scary. Depending on how high they roll, there are many degrees of success with any spell, which each produce a better result than the last. A flight spell, for instance, might allow the caster to fly for a few seconds, or allow an entire party to fly for a day. A wizard can keep casting the same spell over and over again until they fail, and if they roll a 1, terrible things happen. Permanent things. After adventuring for a few sessions, a wizard might have become horribly corrupt from their failed castings, and have a muttering face on their back, a tentacle instead of an arm, or one leg that's longer than the other. Each spell has it's own wonderful chart full of bad things (modified by the Luck attribute) that can happen on a poorly-rolled casting.

To get started, players each create 2-4 level 0 characters (peasants who have never held a gold piece) at the start of the first session. These characters start with "weapons" relevant to their trade (farmers get pitchforks, cooks get cleavers, hairdressers get scissors, etc) which are hopefully swapped out for more useful gear later on. Most of these characters will quickly die horribly, as they roll 1d4 for hit points. Character creation takes about 50 seconds, and involves rolling a d100 to determine your profession, then rolling 3d6 six times (randomly distributed) to generate your ability scores, in order. Players roll some additional starting gear and then a random luck effect, and are basically ready to play after slapping a name on their new walking corpse.

The newly created party of nine or fifteen townsfolk go into a simple dungeon designed to thin their numbers, and the survivors get to level up and choose a class. The classes are Fighter, Rogue, Cleric, Wizard, Elf, Halfling, and Dwarf. From there they aren't safe, as the outside world has dangers of its own...

SOMETHING WORTH MENTIONING...
This game uses weird dice. In addition to the "normal" d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, and d20 (most tabletop role-playing gamers already have these dice) this game uses d3, d5, d7, d14, d16, d24, and d30. These weird dice are often referred to as "Zocchi dice" and can be found online pretty easily. I bought some from The Dice Shop, because I don't like the pricing at other sites. Personally I find it hard to believe that the d5 and d7 are 100% balanced, but I use them because I like weird dice.

Suggested substitutions for Zocchi dice:
d3: roll a d4, reroll 4's.
d5: roll a d6, reroll 6's.
d7: roll a d8, reroll 8's.
d14: roll a d20, reroll high numbers.
d16: roll a d20, reroll high numbers.
d24: roll a d3 and a d10, reroll high numbers.
d30: roll a d3 and a d10.

WHERE CAN I GET STARTED?
The internet is a wonderful place. I got my copy of the book from Amazon. There's also a quick-start guide available here for free if you don't want to pony up the money for a real book. You can also support your local game store (if there still is one nearby) and buy the book there. Unlike a lot of systems, you don't need to dedicate a session to character creation, although the DM should put together a dungeon for the party to explore ahead of time.

DCC isn't for everybody, but it's really easy to pick up if you already know a d20 system, and is an excellent breath of fresh air. If you're new to RPGs altogether, it doesn't have as much crunch as any edition of DnD, which makes it easier to learn/play. Go forth, and check it out.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

5 FUN CHARACTER FLAWS

A lot of players concentrate on their characters' strengths, building a powerful caster, an agile sneak-theif, or a brutal barbarian warrior. Equally important though are the flaws in your character. These are generally skipped over entirely in the books, so here are a few examples to inspire you. A hero with problems, in my opinion, is a more interesting character than an alabaster statue. Flaws also, almost more than strengths, open up opportunities for further background development. Without further elaboration, here are a few ideas.

PHOBIAS
Everybody is afraid of something. Fear of heights, spiders, fire, the dead, darkness, clowns... the list goes on. Beyond these fears, there are subtler terrors in the world around us. Fear of betrayal, fear of failure, fear of capture... these phobias are trickier to role play, but equally fun. What are you afraid of? How did you develop this fear, and are you struggling to overcome it? How? A character without any fear at all can be fun to roleplay as well.

MISSING LIMBS OR FEATURES
Fantasy worlds are dangerous places. It's perfectly reasonable, especially with an older, more experienced character, to assume that some of your past battles will have left their mark. If you decide to be missing a limb, talk it over with your DM. Most will allow it without penalty on a case by case basis, or allow it to be folded into your stats anyway. Maybe your character with low dexterity is missing a finger, or there's a horrible scar marring your barbarian's 6-Charisma face. Have you suffered a grievous wound? How did you injure yourself? What did you learn from that injury?

MENTAL CONDITIONS
Not all injuries are physical. Just as a character can suffer violent traumas, magical affects and simple shock can also have lingering consequences. Your character might be OCD or suffer from PTSD. Your mage might have developed a stutter. Maybe your rogue suffered the ill effects of a trap and occasionally hallucinates. Your one-time knight was hit by a powerful enchantment, and now believes himself to be trapped in somebody else's body. Maybe he's right.

