My “Masterplan” for 4th Edition D&D (Get It?) @andy_aiken @Luddite_Vic @flashedarling #4e #DnD #RPG #TTRPG

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I recently discovered Masterplan by Andy Aiken, which is campaign planning, management, and execution software for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons (“4e”). You can download it here. Just click on setup.msi and follow the prompts. If you’re not a 4e player, he’s created a similar online only tool for 5th Edition, Dojo, here. But enough about that. This post is about 4e. 🙂

This tool is fantastic, but it’s 4e-based, so adapting it to my 1st Edition game would be too time consuming without much benefit over what I’m doing now. Because I’ll be a player in my upcoming 4e campaign for the foreseeable future, my first step was to create libraries for my my synDCon Dungeon Delves (referred to as “synDClash” for the convention), my divine stat blocks (with corrections) for the Egyptian and Central American pantheons (which occasionally generate interest on my blog), and some other stat blocks I thought were pretty good.

I’ve finished every pre-existing element I planned to input into Masterplan except Monster Manual 3. That’s going to take a while. Because of WordPress restrictions, I can’t upload the library unless I change its extension to an allowed extension. So, for example, I’ve changed Central American Deities.library to Central American Deities.pdf. Likewise, Giant Problems.masterplan was renamed Giant Problems.pdf. You can download everything I’ve done to date using the links below, but you’ll need to change the extension back to .library or .masterplan. Libraries must be placed in your Masterplan/Libraries directory on your hard drive, but projects can go anywhere that’s convenient for you. They aren’t loaded automatically when the software boots up, so the system doesn’t need them to be in a particular place. Adobe Acrobat/Reader can’t read these files, so you won’t be able to view the material until you change that extension and load them into Masterplan. I’ll add more libraries as I create them, so expect hyperlinks to be added to this list. Well, that’s my master plan anyway.

(Now do you get it?)

Libraries (must change extension to .library)

[REMOVED]
Go to my 4th Edition Resources Page for the latest files.

Project Files (must change extension to .masterplan)

[REMOVED]
Go to my 4th Edition Resources Page for the latest files.

synDClash Pre-generated Characters (created by @flashedarling)

[REMOVED]
Go to my 4th Edition Resources Page for the latest files.

Player View

I want to point out a great feature that mimics what I’m doing in my 1st Edition Dungeons & Dragons game with Roll20. You can run your maps and minis online. If your computer has two monitors, you can hide one from the players, but a “player’s view” appears on the other monitor. This obviates the need for a battle map on your table. This isn’t exactly Earth-shattering to a 2022 audience, but this was implemented over a decade before the COVID pandemic accelerated the need for tools of this nature. As such, this doesn’t facilitate remote play over the internet, but as someone who runs my games in person but places maps on a computer screen, this works really well. It’s better than using Roll20 because it’s all self-contained. I can do this on a single computer within a single software application. With Roll20, I have to bring up a second browser, switch to player view, then always bounce back and forth between the two to make sure what’s on my screen matches what’s on the players’ screen. This isn’t a huge burden, but it’s technically a little more difficult. Masterplan makes it trivial. Of course, you may prefer the battle map to either solution for a game like 4e. Players may want to move their own minis around the board, but from the DM’s perspective, moving multiple minis is a lot easier on the screen than on a battle map.

Bug/Defect Report and Wishlist

I’m just getting started with Masterplan, but with what little I’ve done, I’ve already encountered some consistent defects. First off, some of the issues aren’t defects. The system doesn’t properly calculate suggested attack expressions because those depend on how many targets a power targets, but you often enter things like “one or two creatures in the burst” manually, so there’s no way for the system to calculate the proper attack bonus. For the record, an attack against multiple targets’ ACs suffers a -2 penalty in relation to an attack against one creature’s AC (-1 if the monster is a controller). So, you just have to watch your attack expressions.

