Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Dungeons and Dragons thoughts.

The last month or so we have been playing D&D with our gaming group. It has been a good way to introduce some new people to, ahem, more geeky games. The campaign we have been playing is led by Dan and is around the "Deck of Many Things" and Gardmore Abbey which we are slowly making our way towards. Click here to see a session report from the start of our adventures. So here are a few thoughts that have cropped up over this adventure. 

Some of our adventurers. Looks suspiciously like LOTR figures.

Sensible Role-Playing.

Getting into the role of a character can be hard for new gamers, of which I am one. There seems to be a fine balance of  sensible roleplaying, and speaking as if you were the character. Err not sure if I described that well so maybe an example:
Our version of roleplaying, "We would like to trade this pearl for that ring."
What the actual character would say but we are to sensible to say, "Oh good sir! I propose a trade, how about this fine pearl for one of your rings?"
Anytime I try to act out my character authentically I feel things becoming more awkward. Naturally this means I don't do that often. However I watched an episode of TableTop (a youtube show where Will Wheaton plays board games with supposedly famous people) where they played a RPG Dragon Age (converted from a video game). They got into it and seemed to have a lot of fun doing it, perhaps an inspiration for whenever I timidly overstep the boundary of sensible role-playing. Feel free to watch it if you have a spare hour, here is part 1.

Character Names

D&D persists with ridiculous fantasy names, which I guess makes sense as it is a fantasy setting. I was quite sensible during my first ever D&D campaign last year where I chose the name Carlos for my Eladrian Warlord. I chose this because of an episode of Freaks and Geeks where James Franco's character played a game of D&D and called his Dwarf warrior Carlos. I tried this time to get a bit more in theme calling my character Lucien (a Dwarf cleric) inspired by Lucien from the Sandman graphic novels.

Dan spinning a story as the DM.

Combat and Theatre of the Mind 

I think if I was going to pin down and say what the most annoying thing about Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition would be, that would be combat! Combat takes ages when you are lv6, it wasn't so bad at lv1 mind you. The main thing which seems to change as you level up are more hit points and more powers, however these extra combat powers often, though cool, don't do more damage. I find that combat ends up being a long drawn out process where you wait 5-10min for your turn to come around, you select a power to use, you roll a dice, do some damage and then wait for your turn to come around again. Obviously there is more strategy to it than that but it doesn't feel particularly intuitive and it is kind of boring after you have done several combats. 

Us fighting a couple of Owlbears, I used a pretty swish technique pushing the Owlbear who looks like the goblin king (what gives) giving my fellow adventurers a couple of opportunity attacks. 

Apart from the models looking cool I think we could do without them. I wan't to try out D&D 1st ed or some other RPG where combat is done as 'theatre of the mind'. It is what they did in Dragon Age (above) and it seems to be both fun and quick, letting the story and the role-playing take more prevalence.


I like D&D, it is a lot of fun when we are solving puzzles and acting as our characters while the story unfolds. However I just get bored during combat, as that takes up about half the time it can get a bit frustrating. I hope there is a RPG out there which doesn't do this as much, perhaps Call of Cthulhu. After this campaign is done I think we will give the Call of Cthulhu RPG a shot. Although going back to Will Wheaton's TableTop he just did a video post about some indie RPGs he likes, one was called Agents of Oblivion. Will sums it up as

You are members of a super secret global espionage team, your entire purpose in life is to stop Cthulhu and the great old ones from coming into the world.

I mean whats not to like about that?

Just to finish up, if you haven't seen the IT Crowd, a BBC comedy, I would recommend it in a flash. One of the episodes involves Moss playing an RPG with some hot-shot businessmen visiting who would normally be entertained by being taken to a brothel. Here is the clip:


  1. I note you are using LOTR figs for the RPGing... if you want to venture in that setting, without the need to models to represnt combat, then I think the The One Ring, Adventures beyond the Wild, will be just what you are looking for... its had many positive reviews... but the lack of miniatures interactions has put me off...

    For me, I enjoy the interactions with the minatures... I was never really one to 'get into character' with accents and what not... (always felt a bit self conscious doing so)... RPGing to me was a miniatures skirmish battle game, with more detail and a back story, and thus a reason you are currently having this scrap...

    I guess it just depends depends how you envisage RPGing...

