Dungeons & Dragons tagged posts

D&D Home Brew: Character Creation – the Random Grid Method

When it comes to RPGs and gaming, everyone has a favorite system. For us, it’s Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). It’s where we started with RPGs and we have the best command of the various iterations and intricacies of that system. Yet inspiration and innovation can come from many places, so when we find a mechanic we like in other systems we always like to think of how we home brew a version for D&D.

The “Grid Method”

Where we found it: There’s an entry for it on Invisible Castle, the indispensable dice rolling website. While the site gives credit to a user on a forum, the links to the original forum no longer work.

What is it: A way of generating ability scores for a new character. Rather than using a standard array, simply rolling dice, or a point buy system. The grid method has players generating a 3×3 grid of numbers (by rolling 4d6 nine times) then labeling the rows and columns with the six ability scores. Players choose one number from the corresponding row/column for each ability score, and each number can only be used once.

Why is it important: This method is a lot of fun, and lets players make interesting choices about their character right from the ability score phase. Rather than simply applying a min/max formula to assigning ability scores, the grid method leads to trade-offs and often times surprising results, which can create characters different than just the perfect mathematical representation of a class or archetype. There are strong puzzle and discovery elements to crafting a character this way.

We love the method, so much so, that some within our play group might never use another means of character generation. Yet, in practice we noticed a few glaring flaws. First is that by rolling to generate the grid, there can be wild swings in the number set, making the choices either academic or potentially impossible. If you generate nine numbers, none of which end up being less than 12, you’ll probably create a vastly overpowered character (and that’s before you consider racial/class bonuses). Of course, the reverse is also true and you could end up with a vastly underpowered character.

Another issue is that because of how the ability scores are grouped (STR, DEX, CON on one side, WIS, INT, CHA on the other), the grid essentially splits characters into physical and mental types and is biased toward classes that embrace one of those types. So, fighters and wizards are easy to make, but classes that relies on strong scores in both categories – like a cleric or monk – are harder to create.

So, after more calculations than were probably necessary, and lots of tweaking, we present the Random Grid Method.

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Crafting a Compelling D&D Delve

I can’t think of many better ways to ring in the New Year than DMing a dungeon delve. Especially when Jesse is one of the players that I can terrorize entertain and the party decided to venture to Athas and the frankly underutilized world of Dark Sun. (Editor’s Note: LEGOs make FANTASTIC minis for use in live games.)

I crafted my delve by adapting a full campaign that I had been developing, but never had the chance to execute. In doing so it led me to consider some of the essential principles of creating an engaging and fun delve that fits into a set play time. In this case, we were going to be delving for about 4 to 5 hours.

Some of the elements of a traditional campaign just don’t fit into a delve. Have you ever had a poor delve experience? If I had to guess, the reasons may have included poor time management and the game feeling less like D&D and more like miniatures combat.So, here are some tips for successfully crafting an engaging and fun dungeon delve.

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Legends & Lore: Magic Systems in D&D Next

How does Elminster cast his spells? Any way he f*ing wants!

How does Elminster cast his spells? Any way he f*ing wants!

Mike Mearls has written a new Legends & Lore column, and as always I’ve read it with great interest. Today he talks about two main topics: “Why haven’t you given us more classes to playtest?” and “How can I customize the way that my character casts spells?” The first question is answered simply: Doing it right is better than doing it quickly. And I agree.

In the meantime, we have six classes to tinker with (fighter, rogue, wizard, cleric, sorcerer, warlock). Those cover the extremes of the class system, so they’re the most important anyway. [Readers who study linguistics (Okay, just me) may be familiar with the similar concept of point vowels.] Paladins and bards and monks will be better classes for having the big tent pole classes designed thoughtfully in advance. But it’s the second question that’s the real meat of the article…

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The Magic of Items in D&D Next

Another Monday, another Legends & Lore. Go ahead and read this one. In it Mike Mearls addresses magic items in WotC’s upcoming 5th edition of D&D. I think we’ve heard about this stuff before, but this time we get more details. Here are the highlights:

  1. The game makes no assumption that you have magical enhancement bonuses on your weapons and armor.
  2. Enhancement bonuses will pretty much cap out at +3.
  3. Magic items do a lot of things, rather than one minor thing.
  4. That said, you can still find vanilla +1 chain mail if your DM is into that.
  5. Prebuilt items. Mearls talks about a sunder rock mace as an example. This item occupies a specific place in the world, and only comes in one form. There are no sunder rock swords, and sunder rock is not a generic weapon ability that can be applied to whatever base weapon floats your boat.

Now let’s dive into analyzing this.

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Nerdy Video: What your characters play when you aren’t playing

This is clearly what the Voynich manuscript is all about.

Thanks to Rachael for letting me know about this. She really needs to start posting again.