That said, initiative isn’t even close to correct. According to page 184 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide (“DMG“), a soldier has an initiative bonus equal to its Dex bonus + 1/2 its level (rounded down) +2 because it’s a soldier. For Quetzacloatl, that’s 8 (27 Dex) + 17 (level 34) + 2 = 27, but Masterplan suggests 21. In some cases, Masterplan is off by as many as 9, but I haven’t yet figured out if there’s a pattern.

Defenses are also off. A soldier’s Fortitude should be 12 + level, which in the case of Quetzacoatl should be 12 + 34 = 46. This is exactly what Masterplan recommends. However, Masterplan doesn’t account for how ability scores change the default calculations. Specifically, each defense relies on the higher of two paired ability scores, which are Str and Con for Fortitude. The average ability score for a monster should be 13 + 1/2 level (rounding down), which is 30 at level 34. In the case of Quetzalcoatl, his Str is 36, and his Con is 30. So, take the higher of the two (Str 36), and compare that to the average (30). Accordingly, Quetzalcoatl has a Str 6 higher than average, so you should add half that (3) to his Fortitude, giving him a Fortitude of 46 + 3 = 49. As I said, Masterplan recommends 46, not 49.

I get that small differences in defenses may not matter too much, especially considering that one’s choice of ability scores is often based on flavor considerations or downright arbitrary. However, as the DMG suggests, sometimes you need to give monsters those bumps for game balance. Moreover, the pairing of ability scores facilitates making, for example, a low-intellect character whose Reflex defense can still be competitive due to a solid Dexterity score. Besides, for whatever reason, I’ve included the bumps, so I wish Masterplan factored in that aspect of the games’ rules.

Some of the math is solid. Hit points are good. Skill bonuses are good. Masterplan doesn’t provide damage expressions, so there’s nothing to check there. Also, I’ve created an Excel spreadsheet that performs all the correct calculations and helps me catch the errors, so where there are systemic issues, they’re easily corrected. If you find anything wrong with my calculations, please let me know, but I think I have it right for monsters. Just to make sure, I created and started populating the missing Monster Manual 3 library, started entering creatures, and found my Excel spreadsheet to match the WotC entries perfectly in most cases (exception: Silverback Ape), while the Masterplan recommendations still suffered from the same math errors. NPCs are treated a little differently than monsters (see DMG, page 186), so those aren’t relevant here.

Masterplan gives you the capability to copy an existing monster and paste it. That sounds like it makes things easier, but I find myself ignoring that feature. If the pasted stat block is of a different level or role (i.e., artillery, brute, etc.), when you adjust either, Masterplan will add miscellaneous bonuses to trained skill bonuses to keep them from changing. You’ll have to go through each one and delete the bonus. Moreover, you’ll inevitably have to change most of the attack expressions anyway, so why not do that from scratch? Still, there are some exceptions where it’s easier to make a copy, so YMMV.

To make a change to a part of stat block (e.g., a power), you open a dialog box, make your changes, then hit OK to save it. It returns you to the main stat block but jumps to the top. I’d rather the position of the view not change so that it returns me to where I need to be to continue making changes.

I’ve learned (far too late) that if you’re creating a monster, and you leave the “range” entry blank for a power, the next time you open the software and bring up the monster, whatever you entered in “power details” will be moved to range. To avoid this issue, I’ve started to enter “self,” “melee 1 (see below),” or something similar. You may find yourself having to modify my stat blocks accordingly. This isn’t a fatal flaw. It’s just a bit annoying to see “Range:” before the power details because they’ve been moved into the wrong field.

I’m not permitted to add a trap/hazard to an encounter map even if the trap/hazard has a stat block and is added to the encounter. I’d like to be able to add the trap, but then make it invisible on the “player view” screen.

Notice that the stat block for the sinkhole doesn’t appear in the list to the right of the map. Therefore, it can’t be added.

In the aura dialog box, the tab order for the keywords field is off.

But seriously, this software is amazing. These are nitpicks, and as long as we all help each other identify these problems, we can work with them even if the software is never patched.

