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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101 Days of D&D: say "Yes" or roll the dice

Okay, it’s only day #4 and I’m already veering away from the D&D stuff. Sorta. In a “See P.XX” column from a while back, Robin Laws, author of Robin’s Laws of Good Gamemastering and the Dungeon Master’s Guide II (both books I plan to discuss in these 101 days) says that having players roll for routine tasks is stupid (well, that’s not exactly what he said — I’m paraphrasing). He argues that:

Routine failures are just about unknown in non-rpg adventure fiction. They make the protagonists seem incompetent, and unworthy of our sense of escapist identification. More importantly, they bog down the story.

It’s an idea that’s cropped up in a lot of indie RPGs, too, and I like it. I haven’t, however, been using the principle much in my Eberron campaign. I plan to rectify that Friday night. I think it’ll speed the action along some and give the players who want to roleplay and take a little more narrative control do so (and I’m perfectly okay with that, even in D&D — the narrative control thing, I mean, not roleplaying — roleplaying is always good).

Robin even gives us a little flowchart to illustrate the conception:

1) Will this die roll generate suspense? Do the players really care all that much?
a)If yes: proceed to die roll
b) If no: proceed to next question

2) Will failure be at least as interesting, introducing as much forward plot movement, as success?
a) If yes: proceed to die roll
b) If no: success is a “gimme.” The character automatically succeeds

And, for me in regards to D&D, 2.b there means without having to go the route of taking 10 or even taking 20 — the “gimme” is made before you get far enough to consider the time requirements, etc. of taking 10 or 20.

Another option is that, if the player wants to roll for it, they can. If they suceed by a very wide margin, they can do that routine thing extremely well, even to the point of doing some ebellishment through narrative control.

Despite my protestations to the contrary, I’m not trying to make D&D something other than D&D. You can play D&D as an extremely tactical game, though I choose not to do so most of the time. Plus, I think this is a rule/concept/practice that makes exceptionally good sense in the swashbuckle-y goodness that is Eberron.

I’ll report back on how it goes in Friday’s session. [Editor’s Note: Actual Play posts will commence starting this weekend. I’ll also write up at least some summaries for the first three sessions to catch folks up on the action.]

101 Days of D&D: my Eberron campaign's core story

So, I’ve got a working core story (or “premise,” if you want to use what’s a fairly loaded word in some RPG circles these days) for D&D and for Eberron. But, what I’ve been missing and REALLY need so that I can get on with both the campaign itself AND the nuts and bolts goals of my “101 Days of D&D 3.5e” project, which I laid out in the first post in this series, is a way to connect the adventures into some sort of semi-coherent whole. I also want to weave some subplots for each of the characters through the adventures, so that they have some personal stake in the adventures/”missions.”

After looking back over the notes I’ve taken from conversations with my players and the character backgrounds they’ve submitted, I think I’ve finally gotten some focus on the WHYs of this campaign.

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101 Days of D&D: D&D's Core Story and "In-between stuff"

In a comment to a post on Mike Mearls LiveJournal , Ryan Danceystates D&D’s core story:

A party of adventurers assemble to seek fame and fortune. They leave civilization for a location of extreme danger. They fight monsters and overcome obstacles and acquire new abilities and items of power. Afterwards they return to civilization and sell the phat loot. Next week, they do it all over again.

Mearls goes on to say about Eberron and core stories that:

I think it’s possible to use settings to introduce new core stories that exist besides D&D’s core story. […] I think, were I in charge of Eberron, I would hijack the Star Wars RPG’s core story, filter it through Shadowrun, and come up with:

“The heroes are independent operatives who accept comissions from powerful merchant families to infiltrate exotic locations, accomplish a goal to defeat a rival or evil organization, and flee to safety as the location either blows up, collapses, or falls into a volcanic rift.”

That’s a really interesting way to look at Eberron, and most of the published Eberron adventures definitely have that groove to them. And since I’m going to be working in a fair number of those published adventures, my campaign’s going to have some of that groove, too, though the characters all have agendas of their own and themes of their own running through that “core story” that drives the action each session.

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101 Days of Dungeons & Dragons

So, I’m playing a lot of roleplaying games these days. I grew up playing mostly Dungeons & Dragons and Top Secret (an espionage RPG), starting in 1981 (at band camp — I am the uber-geek). I played all through junior high and high school (probably kept me off drugs) and some in college. I mostly too a break from around 1990 through last year (2004) though I kept up with things pretty well until about 2000 or so.

When I started again last year, I immediately jumped into a lot of indie RPGs (Sorcerer, Burning Wheel, others) because that sort of game just wasn’t around when I was playing before, and I wanted to check them out. I ended up learning a lot about what I want out of roleplaying from them over the last year, especially Burning Wheel.

Toward the end of this past summer, I took about six weeks off. I had a couple of crappy sessions, and our group was getting too large and disorganized. And my planned trip to GenCon (the mother of all gaming conventions) got cancelled due to work and a leaky roof. I was pretty disheartened about the whole RPG thing, something that I got back into in order to have some fun, right? So, I decided to reboot my RPG experience.

I started up a 3.5e Dungeons & Dragons game as sort of a “palate cleanser.” But, I discovered that despite some misgivings with the d20 system (and they’re problems I can rout around, for the most part), I’m really enjoying it! I’m running in Wizard’s new(ish) Eberron campaign setting, which I really love. I’m struggling a little with the rules as there are LOTS of them these days, and all of my experience is with 1st ed. Ad vanced Dungeons & Dragons and some 2nd edition. I’m also struggling with being a full-time GM again, something I’ve only done sparingly in the past year and not at all before that since college, though I was the primary (say 95% of the time) GM of my group in high school.

So, in the spirit of some “101 Days of…” threads on the RPG.net forums, I’m going to do a 101 days of 3.5e Dungeons & Dragons. I’m going to GM and study nothing but 3.5 edition Dungeons & Dragons from today (Sunday, November 13, 2005) through Wednesday, February 22, 2006. My foci are going to be:

  1. learning (mastering) the rules of D&D 3.5e
  2. getting a really good handle on the Eberron campaign setting
  3. becoming a much better GM (though the players in my current game assure me I’m doing just fine)
  4. working up some original adventures for my Eberron campaign
  5. adapting some of those adventures for submission to Dungeon magazine.

In addition to sticking to D&D during the next 101 days, I’m also going to blog it pretty thoroughly here. The plan is for me to post one post per day of something related to D&D. Now, the posts don’t have to be strictly about D&D 3.5e. They can be about any of the stated foci above. They also might not be all that useful to others, but I want to document my progress. So, I might have a day where I post something like: “Re-read Wizard and Sorcerer classes, feats, and spells.” Hopefully, it won’t be that bad, but I’m not ruling it out, either.

Wish me luck!

[EDITOR’S NOTE: All the posts for the “101 Days” project can be found on this tag archive page, which is bookmarkable for those of you who can’t stand to miss any of the goodness.]