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The Rule of Three: Ability Scores in D&D Next

The latest Rule-of-Three from Wizards of the Coast sheds some light on what to look for in future playtest releases: the paladin will be a class that plays differently from the playtest dwarf cleric, DMs should stick to a few guidelines when handing out advantage and disadvantage, and then this for ability scores:

The current design has every race (except humans) gaining a bonus to one ability score, based on a subrace choice. Humans get a bonus to every ability score, plus an additional +1 bonus to a score of their choice. Of course, when we provide the character creation rules for the playtest, we’re going to be looking closely at the feedback we get on ability bonuses, so it’s all the more important that people get involved in the playtest and share their thoughts on the matter.

I’m going to wait and see what the racial benefits are when the character creation rules become available, but humans getting a bonus to every ability score, plus another +1 to a score of their choice seems out of place. So much so that it looks like it couldn’t possibly be correct. The one thing that might determine whether or not this makes sense is that nonhumans get “a bonus” of unspecified size. If it’s going to balance against humans getting bonuses to all six scores it’d better be a pretty hefty bonus.

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D&D Next Open Playtest Has Begun!

It’s finally here. Today’s the day! Am I talking about Christmas? No. But in a way, yes. This morning I received the much-anticipated email announcing that I could at last download the playtest packet for D&D Next. Being the giant unknown in the future of my hobby, I’m extremely anxious to see my first glimpse of the rules. What I know so far is that it will consist of a few PDFs: a set of four pregen characters, an adventure (Caves of Chaos), and rules for the DM including a small set of monsters.

I don’t expect much in the way of layout or presentation, but I can’t wait to see what this early version of the game rules look like. I’ve liked most of the big promises made by the design team, but it will be interesting to see if they really can pull them off. Maybe the first playtest documents won’t be nearly enough of a complete picture to satisfy, or worse, maybe they will be and I won’t like it. But I’m hopeful and I simply have to know.

To get the packet, sign up to be part of the playtest here. Then, you’ll get an email that takes you to a security page where you click to request a packet after signing a playtest agreement. This agreement basically says you won’t sell or distribute copies of the packet on your own, and that you won’t reverse-engineer it to make your own competing product. But playtesters are free to discuss the game, and are lifted from previous confidentiality agreements for the closed playtests earlier this year.

Now I wait on the email that actually contains my playtest packet. Expect a brief silence this morning while the D&D blogging world reads up, then a bunch of blog posts around the Internet on every blogger’s thoughts, then more posts to come as people try it out and post their experiences.

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One-Hour Review: Dungeon Survival Handbook

I don’t know if you were aware but 2012 is the year for Rise of the Underdark. This might be a surprise to one or two of you out there, despite the not-so-subtle, full-page advertisements at the end of any Dragon and Dungeon article over the past few months, but there you have it. To be honest, it’s not really making my calendar most of the time.

I’m not a big drow fan and setting most of my campaigns in Eberron means the drow don’t care about the Underdark that much anyways (and that the Underdark is rather different when we do visit).

The only product I’ve been really keen on looking at as the Underdark rises is the Dungeon Survival Handbook, which has been changing names left and right but continuously putting out cool new content. Now that I’ve gotten a hold of Into the Unknown, let’s take a look at what the first hour has to offer.

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D&D Next: Playtest Announcement and Team Shakeup

Mike Mearls dropped a surprise after-hours news release on us this evening on the D&D website when he announced that the D&D Next open playtest will begin on May 24th. Great news for D&D gamers everywhere, as we’ll finally get our hands on the game’s early draft and can see what the future holds.

It’s important to remember that this will be a quite early draft of the rules. I’m anticipating an extremely incomplete document, but if we can make a party of low-level PCs and do battle with goblins it’ll be fun to imagine what the later bits will entail. And being a playtest, it will be full of imbalance and busted rules. But the beauty of the open playtest will be that those holes are patched over by harnessing the force of nerdrage. Every D&D player who has ever gone god-hunting or sent a DM home in tears is well aware that there is nothing in the game that cannot be broken, so this phase of D&D Next will be a critical stress-test.

The joy of a playtest start date announcement is tempered, though, by the completely unexpected news that Monte Cook is leaving the design team. Is he quitting to get a headstart on writing freelance adventure modules, to have a full adventure path ready to go the day that D&D Next debuts? Sadly, that’s unlikely. We are given no specific details as to whether this is an irreconcilable creative dispute or something personal and unrelated to D&D Next. Mearls addresses the issue in a brisk but amicable fashion, then quickly moves on to the playtest news.

I hope we see more of Monte Cook, as he has been the genius behind some of my favorite D&D products, but in the meantime we can look forward to May 24th.

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Making a Hunger Games Tabletop Part 2: Mechanically Speaking

With all the buzz around the upcoming Hunger Games movie, it seems like a good time to see how surprisingly easy it is to make a roleplaying experience based on the popular novel. In the first part, we looked at three distinct elements of the Hunger Games: dystopia, survival, and death matches and talked about how you could integrate those features into your own game.

In Part 2, we’re going to discuss specific mechanics that could be adapted from different tabletop gaming systems to help round out the experience. These are not the be all and end all for mechanics, but rather starting points for adaptation or as inspiration for you to create your own.

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