Many stat blocks crash the system!!! I did a significant amount of testing, and here’s a strange error I discovered. If your monster (or one that comes with the system) has the word, “hobgoblin” in its name, and if the NPC isn’t of a certain level, the software crashes whether you’re creating the stat block or just trying to view it. A hobgoblin of 5th or 6th level seems to work, and bugbears and goblins aren’t affected. I initially got around the problem by calling my Hobgoblin Warcaster a “Hobo Warcaster” instead. The presence of “hobgoblin” within the powers doesn’t create the problem. I hope Andy has the time and desire to fix this, but I think he moved past this project a long time ago.

Also of note: If the system crashes, you lose all your work since you last opened the program. So, if you’ve made significant changes, exit the library, then exit the software so that it will properly save. You wouldn’t think this was necessary considering that the libraries are separate data files, but it is. Nothing is saved until you exit the program. I’ve lost a good bit of work after unwittingly attempting to open a corrupt stat block entry.

Below is the list of monsters that are confirmed to crash the system. You should expect this list to grow as I continued to plow through the program. I’m replacing them with renamed creatures I built from scratch. “Hobgoblin” is now “Hob Goblin,” “Mezzodemon” is now “Mezzo Demon,” “Nycademon” is now “Nyca Demon,” and “Wereboar” is now “Were Boar.” That seems to solve the problem no matter what else is in the name of the creature.

  • Dungeon Master’s Guide 2: Hobgoblin Legionnaire of Avernus (page 113); Mezzodemon (page 214).
  • Monster Manual: Hobgoblin Grunt (page 138); Hobgoblin Soldier (page 139); Hobgoblins Archer (page 139); Hobgoblin Warcaster (page 140); Hobgoblin Commander (page 140).
  • Dungeon Magazine: Advanced Hobgoblin Warcaster (issue #155); Nycademon Warmaster (issue #174).
  • Monster Manual 2: Firbolg Hounder (page 108), Firbolg Bloodbear (page 109), Wereboar (page 158)
  • Draconomicon — Metallic Dragons: Admaaz Draconian (page 189), Kobaz Draconian (page 192)

I also made changes to the Monster Manual 2 library. I added all the stat blocks that were missing (there were about a dozen IIRC), replaced the malfunctioning one listed above, and categorized all of them. What that last one means is that, for example, Blizzard dragons fall in the section labeled, “Dragon.” There’s a field for that in the database labeled “Category,” but it’s not an indicator of the type of creature. Keywords handle that. Category refers to the section in which the monster is found. Blizzard dragons are in the Dragon section, so Dragon should be its category. An elder brain is not a mind flayer, but it’s written up in the mind flayer section because it’s part of their culture. Thoon hulks are mind flayers, so they have the mind flayer keyword, but they also need to have the mind flayer category. If category is empty, the creature is placed in “Miscellaneous Creatures.” Most of the monsters were missing that piece of data, so I went through each stat block and added the category to the stat block. In other words, the creatures are now better organized and easier to navigate. That process didn’t change the underlying data (other than replacing malfunctioning stat blocks of course).

Complete Rework of the Libraries

I’m just now adding this section almost a week after initial publication of this post. I’m annoyed by the crashing stat blocks, but the other things that bugs me are 1) the “Miscellaneous Creatures” mentioned above; and 2) the fact that some of this data entry was performed before WotC changed how they write the stat blocks. For example, the range entry (e.g., “Melee 1 (one creature)”) didn’t exist until Monster Manual 3. Sometimes, this resulted in strangely expressed stat blocks (e.g., the Solamith from Manual of the Planes, page 123). So, I’m going through all of the libraries and cleaning up the old data. I wouldn’t have expected Andy to do that and am glad he didn’t. I’m glad he spent his time polishing the functionality. Leave data entry to the community (i.e., me). I’ll provide all of the libraries when I’m finished with them. In the meantime, here’s an updated Monster Manual 2 library (also posted above) placing all of the creatures into their appropriate “section,” replacing the corrupted stat blocks, and adding the missing stat blocks. I haven’t yet updated the stat blocks to the new format yet. I won’t do that until I’m finished with Monster Manual 3, though Manual of the Planes is finished, so download that one now. I’ve also provided updates to Draconomicon Metallic Dragons (I replaced the crashing draconian stat blocks) and Underdark (I properly categorized a few stat blocks), and the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide (I replaced crashing stat blocks, corrected errors, added missing monsters, and updated the terminology to the later format). Again, they have *.pdf extensions, which must be changed to a *.library extensions and placed in the libraries folder.