    1. Thats the feeling I was looking for, self conscious. I think we are very sensible in our role playing because we are to self conscious to get into character.

      The One Ring looks like it is worth checking out, but as you say I think there seems to be many different ways to do RPGs, such as the emphasis being more on role-playing or a miniatures skirmish game.

  2. Oh dear, my true identity has been released to the world. But putting that aside - I share your views Steve regarding combat and feel that the two of us are the most disinterested in the DnD and just want to get onto some Flames of War right now.

    Will check out The One Ring, Adventures beyond the Wild, Scott. Looks like it could be a good change from what we are doing, but still with the RPG aspect.

    1. Yeah I guess what it comes down to is wanting to get into FOW when our gaming group is still keen on D&D. I think I also prefer more variability which war gaming and board gaming allow by not taking months and only taking one night.

      Although I am sure there are better RPGs out there. Even ones which take a couple of nights rather than a couple of months. Not to say I don't appreciate Gardmore Abbey :-)

  3. I've never had the opportunity to play D&D, I feel like I've missed out or something is missing in my life:(

    1. You were obviously too popular at school Francis. It is fun but you do need a pretty special collection of friends to make it work.

    2. I never played D&D until our gaming group started. D&D kick started our group last year during it's humble beginnings so it has a soft spot for me.

  4. I played more than my fair share of D&D in my illustrious youth (when I wasn't busy being cool) and I share many of your feelings about it. Unless everyone is fully committed to playing in character, and that role-playing is rewarded or encouraged through the game (eg: more experience points, less emphasis on combat to get through the narrative) you can feel very silly indeed!
    It's difficult to strike a balance between the amateur dramatics (which is the first step on the road to LARPing, aka: mental illness :) or the game just turning into a series of skirmish battles with weak combat rules. Personally, I never really had a use for the few D&D figures I painted up, but wasn't really into speaking with a dwarfish accent either (all dwarfs seem to be from Scotland for some reason...) Games with a strong element of problem-solving are good, where combat is just one option for resolving the story and you don't have to sacrifice the last of your self-esteem to the Gods of Geekdom!

    1. I couldn't agree more Paul. Using combat as a problem solving tool is the key. It is just so hard to work out good creative situations and encounters as the adventures you get almost always seem to be dungeon crawls. I think I could get more out of the monsters perhaps, but really the answer is making a point to the combat. Couldn't agree more that LARP = mental illness ;). I'm useless at accents so its best for all that I stay away from that side of things.

    2. Good point, the problem solving aspect of rpgs often seem to be the most fun and interesting.

      I have seen some pretty interesting delusions in my time (I'm a psych nurse) but no dwarfs or elfs yet. Perhaps the LARPing scene isn't big enough here to get some interesting elf patients but I think LARPing walks a fine line between mental illness and role playing :)

    3. A game I recall fondly is Traveller. It's an early sci-fi RPG where the main aims are trade and exploration. There can be as much or as little combat as you want, but it's not the main driver of the game. There's also quite a bit of freedom to be creative with weapons and gadgets and characters, so you can strike the balance between science and fiction wherever suits. It's a really old-school game, but I've seen it on Trademe occasionally.

    4. That sounds like a cool game! It had been good hearing about some other RPGs people enjoy. Looking forward to trying out something different.

    5. I must admit, I am exploring the possibility of getting back to some old school D&D... mostly as my young son keeps asking me about it... so as usually its anything to find some affinity with ones offspring, and tear him away from the computer/ipod/iphone, for 5 mins... a few tentative enquiries found that the core rules for basic D&D and AD&D are available free online as pdf download (my sets and books are long since gone), and the old modules can be downloaded too for a modest fee from drivethru-rpg... it may not get off the ground, as I find you need to devote a fair bit of time to it as the DM (as I would undoubtedly be), and my time is always vying for painting/modelling... but it could be interesting - RedDog - you my get roped in ! ;-) Time to go Kobold bashing? ;-)

      I also recall hearing about Traveller in my youth, and time playing D&D, though never played it myself...

    6. I recall Traveller as te edgy new guy on the RPG block that I was suspicious of. Scott- DnD 4e is available free on the Wizards of the Coast site. They have quick play rules and modules which are good. Having grown up on ADnD I must say 4e is easier to start with.

    7. 4e is free? Thats interesting, will check it out... ta.


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