101 Days of D&D: Holiday break

I’m pretty much familied-up for the next few days, and I’m cooking the Thanksgiving meal at our house this year, so I haven’t had much time to write anything.

I’m working on a scenario for this week’s game on Saturday night, and I’ve got a list of pieces for this series I’m thinking about, too, including:

  • miniatures vs. counters vs. air
  • Hit Points: man, do I hate ’em!
  • useful podcasts for DMs
  • much, much MORE!

Here’s to everyone having a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday!

101 Days of D&D: reward systems

I spent much of last night involved in a long email conversation with one of the players in my Eberron campaign, we’ll call him “Tim” (which is convenient, since that’s his actual name). Tim sent me a link to the Experience section of “Sweet20”, which is Clinton Nixon’s (of Shadows of Yesterday and The Forge fame) first part of his D&D re-working. Boiled down to its essence, it involved yanking the “kill things and take their stuff” reward system and inserts a pretty elegant and simple system for players deciding what they’ll be rewarded for.

Part of my problem with D&D is that I like the flavor of D&D (especially in the Eberron campaign setting), the vast amounts of published support for it, the communities (both online and in “real” life), and the tradition/nostalgia factor.

However, I seem to want that D&D “flavor” in a game that gets beyond “killing things and taking their stuff,” though I acknowledge that is D&D’s core story. There’s just no way around that. I want something more complex and compelling from a story perspective. In my experience, most D&D groups do that sort of thing anyway if it appeals to them, there just aren’t any game mechanics to support it in D&D 3.5. They just do it and it doesn’t have any connection to their reward/advancement system. But, the Sweet20 Experience system seems to offer a pretty plug-and-play reward mechanic which does support play outside that considered by the D&D core story.

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101 Days of D&D: "Spotlight episodes"

There’s a great RPG called Primetime Adventures by Matt Wilson. It’s a heck of a game. It’s my favorite of the “indie,” narrativist RPGs. It’s really good stuff. I highly recommend it if you love good stories and good TV. It’s also a great one-shot or convention game, too.

Not only is PTA a great game in and of itself, it has really affected the way I look at running other RPGs, too, even D&D. In PTA you create a TV show and play through some episodes. Like with TV, not all the starring characters in the show (“protagonists,” in PTA lingo) are the star of every single episode. PTA uses a concept called “screen presence,” which dictates how much of the episode is centered on any given protagonist. Each protagonist will have a screen presence that will vary throughout the season. For example, in a short, five-episode season, Protagonist A might have a screen presence of 1,2,2,3,1. 1 meaning a minor, supporting role and 3 meaning A is the star of that episode. In fact, A’s not just the star, that episode is her “spotlight episode.” PTA defines “spotlight episode as:

Every protagonist has one spotlight episode per season, and it presents a player with a clear opportunity to reveal that protagonist’s complexity. Spotlight episodes are the ones where the studio knows they have a doozy and promote it like crazy all week. For this episode, the spotlight character blossoms in front of the camera, and by the end, that character can’t help but to have grown.

I really like the concept of spotlight episodes in RPGs. Sure, they often evolve naturally on their own, but I like the idea of planning an adventure around a certain character’s — and its player’s — personality, history, desires, fears, etc. in a way that might result in a big epiphany or victory (or defeat) that will change the character or how the player runs it.

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101 Days of D&D: self homework assignment #1 (Actions and Attacks of Opportunities)

I warned you about posts like this! Friday night’s session revealed a couple of real shortcomings in my knowledge of the rules of 3.5e. So, my homework before next session is to get down a solid understanding of the following:

  • Actions: what’s a movement action, what’s a full action, what’s a free action, etc. — you get the idea.
  • Attacks of Opportunity: strongly related to actions. I just don’t always get what provokes an AoO and what sorts of actions (little-a action) can be A0Os.

Tomorrow’s post is more meaty. I promise!

101 Days of D&D: good roleplaying blogs

There are tons of good (and even more bad) websites dedicated to all facets of the roleplaying experience. I’ve been a regular reader (though rarely a participant) in the RPG.net forums, ENWorld, The Forge, and other rpg forums for a long time. But, it’s only recently that I’ve been reading and actively seeking out good rpg blogs. That’s weird, of course, because I’ve been reading blogs since before they were called “blogs.” I’ve had this blog since 2000 (though my archives only go back to 2001).

I’m finding a lot of great GMing advice in some blogs, and I read 4-5 on a regular basis (those that have RSS feeds, anyway), and I discover more good ones every day. So, without further rambling on my part, the list that follows consists the ones I find the most interesting, entertaining, and/or helpful. They’re not all strictly roleplaying blogs, but they all inform my roleplaying.

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