Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Crit or Get out of the Chair

Now that I've made my interest in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons known, I'm considering running a game. This may seem like a no-brainer, but honestly I have some anxiety around running D&D. To be completely honest, I've had very little luck with the game since my teen years.

In the late '90s, I ran second edition just a couple times—a "default D&D" game and a Ravenloft game. Neither moved into campaign play, and the Ravenloft game was a complete failure. The only saving grace of those sessions was that my wife had fun and I introduced my sister-in-law to gaming too.

When third edition came out, I liked what I read and attempted to run The Sunless Citadel. I never finished the module, handing over the DMing reigns to another player. I did get to play a full campaign in third edition, though, at least to 12th level. And I did run some X-Crawl which, while not purely D&D, went well and gave me a chance to flex my dungeon design muscles.

When fourth edition hit the shelves, I was really excited about the possibilities in the system. I attempted to run Keep on the Shadowfell, and for various it just didn't go well. Before long, I realized that fourth edition just didn't feel like D&D to me, and it stood as the last time I got involved with the game.

So here we are with the fifth edition of the best-known roleplaying game in the world, and frankly, I have no idea how to run it.

I certainly have a desire to run the game. Actually I've been itching to get D&D right for years. I think it's part of the reason I've had a tough time keeping other campaigns going—I get the fantasy itch and can't find a way to scratch it. Pathfinder is too complex for my tastes these days, and no other  game system has the feel I recall. I toyed with some retro-clones, but it felt weird "going backwards."

One thing the third and fourth editions taught me is that I need to not run modules, and one related thing in my favor is the amazingness that is the fifth edition Dungeon Master's Guide. If I do run D&D, I'll likely use the DMG to build my campaign and design my adventures. The plan would be to create a homebrew setting, semi-on-the-fly. I'd lean on my players for background information. For example, if a player selected a cleric, they'd help me design their deity.

If I run it, I'll report on the whole journey here.

Until next time, do good, avoid evil, and play more games!

Friday, January 2, 2015

My (Very Late) Thoughts on Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition

I truly believe we are living in a golden age for RPGs. Roleplayers have an amazing array of choices, in terms of games available and avenues in which to buy and play them. The giant RPG publisher may be mostly dead, but not for lack of RPGs being made and sold. 2014 was an exceptional year within this golden age, and I believe it will be remembered as a landmark year, partially due to the release of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition.

I'm not going to bore you with a breakdown of the rules and mechanics of play—I'm writing this way too late to have anything new to say in that realm. What I'd like to do is just share some thoughts on what I've seen, and what I think of it.

The first thing I should note is that for me, this feels like an alternate history 3rd Edition. Now don't assume I'm bagging on 3.x. It's a great game, and I got years of great play out of it's myriad variants (D&D 3.0, Classic Spycraft, and Mutants & Masterminds 2E being my highlights). That said, it was a huge departure from the original 2nd Edition core books. (I should note I was completely out of the D&D loop during the Black Book era of things like Skills & Powers.) When I read through and played 5th Edition, it felt more like a natural progression from those original 2nd Edition books than 3rd Edition. So what if Wizards of the Coast never released 3rd Edition in 2000 and managed to keep the 2nd Edition line, as I remember it, going? Then add in the things designers have learned over the last 14 years, and took the same "it still has to feel like D&D" approach. I believe 5th Edition is pretty damn close to what that 3rd Edition would look like. Why is this an important thought to me? Well, the original three 2nd Edition books were my favorite D&D iteration. (Yeah. I'm that one guy with 2E as his fave.)

The Player's Handbook is very well done in 5th Edition. I love how you can play through your whole class using only one section of the book, with only minor departures if you decided to play a spellcaster or take an occasional Feat. I think 13th Age does a better job of compartmentalizing the classes, but that book departs more from the feel of D&D for me (not a bad thing, just different). Speaking of "an occasional Feat," I love that Feats aren't really necessary in play. I was skeptical when I'd heard this, but it's true. The trade-off between raising your stats and getting a Feat is perfect. I think Feats are great in concept, but they got way out of hand in 3rd Edition.

There's been a great deal of positive sentiment for the 5th Edition Dungeon Master's Guide, and I have to agree. In fact, I'd say this is the best DMG ever made. The main reason? It acts as a true Dungeon Master's, well, Guide. The tools for building a world, creating a campaign, all the tables—I'm sure this will change over time, but today, I can't imagine what changes I'd make to this book. Truly brilliant.

As for the Monster Manual, I don't have much to say, other than I'm glad it's not a binder with loose leaf like the original 2nd Edition core—which has stood as my second-biggest 2nd Edition complaint (second only to racial level limits from AD&D in general). Other than the binder kerfuffle D&D has never really had a bad core monster book.

I'm hoping to run a D&D campaign in the near future, and for the first time, I'm actually interested in trying organized play. I'm sure I'll have more on that last thing after I try it.

Until next time, do good, avoid evil, and play more games!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Goodbye 2014; Hello 2015

The year I just left behind was bittersweet for me, to say the least. My family made its second big move in less than 3 1/2 years—back to where we left in 2010. I've returned to Tucson with a  greater appreciation for the place and with one additional family member. I left behind an amazing gaming community in Denver, but there have been great strides made in finding my place back in Tucson's community. My wife and I tried to revive our classic podcast, The Game's the Thing. That didn't work for various reasons. My own weekly gaming has been met with a myriad of challenges in terms of scheduling, player group, Ooh Shiny Syndrome, and my own drive and conviction. Although there were both good and bad, I have to say I'm glad 2014 is over and the prospect of a "clean slate" is an attractive one.

It's my intention to start blogging here again whenever I can. I have a lot of new things I want to try in 2015, from games to gaming techniques and styles. I intend to expand my writing beyond blogs too, and I hope to wax about that here. In addition to the printed word, I am working on a new podcast which will feature me talking with my friends, but minus my beautiful better half, Veronica. There's another podcast and project I'm working on with a friend (Veronica is involved, too, but you won't typically hear us together), which I'll talk about as soon as I can—all I'll say for now is you'll be hearing more about me as a gamer father.

So here's to new beginnings. Keep an eye on this space.