Let's roll some dice, watch some movies, or generally just geek out. New posts at 6:30 pm ET but only if I have something to say. Menu at the top. firstname.lastname@example.org on Mastodon and @gsllc on Twitter.
Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?) Shadowrun and Pathfinder are also trademarks, but I have no reason to believe their lawyers are jackasses.
In 4th Edition D&D, the sizes used for creatures were Tiny, Diminutive, Small, Medium, Large, Huge, Gargantuan, and Colossal. I know that wasn’t for everyone, but I liked that. A lot. I liked that level of distinction and didn’t find it confusing or hard to memorize. In fact, in the game system Vic and I are developing, we added “Vast,” which is obviously larger than Colossal. Each of these sizes has corresponding space they take on the battle map.
4 squares (2 x 2)
9 squares (3 x 3)
16 squares (4 x 4)
25 squares (5 x 5)
36 squares (6 x 6)
Medium Space (Full Table)
As I said, I liked this system a lot, but I’ve toyed with a new terminology that requires some extra abstraction. Also, to be mathematically consistent, the top row (Tiny), should be 1/9 square, but I’m probably the only person who cares about that. Besides, that’s about to be adjusted.
Note #1: I wrote a long post justifying my position with a lot of math. It referenced exponential progression and irrational numbers. I trashed all of that in favor of just giving you my conclusion.
Note: This post isn’t intending to solve a problem. It’s just introducing terminology that expresses what most people already do intuitively, but tweaks that a tiny bit.
This should be an easy exercise for you. Imagine an encounter consisting not of a bunch of medium sized creatures fighting each other but rather of platoons of troops in a mass combat, or perhaps jet fighters in a dogfight, or starships flying at incredible speeds. Despite covering very different ground within game, the dining room table and battle map are the same size. Ergo, a 1-inch square adjusts its meaning depending on the size of the combatants and/or the distances they cover.
The terminology I use to reflect this adjustment is “n-space.” We generally run our games in Medium-space (because Small/Medium-space is too wordy), which means “one square represents the area a Medium creature needs to operate,” and other size categories are represented relative to that. For an encounter involving a larger base unit, we use, for example, Large space, which looks like this.
1/64 square = 1/26 squares
1/16 square = 1/24 squares
1/4 square = 1/22 squares
1 square = 12 squares = 1/12 squares
4 squares = 22 squares (2 x 2)
1 creature/4 squares
16 squares = 24 squares (4 x 4)
1 creature/16 squares
Large Space (Full Table)
You’ll notice a few things. First, the 1 creature/square entry now applies to Large creatures, which is the definition of “Large space.” Second, if you reverse engineer the math, you’ll see that 16 Tiny creatures (not 8 or 9) would occupy 1 square in Medium space, because they’re now (properly in my opinion) treated as taking half the space of a Diminutive creature. Finally, you’ll see that Huge and Gargantuan objects are lumped into the same category, as are Colossal and Vast objects. Again, unless you want me to show you some exponential progressions and irrational square roots, you’ll have to take my word for it, but rest assured there are still Huge creatures, so you don’t have to throw out your Huge minis and that Colossal red dragon you paid hundreds of dollars for on eBay. Their size remains relevant in Medium space.
If we didn’t pair Huge creatures with Gargantuan ones, we’d have to say, “12 Huge creatures fit in every 7 squares in Gargantuan space,” or “1.7 Huge creatures fit in 1 square in Gargantuan space.” No one wants that.
Well, if my goal is to simplify things, I haven’t yet met it. That table is still a lot to take. Fortunately, in Large or larger spaces, we don’t need to worry about the low-end cases, and in Large space, we probably don’t have to worry about the high end case either. This is because no one cares how many pixies fit on a starship (“A bunch; that’s how many!”), and a trebuchet isn’t going to fit in a pixie’s treehouse. We also don’t need the column explaining the math. So, here are the additional, easily-digestible tables you’ll need:
1 creature/4 squares
1 creature/16 squares
1 creature/4 squares
1 creature/4 squares
1 creature/4 squares
They’re nearly identical tables with three entries each, but with shifted labels. Your starship minis can be the same size as your human minis. You just need a few minis representing mobs or swarms of things (which you all have in your collection), and you’re good to go. Of course, this is what we’re all doing anyway. With just the slight tweak of how Tiny creatures are represented, and grouping larger creature sizes together in spaces larger than Medium space, I’m just introducing a terminology to define it. If this were explained in an RPG sourcebook, you could provide even less justification than I’ve done here. Most people want only the rules; they don’t need the math to justify it.
