July 22, 2014

Christmas in July Sale and Us

DrivethruRPG and RPGNow are having their annual Christmas in July Sale. For the first time ever we have two products up for the Sale. There is...

Marketplace: 26 shops for any fantasy based setting.
Adventure At Goldmarsh: A system neutral (but in the OSR mold) adventure and town setting.

If you were waiting to pick them up, or never even realized they existed, now's your chance!
And thanks!

July 18, 2014

5E Friday - Role Vs Roll and Player vs Character

Very quick one today...

-I'm loving the Advantage/Disadvantage, but for a slightly different reason than most people do.

For me there has always been a slight disconnect between role-playing and roll-playing especially in social encounters.  On one hand, as a DM, I want the players to act out/role-play social encounters. If they are bluffing their way past a guard I want them to speak the words their character is saying. If they are trying to convince a sheriff to back their assault on a cult lair, I want to know how they are asking. On the other hand, sometimes a player just wants to roll his appropriate social skill.
Corollary to that is the disconnect between character and player. A player may not be good at improvising a speech during a social encounter. The player knows their limitations and thus compensates by loading up social skills specifically so they can do well in them with their character despite the fact they as a player is bad at it. If I, as a DM, require the player to act out the social encounter they will likely do poorly and thus likely gain a negative to their roll...which is exactly what the player is trying to avoid. The flip side of this is the player who puts nothing into their character's social skills because they know they can do well with social encounters simply because they, as a player, is good at role-playing.

Now I could ignore the role-playing aspect and only allow the die rolls to apply, but this is a role-playing game. I want to encourage role-play...not allow the dice to dictate outcomes with no input from the players. I could also ignore die rolls and base results purely on the role-playing aspect, but again we have the disconnect between player ability (player with poor social skills) and character ability (character with excellent social skills).

In the past, I've always done a hybrid version. Allow for role-playing which can add a negative or positive modifier to the die roll. But they always felt like half-measures. Either the bonus is too little to make the role-play "worth it" or too high so that the die roll practically doesn't matter. And, of course, there is always the issue of the subjectivity of it all; was the role-playing worth +2 or +5 or +10?

Which brings me back to 5E and Advantage/Disadvantage. In the sample adventure (which by the way is so much more than a "sample adventure") they simply state that during one of the social encounters ("can we prove ourselves to the monster that we are being nice to her") the person making the die roll gains an Advantage if they role-played the social interaction well. No muss, no fuss. Was the role-playing done well? If yes, gain an Advantage die. If not, resort to the standard die roll. There are no varying degrees of "should it be +2 or +5". Either it was a pass (good role-play) or fail (bad role-play) with the reward being a clear advantage to the die roll.

This makes social encounters so much easier to adjudicate.

And so many other situations. Did the player do an awesome job describing how she leaped onto the table, sliding down the bar and slamming into the face of the drunk mercenary feet first? Give an Advantage to the attack! Basically any time a player describes a character doing something cool, give an Advantage to the action. If the player is being dull and boring (or keeps repeating the same "cool" action), go with the simple "standard" die roll.

Advantage is a concrete and simple way to implement reward for good role-playing and narration.

July 11, 2014

5E Friday

I'll be taking a closer look at the Starter Set and the Basic Rules in the future but for now I find the reaction to 5E to be interesting on its own. Bear in mind these are my personal reflections so it's likely I could be off overall...

-Reaction seems to be positive. People seem to like the old-school vibes and the blend of newer concepts. Even many of those who are not planning on playing the system speak well of it; "I like the system but I'll keep using the one I am using right now." Quite a few have stated 5E is now their system of choice. (Personally I'll wait until the PH and DMG come out to make that determination.) I haven't seen any real edition wars, certainly not on the level of 4E.

-The few negative reviews (and by negative I mean people who absolutely do not like 5E - as opposed to those who like 5E but still see some flaws with it) seem to be quibbles over minor things, often more personal than systemic.
"They used the same tired racial backgrounds instead of making elves emo-cannibals."
"You get new abilities as a character levels - never for me!"
"It's too easy to stay alive!"