More Downloads

If you want to complete your 4e downloads with the offline Character Builder, then use one of these three videos for instructions.

I provided three videos because at least one of them didn’t work, and one of them I never tried. I’ve forgotten which is which. However, whatever I installed doesn’t include later material, and it appears there’s a newer version of the CBLoader here. This one may include the missing material, but I have no idea how well it works. Caveat emptor. (It’s free.)

Play what you want.

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Online Petition to Complete and Release Cancelled 4th Edition D&D Books #DnD #4e #RPG #TTRPG @MarkMeredith

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Last week, I signed an online petition. There’s very little I could do that’s dumber than signing and online petition.

There’s no guarantee that each signature comes from a unique individual. I alone have a seemingly infinite number of email addresses through which I could have voted. In the case of political petitions, there’s no guarantee that the signors are from the relevant jurisdiction, but that’s no relevant here. The petition at issue here is requesting that Wizards of the Coast (“WotC”) complete and release four cancelled books from the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons (“4e“) era: Player’s Handbook Races: Humans, Gazetteer: The Nentir Vale, Player’s Option: Champions of the Heroic Tier, and Class Compendium: Heroes of Sword and Spell.

Don’t Hold Your Breath

We have no idea how many people actually want that, but that number has to be far too small to justify a release of books. Also of note, even if we know Fred Snerd signed the petition, how many of those books would he buy? These aren’t core sourcebooks; they’re supplements. Supplements never sell as well as sourcebooks because only the core sourcebooks are necessary for the game. Supplements don’t necessarily appeal to everyone that plays. If Fred never plays humans, he’s not going to buy Player’s Handbook Races: Humans.

Besides, the timing couldn’t be worse. Earlier this month, WotC removed the last remaining 4e content they had from their site. I think the remaining material was their Dragon and Dungeon magazines archive. There’s simply no way they’re going to reverse course so quickly. You can still buy existing content via the DMs Guild, so the material is out there. Hell, I recently bought a ton of 1st Edition material, and I now having everything that was every lost, stolen, or destroyed. It’s a bit much to expect WotC to create new content for that edition. The legacy communities have to rely on each other to create and publish material for those editions. Of course, that’s made difficult by the fact that WotC legal have stifled such creativity with horrible mischaracterizations of intellectual property law, but do you really want me beating that dead horse again?

I love 4e and am currently in discussions to host a new campaign, but WotC has moved on, they have no reason to complete new material for it, and they have no reason to believe it would be worth their while financially speaking.

But it felt damn good signing that petition. I can’t wait to play again.

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Play What You Want: A Return to 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons @Luddite_Vic #4e #1e #DnD #RPG #TTRPG

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Recently, a friend and I started planning a 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons (“4e”) game, so my Facebook, Twitter, Mewe, and now Mastodon(!) posts have brought up 4e. It resulted in a loose commitment from an old friend to join the game, which is great, and it has me thumbing through my old material searching for the unfinished business I have with 4e.

I always wanted to roleplay a jannisary, which is a character theme (read: background) from the Player’s Option: Heroes of the Elemental Chaos. This is a character whose backstory includes time in service to a genie. In my case, I’d choose a marid as my former master — probably Ajhuu — who might justify me taking a slight twist on the Prince of Genies paragon path when the time comes. All I’m saying, Vic, is that I have a maird mini if you ever want my benefactor to make an appearance.

Yeah, I see his trident. He’s still very powerful.

