Sessions of D&D are usually not short. Any session that I have been to has ranged between 2-4 hours in general, so I was intrigued to go and see a specifically designed 90 minute D&D base show at The Improv Theatre in Bristol. I was very interested to see how this would work and being a fan of things like Critical Role, and the Acquisitions Incorporated sessions I had no idea how they would make it work and was very pleased with the result.
Let me tell you a story.
I bought the Dungeons & Dragons core books pretty much as soon as they came out (barring a major delay on the Dungeon Master’s Guide) so it’s been nearly three years since I bought the Players Handbook, and in that time it has been read, re-read, passed around the room, dropped, dragged across the country and otherwise more heavily abused than any other reference book in my collection. So it’s little wonder that it ended up like this:
Now that’s fine, it may be a £40+ book but that’s a hefty tome of full colour pages and for the amount of usage it sees I would quite happily have bought a replacement, but a friend of mine stopped me. Apparently first printing copies had issues with the binding so Wizards of the Coast are willing to replace it for free! I was sceptical but there’s no harm in asking the question, so I put it to the D&D Facebook page in a private message, who quite promptly redirected me to their product replacement form with requests for specific pictures.
Alright, brilliant, amazing! Nice bland form, a sign-in demanding my info and a generic box to fill in the problem and attach pictures. Nothing out of the ordinary, the only thing going above and beyond the call of duty here is that they’re replacing a book for free after nearly three years. There was a follow-up email shortly afterwards to ask for a few more details so that my book could be delivered.
And then the e-mail arrived:
Thank you for contacting Wizards of the Coast Customer Service, sworn loyalists to the Holy Order of Tyr.
I am sorry to hear that the hated Blackguards have sabotaged your Handbook with their black magicks! Does their cruelty and hatred for Players know no bounds?? Of course, we will be happy to assist you with a replacement, free of charge. We must have our noble allies fighting against the forces of darkness with all haste!
The benevolent clerics of Product Replacement are crafting your new book as we speak. Though we shall face many dangers in doing so, we shall arrange for your new Player’s Handbook to arrive to you in the coming days. The agents of Bane shall not stop our efforts to serve you!
Please feel free to reply to this “electronic mail” our house mages have supplied us with if you have any further questions, concerns, or Beholder sightings. We will be happy to assist you!
Adam E. at Wizards of the Coast customer services, I salute you. You just role-played your job! Sadly I did not get a reply to my equally inflammatory response, something about “lumbering me in with the heroic types” your typical villainous monologue. Anyway, all that was left for me to do was sit and wait, and as the book was coming in from the U.S I wasn’t exactly expecting it to fall into my lap within the week, it took about three weeks.
And so I am now the proud owner of a shiny new Players Handbook courtesy of Wizards of the Coast, and this isn’t the only instance of such an awesome response I’ve encountered either. In a similar instance in which the book actually arrived in poor condition WotC not only replaced the book but also threw in a copy of the Sword Coast Adventurers Guide to account for delivery costs. Add on to that all of the free stuff they’re putting out through Dragon+ magazine?
I would like to say that it is not my fault that I followed this exchange up by buying a copy of Tales from the Yawning Portal, compendium of classic dungeons updated for 5th edition that I simply wouldn’t have bothered with in other circumstances. It’s testament to how good customer service breeds good customer relations, and after the mess of 4th edition and the online “tools” they needed to buy some good grace.
So this is a bravo and a thank you to Wizards of the Coast. I’m going to get to re-making some character sheets for my learner-group with my nice shiny new PHB, and design some cruel dungeon ideas by ripping off the classics.
Meet the Robin Hood of the D&D moral alignment system. Here we find the vigilantes, the renegades, and the rebels willing to stand up for what’s right in a world gone tragically wrong, and most importantly the heroes of freedom. For those who swing towards chaos on the side of goodness and the rights of the people the call to heroism comes when tyrants, slavers and oppressors threaten the people and their ability to live their lives in peace and quiet, without the demands of others to intrude. Sticking up for the little guy has the potential to lead people into trouble, and a tendency to run afoul of the law, but that’s all part of the fun for a CG character.
It’s one of the easiest alignments to play, but it’s worth looking into how to play Chaotic Good well. (more…)
As a DM, you need to be able to set scenes by using mostly words. Sometimes you might draw a map that you can slowly reveal to the player and some of them might be quite complex, but sadly only 2D. It is possible to build actual 3D models of your maps, which has become a bit easier with the Dwarven Forge pieces that you can piece together however you like, similar to Lego. However, dear RPG players of the world, how awesome would it be if you could actually use Lego?