One last note: I could imagine adding Enormous space and Immense space as categories to a system like Star Trek or Star Wars because Vast space would be cosmic in size. I’m not sure that’s necessary, but if such a choice were made, it could work. Those two terms have the benefit of using a different first initial, allowing each size category to be expressed as a single letter without confusion. For that reason, Cosmic space wouldn’t work. It would create an ambiguity when referenced with Colossal space.
What do you think? Is treating a 3 x 3 creature differently from a 4 x 4 creature really that important when sieging a castle?
Last week, I discussed spell components. The conversations I had across Facebook and MeWe led me to a follow up post, and then down a rabbit hole to today’s topic.
4th Edition D&D (“4e“) didn’t track spell components for powers, and rituals had a set cost that didn’t even list the material components. Material spell components were abstracted, so a ritual caster could remove a specified number of gold pieces from the character sheet and assume the material components were available. Based on my linked posts, you’d think I’d have a problem with this, but I didn’t. In 4e, there were no go-to spells or rituals. Everything was balanced so that players chose their suites of powers based on the type of characters they wanted to play. Tracking material spell components (or casting times as in 1st Edition D&D) was unnecessary; characters were already greatly diverse. That kind of variety made for far more interesting combats, even if most of table were playing the same classes. In 4e, there was no place for the question, “What classes are you guys playing?” It didn’t matter. You could play what you wanted without affecting the game because everyone was different even if they were the same. As someone who played a ton of 4e, I never understood the claim that all classes played the same. Even within classes, they played differently.
Rituals weren’t used very often in my experience, but I think that was the result of adventure writing rather than an inadequacy of the ritual system. In fact, I wrote a Dungeon Crawl system for 4e, and on the now-defunct loremaster.org added a post on how to convert rituals to spells (or “near-spells”). Here’s a PDF that was the basis of that post. It’s not the final draft, so it may have some rough edges.
Nothing Is Certain Except Death and Taxes
As good as that was, 4e screwed up in a different but analogous way. When it came to feats, almost every class had go-to feats. In fact, there were feats that were go-to for most classes. This was known as a “feat tax.” Durable, Implement Expertise, Improved Initiative, Toughness, Weapon Expertise, and Weapon Focus immediately come to mind. This wasn’t nearly as large a sin of game design — other players generally don’t notice which feats a player has chosen — but for what it’s worth, 5e does a much better job with feats. I have trouble selecting 5e feats because a large number of them are valuable no matter what class I’m playing, so I know I’m going to make different choices than other players.
As I said in the prior posts, game designers need to pay better attention to whether their systems lead a majority of players to make the same choices. 4e proved that you can design a game of diverse characters in such a way that it doesn’t devolve into an exercise in accounting, and simultaneously broke that rule.
A couple of days ago, I posted about some things I found while continuing to unpack. One thing I found deserves its own post: the program for our first synDCon gaming convention (2010). When we decided we were going to put on a convention, we had a meeting of at least 20 people at the Cracker Barrel in Chantilly, Virginia. This took place after one of our Living Forgotten Realms game days at the now defunct Game Parlor. Only seven people decided to come on board as owners, with two quickly moving to Arizona before we could even get started, and then two others flaking out. It was basically Vic, Cassandra, and I doing everything.
The cover art and Gamers’ Syndicate logo were both designed and illustrated by Erik_Nowak, and he also designed this program.
I remember a meeting when there were just five of us. We had to decide who would be the number one person: the Convention Coordinator. I didn’t volunteer because I didn’t want to be too pushy, but no one else wanted to do it. This was typically unnecessary nerd angst on all our parts, because in the end it didn’t matter. Everyone had to work hard (until they flaked out), and no one was really the boss among us.
I’m proud of two things. First, look at that first page, and continue to examine the ones that follow. Even when we had seven planned owners, everyone was almost exclusively a 4th Edition D&D player. Nevertheless, our relatively small convention had a ton of variety in what was run. There were card games, board games, RPGs, and miniature war games. Within the RPGs, we had a ton of variety as well, and there were games run specifically for beginners. We also had a “synDCon special,” which was written by Erik and D. Hunter Phillips.
The second thing of which I’m proud was my idea (<patting myself on the back>). We had staggered slots. Instead of the typical 8am-12pm, 1pm-5pm, 7pm-11pm schedule for RPG games, we added in slots at 10am-2pm and 3pm-7pm as well. Again, for a small con, the fact that this worked out so well was remarkable. Many people took advantage of the opportunity to sleep in, try our Dungeon Delves for a couple of hours, sit in on a seminar or author book reading, or try new systems at the beginners’ tables. Another great idea of mine was to allow only 5 seats per game in presale despite tables seating 6 players. This made it far easier to sit players that didn’t preregister or wanted to change tables. No one had a problem with it, but a lot of people appreciated the flexibility.