Mixing a jannisary theme with a melee bard (valorous bard, maybe?) could be fun, and mechanically wouldn’t be too underpowered. I have a tendency to create underpowered characters because I’m far more interested in building an intriguing character than a powerhouse.

Did someone say, “bard”?

I’m also eager to use my synDCon Dungeon Delves for side quests or when everyone’s just looking to pick some fights.

I’m extremely eager to add this game to my schedule. This shouldn’t be a big deal, but I’ve always been a slave to living campaigns, either directly or indirectly. When I returned to the game after a 23 year absence (due in large part to the Satanic Panic), I found games through the Living Greyhawk campaign, and from that formed relationships with people who were living campaign enthusiasts. As a result, most games I played were in living campaigns, but even my home games were populated with people that, because of their devotion to living campaigns, always wanted to play the current edition of the game. As a result, playing a past edition, and certainly an out-of-print game, was almost never an option.

Flash forward to today, and I’m running my first 1st Edition Dungeons & Dragons game in 40 years and am on the cusp of returning to 4th Edition. I’m actually getting to play what I want because my circumstances have changed. Not bad for someone who not too long ago left the game (willingly this time). Could the FASA Star Trek RPG be in my future?

I’ve also started working with the Masterplan application for running campaigns in 4e. If you play, check it out. I’m doing a lot of work on cleaning up the data.

By the way, this post has inspired me to change the name of my blog to Play What You Want.

You never know.

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Old RPG Materials #DnD #ADnD #gaming #RPG #TTRPG #1e #3e #4e #FASA #StarTrek #GammaWorld #MarvelRPG #DragonAgeRPG #StarWarsSaga @Luddite_Vic

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Here’s a meme that’s been going around.

Henry, Sr. shouldn’t have slapped Indy. He should have used a baseball bat.

As you know (if you’ve ever read my blog), I’m running 1st Edition Dungeons & Dragons for the first time in 40 years, and I’m in talks with Luddite Vic about organizing a 4th Edition game. Moreover, in the back of my mind, I’m contemplating a FASA Star Trek RPG game. That one may never happen because I’d absolutely have to run that online to find any players, but it’s certainly something I’d like to do in theory.

The point is that all of that material has been sitting on my shelf for years (if not decades) collecting dust, but it’s still as good as it ever was. The potential is always there, and you never know how your circumstances will change. Hell, I even have 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons material on my shelves, and I can’t stand that edition. I’ve played it a couple of times in the past ten years just so I could hang out with some friends, and I’ve written not one, not two, but three posts on unfinished business I have with the edition, so even that has potential value (assuming the DM gets rid of confirmation of critical hits). Two editions of the Gamma World RPG, Star Wars Saga Edition RPG, Dragon Age RPG, Margaret Weiss’s Marvel Superheroes RPG, several board games (Demons!), and some games still in shrink wrap all litter my “man cave,” but I wouldn’t consider my collection huge. If yours is huge, that in my opinion you’re doing things better than I am. You never know what you might need to pull out for company. Hell, I’m even ready to host a night of blackjack or poker.

Where’s a roided-out Barry Bonds when you need him?

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One Year!!! #blog #StarTrek #MCU #DnD #RPG #TTRPG #ADnD

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With this post, I’ve posted every day for an entire year. That’s right. The last day that I didn’t post was May 1, 2021. Before that, I was last discussing Key Lime Kit Kat bars.

No wonder I stopped.

This blows away my current record streak.

Nice.

But wait a second. Is this even real? Can the post announcing that I’ve posted every day for a year be the anniversary post itself?

I say yes, and if you disagree, just keep in mind that I posted a bonus post on April 9, April 13, April 19, and April 25, so there have already been over 365 posts in this time without this one. There may have even been a couple more bonus posts, but I’m too lazy to look.

But okay. Let’s give this post some substance.