DIETARY RESTRICTIONS
Some people are picky eaters. Some have bizarre religious beliefs that limit what they can consume. Your barbarian might come from a culture that accepts cannibalism, or even requires it. Maybe your character is lactose intolerant. Do you drink? Do you eat vegetables, or require particular foods or medication? When you go to a tavern, think bout what you're actually going to buy. What kind of food to you like? Are you accustomed to the finer foods, or do you get what you can as it becomes available?


COMPULSIONS OR ADDICTIONS
Some people aren't fully in control of themselves. They have ticks, urges, or addictions that edge them toward various actions. Schizophrenia would be a good example of what I'm talking about. Maybe you were possessed once upon a time. Are you a compulsive gambler? Liar? Theif? Are you addicted to any chemicals? How were you introduced to them? Are there voices in your head? How did they get there? When they talk, do you answer?

Friday, April 4, 2014

THE DRIZZT PROBLEM

Drizzt Do'Urdan, if you don't know him, is a character from R.A. Salvatore's fiction set in the Forgotten Realms. He has become the most popular character from the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, and anyone who has scanned the young adult fantasy section of their local library has probably seen him on a cover: a dark-skinned, white-haired elf with two swords.

He is a dark elf, also called Drow (rhymes with cow). Drow are an evil, dark-skinned race of elves that have been shunned by their forest-dwelling brothers and live underground worshiping the spider goddess Lloth in a matriarchal society. Drow are creepy and evil, but organized. Kind of like the Sith, but with pointy ears and more complicated names.

Drizzt is unique, because he rejected the evilness of the Drow, leaving his home city of Menzoberrenzan (I did say they had complicated names) and venturing to the surface. Once there, he was met with rejection, hatred, and racism against him, because of the wrongs of his people. Drizzt is a Ranger (by class/job) and does his best to right wrongs and help people, despite their hatred. That underdog element, and the sense of personal sacrifice, is one of the driving themes that makes Drizzt an enduring character in the eyes of Salvatore's readers.

That same element, though, is responsible for what I think of as "The Drizzt Problem". Simply put, everyone wants to be like Drizzt. Wizards of the Coast (the gaming giant that bought Dungeons and Dragons back in the 90s) knows this, so they built Rangers in a way to make it easy to use dual-wielded swords effectively. As such, many players run characters, ironically in order to be unique, who are effectively Drizzt.

There is no wrong way to play Dungeons and Dragons. In large part, the game is designed to let players be whoever they want to be, and if that's Drizzt, so be it. That said, it can be nerve-wracking to sit down at a table and find 2 players in the same party, who are both playing Drow, who are both of the Chaotic Good alignment. On the one hand, these players have every right to their character's back story as anyone else, but on the other, everyone at the table already knows the contrived drama they expect the DM to prepare for their character. It looms like an ominous black spider queen, ready to talk about herself.

I confess, I have never been in a party with an evil Drow, though I have met about a dozen Drow players in the last year. It's almost enough to make me wonder if there actually are any evil Drow. Maybe Lloth is all about happiness and flowers, and just has a terribly PR group. This oversaturation isn't the end of the world, by any means; I do believe that it is a problem that needs to be addressed though.

Part of creating a character in Dungeons and Dragons involves choosing a concept that you will enjoy playing, that you identify with, and that is engaging for the players around you. While it can be a lot of fun to run a character based off of a book, and while it is very easy to do that, I don't think it's the best option.

I have no right to tell you how to build your characters or run your games, but for the sake of the party around you, try to be original. There is nothing unique and rebellious about playing a character somebody else dreamed up and popularized, even if you change their name. Drizzt can still be fun despite that, but recognize that your character isn't as original as you might hope.

If you do run a good-aligned Drow, great. Just don't expect the party to be very enthusiastic when they see yet another rebel dark elf, attempting to redeem himself for the sins of his people by defending the world that hates him.

To everyone else, try not to be too hard on the Drow player. Just let him do his thing, and to be happy with it. Dungeons and Dragons is about having fun, not harping on the player who wants to relive a series he loves.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

WHAT EXACTLY IS THIS?

This is a blog. Or rather, this WILL be a blog. Work in progress and all that.

I have played a lot of games, and mean to play many more. Some years ago I ran a blog for a while on Tumblr posting links to nerdy models and posting my own ideas on tabletop/video games.

Unfortunately for my blog but fortunately for me, I began dating the lovely Shelby Johanson. Life is fantastic, but I haven't had the time to keep my blog up to date for over a year now. I want to return to blogging. I'll try to keep updates frequent, but often they will be rather short. I'm cool with that.

I'll be figuring out a sorting/navigation method at some point, if Blogger supports it. I won't be returning to Tumblr, because frankly Tumblr isn't designed for blogging, and I feel that Tumblr's bubble will pop soon.

There may be some rants about technology here too; I work with cell phones and keep an ear open for news on new smartphones or weird tech stuff.

In summary, this blog will probably touch on:
THOUGHTS ON LIFE
BOARD GAMES WORTH PLAYING
DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS
VIDEO GAMES I LIKE
SHORT STORIES
THOUGHTS ON TECH NEWS

If these are things you like, this blog may be for you. 

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