This was a nice hotel, and it was conveniently located near a Metro stop (our public rail transportation system). And being who I am, I especially wanted a site in Maryland so that we could register for a federal trademark if it ever came to that. 🙂
Okay, yes, we definitely emphasized Living Forgotten Realms, but I’m still happy with how much Heroes and Rokugan and Pathfinder Society we had (these are living campaigns for the RPGs Legend of the Five Rings and Pathfinder respectively).
Note well, though, that there was more going on than the program states. We had a board game room, and open play for both card games and miniature war games. Saturday night, my cousin and I, a.k.a., Wet Paint, performed for a crowd of beer-drinking gamers some hits of the 80s and 90s. That’s when we played together, so our song set came from those decades.
Seriously, for a small, first-time convention, look at how much variety we had. I loved it, and I never saw it with conventions this small. We also had seminars featuring authors and game designers. Being in the DC area, we actually knew a lot of those people, so it was relatively easy to get them here. This, in turn, allowed us to do this . . . .
We received a small amount of support from most of these companies, and others were actually present. Our prize for the first person to buy a convention badge was a ticket to GenCon. GenCon gave those away to conventions all the time; no inside track was necessary. However, we also had, for example, a member of Green Ronin participate in a seminar and run the (then-new) Dragon Age RPG, and Rob Hobart (AEG), the head of Heroes of Rokugan, ran a seminar and (I think) a few games.
We chose a great venue, and synDCon 2010 was a four-day convention. Yep, four days. Just like the big guys. Monday was a holiday, and adding that day to the schedule didn’t increase our costs noticeably. Of course, by cost I mean financial cost. My feet were sore (which is why I was sitting for the Wet Paint performance), and I ran, at best, on four hours of sleep a night, with only two on performance night. I’d say it was a success considering that we got hit with a snowstorm right before the convention, scaring off a lot of people.
The following year, we moved synDCon 2011 to mid-April to make sure we’d have better weather, but we had late snow that year. It wasn’t as bad as the previous year, but it still affected attendance. Infuriating. However, synDCon 2011 was an official convention within the circuit of competitive Munchkin published by Steve Jackson Games. In fact, we may have done that for synDCon 2010. I really don’t remember at this point. I just know we had a great time both years. Unfortunately, it’s too hard a thing to run with, for all practical purposes, two people running the entire show and Mother Nature chasing us around with snowstorms. This isn’t to say that there weren’t a lot of other people that did a lot of work. We had a lot of help, with a few people being organizers for Living Forgotten Realms, Pathfinder Society, and Heroes of Rokugan, and we still had decent numbers. However, in the end it falls on the organizers, and there were only two of us. Both Vic and I would rather not have a convention than do one half-assed, so we didn’t have a third one.
Would I like to bring it back? Yes. Do we have the financial means to do so? Probably. Do I see enough people getting on board to make the workload manageable? No. There are very few people I could trust to see it through, and I’m not getting any younger.
Here’s something interesting I never knew. The 3rd Edition Deities & Demigodshad a printing that included an appendix for adjustments to 3.5 Edition. As you may recall from my past writings, Deities & Demigods is one of the books I later regretted selling off, but I got lucky in that it was gifted to me by James. After reading the linked article, I thought, “Hey, maybe I actually have the 3.5 update printing.
Yep, I do.
In the ultra-rare instance that I’d ever play 3.5e again, I wouldn’t likely make use of it, so … how disappointing, eh?
Going forward, Sundays are lazy for me. I either post something silly or other people’s work. Usually both. Today, it’s a bit less lazy of a post, but it references other people’s work, so it qualifies.
I put together another bookshelf, and in doing so started unpacking some more books. I found some gems in there. I used to run a gaming club in the Washington, DC area, and as a result, I was given a lot of WotC material for our game days, much of which was never taken out of its shrink wrap. I also have tons of duplicates. This is what I’ve discovered.
First up is material from some great writers, only one of which hates me. (Don’t hold it against him; I’m a tough pill to swallow.) Art credit to Ralph Horsley and Eric Belisle.
The latter has some supplemental material.
Trigger warning: Is anyone else’s OCD going off right now? Art credit to Craig Spearing.
These were something of a mistake for WotC, as I discussed with a WotC employee at GenCon who shall remain nameless. They were far too brutal for D&D Encounters, which was a program designed to introduce new players to the game. Some of us like brutal adventures and campaigns. In this century, we are clearly the minority. Art credit to William O’Connor.
Oddly enough, I never played or ran either one of these, yet the shrink wrap has been removed from them. I’m guessing the DMs gave them back to me, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense. I allowed them to keep them because I had so many. Art credit to Eric Belisle and Alexey Aparin.