  1. Star Trek: The Original Series is my favorite Star Trek series, Star Trek: Enterprise is the most underrated Star Trek series, but Anson Mount has overtaken William Shatner as my favorite starship captain.
  2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is my favorite MCU film.
  3. 4th Edition D&D is my favorite edition of D&D.

On another note, today is the first day of May. May is hockey playoffs, college lacrosse playoffs, preparations for the summer, and — most importantly — the month when all the cool people are born. Plus, I was born in May.

So, in 11 days, the streak will die. I want to focus on other things, and consistency hasn’t led to a large number of non-spam followers. Rarely does anyone retweet the tweets linking to these posts (likes merely gauge your footprint, not increase it), and almost all comments occur on other social media platforms, so my streak hasn’t done anything to improve my online footprint (except for a brief moment). Besides, many of my recent posts have been rather lame. If I didn’t have something to say, I’d write anyway, and it shows. I have a few more posts scheduled for this week, some others in my head that will come soon, and a handful scheduled to publish as far out as December. However, going forward, if I don’t have something to say, I won’t say anything. I’ll never feel rushed, and anything goofy will have to be funny enough to be worth sharing.

So, this post counts.

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The Pufferfish Lich #science #biology #gaming #DnD #ADnD #RPG #TTRPG #pufferfish

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Sundays now are lazy days for me. I either post something silly or other people’s work. Usually both. Today, it’s (loosely) using science to imagine a D&D creature. I did that with the Ixitxachitl and now do it with the pufferfish. Behold the pufferfish lich!

I don’t care what spells it casts. I’m not afraid.

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Help!

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Wandering Monsters #ADnD #DnD #RPG #1e #3e #4e #5e

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They have more claim to being here than your PCs do.

I left D&D in 1982 due to the Satanic Panic and didn’t return until 2005, so my recollection of 1st Edition D&D (“1e”) isn’t precise. When I returned during the days of 3rd Edition D&D (“3e”), rolling for wandering monsters wasn’t a common mechanic (though I occasionally saw it in published mods). Without appreciating why it was used in 1e, I simply thought that the use of wandering monsters was stupid. If you have a cool monster on hand, use it. Otherwise, it’s a waste of a perfectly good encounter. On the other hand, if your wandering monster is the same creature that the PCs are facing from time to time in the planned encounters, then they add nothing to the game, so don’t waste time on them. That could make the game tedious. Now that I’ve reacquainted myself with 1e, I realize their point: They’re designed to discourage dawdling.

Hurry Up!

Searching for secret doors, examining magic items, counting your loot, and sleeping are time-consuming activities. DMs are expected to keep track of time so that, when a given interval of time has passed, they know to roll for wandering monsters. These random encounters often didn’t result in any treasure and drained valuable resources from the party, so they weren’t something that the PCs wanted. However, they didn’t make the game tedious because 1e combats were quick. So, the concern I mentioned above that they may not add anything to the game isn’t a serious one. Their primary effect was to drain resources, which, as I’ll discuss in the next section, serves a couple of connected purposes.

This isn’t something that goes over well with modern gamers. Modern gamers (and legacy gamers that have moved on) tend to explore every single room and grab every single piece of treasure they can. Anything less than complete is seen as a failure. I’ll give you a specific example. When discussing playing experiences with Lost Mines of Phandelver, the adventure from the Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set for 5th Edition D&D (“5e”), players that failed to obtain the Staff of Defense would always be frustrated when others discussed it. Several of them that I knew would play the mod again with a character specifically designed to make use of that staff. Players would also take note in that adventure (and others) of forks in the road (so to speak), always promising to double back so that they covered the entire complex. Because of this mentality (I’ve been guilty of it myself), the D&D Adventurers League living campaign changed its rules such that every player could take a magic item found in the game even if there was only one. Everyone wants everything, so that’s what’s given despite how little sense it makes.

But Why Shouldn’t You Dawdle?