-Despite the fact there is no news about a OGL or similar information and won't be before 2015, there have been some early adopters of the system. Necromancer Games/Frog God already has a Kickstarter for 3 new 5E books (and its already funded) and they've also released a 5E adventure for free. They were a solid company with 3E but they refused to adopt to 4E when it was released because they didn't like the OGL for that edition. Instead, recently they came back with a bunch of Pathfinder stuff (mostly adaptions of their earlier work, but with some new stuff as well). I find it interesting that they are jumping into 5E with both feet.

In addition, there are also some adaptions to 5E of older adventures people have put up for free. Companies and designers seem to be excited about 5E.

-"5E" seems to have won as the unofficial name of this version of D&D. Almost everyone is referring to it as 5E. WotC may simply call it Basis D&D or D&D, but 5E is likely to stay its name...and this is a good thing. There needs to be a way to talk about the latest version where everyone can understand what version they are talking about. To simply call it Basic D&D or D&D just leads to confusion. Looks like "5E" is here to stay (and D&D Next is dead as a title - thank goodness).

July 8, 2014

The Class That Isn't Needed Until It Is In Play

Tenkar's Tavern ask Is The Thief a Needed Member. He asked if the thief class is truly needed or if an adventuring party could get by without one. How important is a thief to a group? Essential or just nice to have? This got me thinking latterly...

Quite a few classes do not become needed until a player starts to play one. It is a backwards need. The thief is an excellent example of this. If no one in the party is playing a thief then a DM tends to not add traps, or run adventures that require pickpocketing or include lots of locked doors or anything that a thief excels at. Sure a DM might still add a locked door or trap but with the intent that there is nothing the party can do about them other than soaking the damage or bashing in a lock. Such DMs would not write an adventure where the adventure would stall because there is no thief in the party.

However, once a thief is being played, then suddenly there are all sorts of traps, locks and other things in adventures. Adventures will stall if that thief can't pick the lock. DMs make sure to add in things for a thief to do. It follows the mantra of "let every player shine at least once". Thus thieves and thiefly skills are not needed until a player starts playing a thief.

This expands out to other classes as well...
Once a bard joins a party, there are suddenly more "social" encounters.
Once a druid or ranger joins a party, there are suddenly more nature/animal encounters.
Once a paladin joins a party, there are suddenly more encounters with nobility.

It could even be said that the cleric/healing class follows this as well. On one hand, combat is a driving force of rpg games and thus a cleric is essential to the survival of a party. However, if for some reason there is no cleric in a party, damage scales would go down...or potions of healing would begin to be found as treasure a lot more often.

DMs react to what the players have chosen as their classes. No class is required...until a player starts playing them.

June 27, 2014

5E Friday

The OGL. I have been saying for some time that the newest version of D&D requires a robust OGL, one very similar to the one that came with 3E. Having such an OGL will put 5E at the forefront of the rpg industry; major companies and well-known designers will get on board, promoting 5E because they are promoting themselves at the same time.

-No news on an OGL until next year.  Was it done to make WotC the only place to get 5E material for at least a few months? Was this done because they still haven't made a decision and want to see how 5E is going to sell before they make an OGL? Why wouldn't they release the information on the OGL now if they have their plans in place already with the stipualtion that the OGL does not go into affect until next year?

-I suspect the OGL will be weak. In their un-announcement on the OGL they kept mentioning maintaining quality. Sounds to me like they will be cutting the small companies and individual designers out of the OGL. Sounds like they do not want a repeat of the wild days of the 3E OGL when good and bad was released for D&D. However, putting the OGL out of reach of everyone will drive people away, killing interest in 5E.

-WotC has actually done a good job so far repairing faith in D&D and themselves as a company (free Basic D&D!) but a weak OGL could kill any momentum they have built as designers go back to making their own systems/games instead of supporting 5E...or choosing to support Pathfinder again.