Well I must admit that I lost interest in Lego some time ago; I think they departed from their core mechanic in favour of cashing in on things like Star Wars, Batman and Minecraft. I thought it would take something drastic, (like having children,) to make me actually need to or even want to buy Lego again. But it appears while I have been ignoring them, Lego have taken on a fan’s idea to make Role Play flavoured lego. A user, going by the name of Ymarilego, submitted their proposal for a Dungeon Master lego set back in January 2017. By January 25th, they already had 100 people supporting it. Somehow this idea blew up on the internet and the idea reached it’s minimum of 10,000 supporters on 22nd Feb.
What this means is that Lego are actually now going to take this idea seriously, by pushing it through their internal review process, which I am sure is based around the sellability and cost of producing the actual pieces themselves. It is in the hands of the so called Lego Gods right now, so all we can do is hope that they make the decision to go ahead and build it.
From what we have seen of the proposal, it looks like that the set will include a few base player characters and some of the more regular monsters as mini-figs. Then the set is broken down into individual squares that you can mix and match or replace the contents of. There looks to be dungeon, as well as building-flavoured blocks, and a hint at some lava based blocks. The additional proposal is to add on some mine cart functionality which sounds like a great little add. For some this may bring somewhat of a cute factor to battling some serious enemies which may or may not appeal to DM’s. I rather like the idea of having many more component parts to build my maps from. Again some may argue that a decent DM does not need physical maps; and I would argue that at times it is absolutely necessary.
We asked our resident RPG expert Joel what he thought of the proposals.
Freedom of Expression
It’s about damn time Lego got together with RP, it’s just a shame it took a fan on the outside to start the ball rolling. One of the pillars of Lego’s popularity is the freedom to create whatever you like from the glorious universal pieces, and in the way they have embraced every genre and collected intellectual properties to give us the rather non-metaphorical building blocks to bring our imagination into the real world.
Roleplay does the same, the numbers become the building blocks, a means to drive imagination, create structure that can help bring our ideas to life and share them with friends. Physical props have always helped make manifest our brilliant ideas, our handcrafted worlds and bring our players deep into our narrative. Well now we can really handcraft those worlds!
Chris mentioned Dwarven Forge because they produce some of the best scenery for tabletop on the market, and their range keeps getting better and more versatile, but you’re still stuck with their own (stunningly beautiful) set pieces that can be moved around. They’re elegantly sculpted and beautifully painted but rather lash you to a theme, fixed paths and immovable scenery components. This project could bust those options wide open. Don’t like a wall? It’s gone. Path too wide? Narrow it. Not in a mine? Don’t be! The Lego Gods would be fools not to seize upon a market yearning for this level of freedom.
Ok, so you can just buy Lego. There are fantasy kits out there, and they’ve recently brought back the basic bricks in a big way, but we don’t really want to make knights with chainsaws and go-carts (Nexo Knights, what exactly is going on there?) or caverns that change colour every five foot. We also need some dedicated stuff for creating our characters that can be pretty expensive to bring together in a custom mini-figure. I’ve yet to see a well made Lego beholder.
Chris is right when he says a good DM doesn’t need a physical representation for what they’re trying to create, but that doesn’t stop us from wanting it. The market demands, and Lego have given it a new channel through which to demand in very specific terms. If Dungeon Masters are the market in this particular instance then let us speak clearly, we have wanted to play with Lego while role playing for years – hells, I’ve tried to make a set myself with the Digital Designer – because physical representations can make the world feel more real and immerse you further into it, even if it’s population can only move at right angles and have weird yellow claw hands.
Fellow geeks, I cannot stress enough how much I want to see this come to fruition. Tell your friends, tell your neighbours, tell your parents. Get everyone you know to go through a very short sign up process and go and vote on this set. Don’t think about it, just make it happen.
It has been a couple of years since the release of the core set – Players Handbook, Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide – and in between we’ve mostly seen the release of campaign books that have added their own flavour that a half-awake DM can implement to great effect in his/her own games.
Across the last two editions we’ve seen something of a template in terms of extra material, and the same with independent adaption Pathfinder; more monster manuals, more player options, flavour books that add new worlds or mixed materials that play to a theme, accompanied by campaign modules which are primarily focused on a playable adventure, rather than adding usable material for anyone to use. (more…)
This is something of a review, because one area I must criticise 4th edition D&D on was the support it received online.
Enjoying 4th edition places you in something of a minority, but it had it’s truly beneficial features. Stripping away to the bare bones of the system and starting again from scratch was a bold step better executed this time around, but in so doing Wizards of the Coast learned a few valuable lessons. However, for players new to the format the at-will/encounter/daily breakdown of powers, spells and abilities made for a readily comprehendible set-up for combat that was easy to grasp, and for DMs it made the process of creating new monsters, traps and various other key elements much easier.