If this is what makes you happy, that’s fine, but my problem with this approach to the game is that it discourages immersion in the game world and can’t possibly work unless the risk of character death drops so low as to be negligible. As to the first point (which is a tangent from my main thesis), the logic of the game world becomes inconsistent. I can suspend my disbelief and accept a dragon that breathes a cone of cold, but I can’t accept the notion of a Rod of Cancellation spontaneously generating multiple copies of itself because multiple characters want it. The latter just doesn’t make sense, and no attempt is made to make sense of it. There’s no drain of resources to make it happen. There’s no need to visit the local archmage to make copies of it. It just happens.

As to the second point (now we’re back on track), a game where I know the DM will never kill me bores me. A game where I’ll get killed if I don’t think things through logically is far more fun. Sure enough, I’ve rarely seen character death in 5e. In fact, I saw far more character death in 4th Edition D&D (“4e“), and 1st-level 4e characters are intentionally durable. The more gamers become unwilling to suffer even the smallest of setbacks, the less we see them, which is why I stopped playing. There’s none of that in 1e. Can your characters survive? Sure, especially if you send the henchmen and hirelings in first. As I’ve been told, PCs can survive an entire campaign even despite the save or die mechanic (which I still don’t like). However, if you truly immerse yourself in the game, you’ll see that some actions are downright stupid and should get your characters killed. Game mechanics like wandering monsters discourage such stupidity, and as a consequence reward true immersion in the game world.

Your mission is to save the noble, not to grab an extra 5 copper pieces. Once you’ve got the noble, get the hell out of there. If this were a scenario in the real world, and you went for the coppers, your friends at your funeral would be discussing whether to submit your story to the Darwin Awards committee.

Be smart. Get in; get out.

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My Permanent Maps @schley #ADnD #DnD #RPG #1e #4e #5e

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My favorite 1st Edition D&D (“1e”) adventure is C2: The Ghost Tower of Inverness. Also up there in the ranks is C1: The Hidden Shrine of Tomoachan. I’ve converted both mods** to 4th Edition D&D (“4e”) and 5th Edition D&D (“5e”). I’m always eager to run either one, and because I’ve done so multiple times, I made (and saved) maps for them.

** The last time I used the word, “mod,” for what others call “adventure” or “module,” I received an odd amount of pushback. One person even accused me of lying that it’s what I called them growing up, as if there could possibly be a motivation for something like that. I grew up in Montgomery County, MD, and every single person I gamed with called it mod. Some still do. We also occasionally used the terms adventure and module, but the point is that “mod” was the standard term. Your regional dialect, or even your specific gaming group, may have a different experience. I don’t care. I shouldn’t have had to write this aside, but if I didn’t, I might receive the same pushback over something that shouldn’t matter at all.

Ghost Tower

Dungeon Tiles were released during the 4e era, and I had tons of them. So much, in fact, that I had enough to spare. So, when I created the Dungeon Delves for synDCon 2011, I decided to take some of those Dungeon Tiles and permanently affix them to foam core. I’ve since used these for 5e as well. In other words, I’ve made good use of them. While unpacking recently, I discovered them. SPOILER ALERT! These cover only the Ghost Tower itself and a few iconic encounters along the four paths that lead you to it. Here are a couple of images of them.

The Earth Level

The Fire Level with a Friend

For the other encounters, I can always use these. I bought a set.

Hidden Shrine

With Hidden Shrine, I took a different approach, though not until 5e. I bought the hi-res images of the maps directly from their creator, Mike Schley. (You can see his work at https://mikeschley.com/.) I printed almost every room and hallway in the entire dungeon to cardstock (in color) so that I could use them as Dungeon Tiles. They’re exactly the correct size for minis. I also have several sound files containing phrases in Nahuatl that are either common (e.g., “Hello.”) or specifically used in the mod. They further helped set the mood. Here are some samples.

A Couple of Rooms

The problem with both of these mods is that they’re designed for competition. Each is designed for a set number of pre-generated PCs, 3 for C1 and 5 for C2 (though I created a 6th for C2), and the risk of death was unreasonably high — even by 1e standards — so that there would be one clear winner at the end of the convention. With both adventures, you can probably solve the “unreasonably high” problem (if you think that’s a problem) by having a normal party size.