Still I have come to appreciate 4th’s failings, and it’s hideous decline into Essentials – VAMPIRE IS NOT A CLASS YOU ~cough~ – anyway, and I can almost fully understand the outrage many of the die-hards and old school players felt during the releases. I’ve refuted some of it’s so-called weaknesses, espoused it’s strengths, admitted graciously it’s failures, and recognised how the mistakes I made as a 4th edition DM have hardened me into a far stronger practitioner.
But that’s not what this article is about, no edition wars in the comments please!
Wizards of the Coast offered up four pieces of support to subscribers to their Insider services: The Dungeon and Dragon magazines offered supplementary rules, errata updates and useful lore to DMs and players respectively, the former with regular dungeons and/or mini-campaigns, the other expanding on class, race and character options.
The Character Builder began as an excellent tool for… well building characters, and better yet it was a piece of downloadable software you could continue to use long after your subscription had ended, but could only be updated while you’re subscribed, seems reasonable. But when Essentials came around the software became restricted to in-browser only, and there were no more updates. Alright, not a great loss, right?
Adventure Tools started life with a catalogue of monsters that the DM could filter by level, role, and keywords, as well as searching by name. It allowed for easy encounter building, and also included a fantastic monster-building tool that did all the essential maths on your behalf, as well as offering up necessary guidelines to help prevent over- or under-powering your creations. Like the character builder it was available to download and update to subscribers, but subscribers never got the one thing they wanted most from the adventure tools, any other adventure tools. The software lived and died as the monster compendium.
Mini rant out of the way, now credit where credit is due.
5th edition began life as a series of .pdf files that were freely available to everyone with a request for as much playtest feedback as possible so that they could refine the game into a cleanly finished product that could be enjoyed by all, and it worked beautifully. What’s even better is that they have not finished the process.
If you have any kind of internet-capable mobile device that is able, get the Dragon+ app or get it straight to browser, which features a free monthly magazine with news, articles, lore, podcasts, and even better, new character options that are in a constant state of playtest. For example, the Mystic class – a psychic of many talents that falls somewhere between monk and spell-caster – is currently in its second iteration after a few months of being trialled, and is still subject to change as a final version may never reach a published book, and only ever appear in the hands of those who read regularly. The same is true of some Eberron-specific races like Shifters and Warforged, available somewhere in the archives of Dragon+, I forget where.
Free core rules are readily available for anyone to download including basics on character building for players and a limited selection of classes, races and spells to pick and choose from (although 114 pages is most of the Players Handbook, so you’re not losing all that much), and for DMs a collection of monsters, how to build encounters with them, and some magic items to hand out afterwards. Without spending a penny you can have enough to dabble into the full game, but they’ve given just enough to make the books well worth buying. If you own the books already get these downloaded onto your phone or tablet though, it helps when travelling light, or for sudden and unexpected gaming situations.
So that’s it, right? All the core rules and a nice little collection of extra supplementary material for free. They can’t give any more away, surely?
No, hypothetical reader, I am not done! And stop interrupting me!
If you’re a stalwart of the WotC flagship product then there’s a few other online tools you’ll be familiar with that some consider an absolute must for play. The virtual tabletops Fantasy Grounds and Roll20 are both now fully endorsed by Wizards and have official support for new releases, making it easier for people who prefer to play online – or are forced to by time and distance – to join in and get a richer experience. Granted that support isn’t free, but there’s a limit as to how much can just be handed out.
The DMs Guild powered by the DriveThru team who support content creators for RPGs is a dedicated platform for writers wanting to generate content for D&D within the official guidelines laid down by WotC. That may sound limiting, especially when you can just use the normal DriveThru RPG platform and make money the same way, but if you play by their rules Wizards might just pick up your content to go official, and the chance to have your work appear alongside the official staff writers. It’s a great way for Wizards to source the best material straight from the fan community, but it’s also a great way for writers to make money and get publicity at the same time.
There’s more, there is so much more, from the fan site toolkit, the Podcast (which featured the writer of Rat Queens one time and I squealed like a fangirl), the Open Gaming License, to associations and respective nods to other major companies, many of which fan-made that have grown to industry giants, some of which seemingly unrelated… like My Little Pony… just, click that link, you’ll be richer for the experience. Is it all perfect? No, but it is a huge step towards improving company-customer relations, and one that a company like Wizards sorely needs in order to keep revenue flowing. Those books aren’t cheap, but when you feel like your money is put to good use it all suddenly becomes a little more worthwhile.
Dammit Hasbro, you cunning puppet-masters, you made me love you a little bit.
Netflix just keep proving, not just validity, but dominance in the media market. Is it still appropriate to call it a TV show any more if the best examples are no longer on television?
Further to their expanding catalogue of Marvel properties, part of an already popular collection of original series boxsets like House of Cards, BoJack Horseman and Orange is the New Black, introducing the horror series that follows a group of young boys in 1980’s Indiana as they search for their missing friend, instead discovering a young girl with strange powers, who plunges them into the middle of a supernatural plot. (more…)