In the foreseeable future, I plan to play only 1e, but I’ll make use of these maps nonetheless. “Theater of the mind” (i.e., gaming without maps) doesn’t bother me — it can be quite convenient at times — but I’m a huge fan of using maps. They help with the immersion that I often discuss, and they correct mistakes I make as DM in describing the surroundings. That doesn’t mean my 1e games won’t otherwise be theater of the mind. To me, that’s an inseparable part of the 1e experience. At least for now. 🙂

We won’t be breaking out the tape measures.

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An Answer to a Question: LUC and PSI @ZachBurrell10 #DnD #RPG #FASA #StarTrek

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I’m waaaaay ahead on my blog writing, so this post, written on 2/18/2022, relates to a tweet from 2/11/2022, and is being published (assuming I don’t move my schedule around) on 3/3/2022.

The FASA Star Trek RPG (“STRPG“) is one of my two favorite RPG systems, so of course I had that one on the brain. STRPG was a d100, skill-based system, where players collected skill points based on their Star Fleet Academy (or other) training, and placed them into various skills. Their ability scores were also based on d100, so ability and skill checks were treated the same way.

The ability scores in STRPG had a one-to-one relationship with those of D&D, but STRPG added two extra skills: PSI (psionics) and LUC (luck). As you know, D&D has had different ways of dealing with psionics, none of which involved a separate ability score. In 1st Edition, a minimum Intelligence of X gave you a 1% chance of having psionic talents, opening up a new system of mechanics. I never played 2nd Edition, but from 3rd Edition forward, psionics became a class feature. If you took a psionic class, you had psionics. Otherwise, you didn’t (though some magic did psychic damage). Ergo, I didn’t respond with PSI. D&D couldn’t really use it.

LUC is a different story. There’s room for it in D&D. In a reasonably balanced system, LUC was a way of giving the PCs an advantage over the NPCs. There are other ways to do that (e.g., 3rd Edition action points, inherent mechanics), but a LUC score wasn’t a bad choice. If all roleplaying and dice rolls failed the PC, they could request one more shot at success with a LUC roll. If they rolled less than their LUC score, they succeeded despite those failures. Of course, it was up to the gamemaster to define what that success was, which could be partial rather than total. Considering how focused modern gamers are on player agency, I suspect that a LUC ability score should appeal to many of them.

BTW, if you’ve never read my blog before this post, I’ve probably left you in suspense.

For the record, my other favorite RPG system is 4th Edition D&D.

If I fail my LUC check, my love of 4th Edition could start a nuclear war.

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Follow Zachary @ZachBurrell10

Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to, nor endorsed, the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)

In case the tweet is ever deleted, here’s a screenshot of it.


Memory Failure #DnD #RPG #4e #5e #TTRPG

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Here’s a short thought inspired by the Metaverse.

Someone on Facebook asked, “As a DM, what rule do you most often forget?” My answer is easy for 5th Edition D&D: I never award inspiration. I’ve done it maybe two or three times, and only then because people asked me to do it. It’s a silly thing. Someone like me should constantly be thinking about rewarding character concept-driven role-play, which I believe is the primary purpose of the mechanic. In 4th Edition D&D, the analog to inspiration was the Action Point (“AP”), and I never forgot to award that because it was rewarded based solely on how many encounters you had. Every other encounter, you received an AP. Most players were on top of that and automatically gave themselves the AP.

6,140 Erasing Memory Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

In all editions of all games, my forgetfulness manifests itself primarily through running a PC. If my character sheet gets too complicated, I forget to use abilities, feats, spells, etc. My professional life is all about attention to detail. When I’m playing a game (or writing about one), I want to relax, focusing on acting out a distinctive character concept rather than my character’s mechanics. Ergo, I try to keep my character’s mechanics as simple as possible, venturing into complexity only when it serves the character concept.

That’s it. Just a thought.

What do you forget?

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Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to, nor endorsed, the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)