Training a new generation of DMs

It’s good to see that the boys at Penny Arcade are passing on the important things about Dungeon Mastering. Keeping the Old Ways alive is very important, especially since D&D 4e is nothing more than a wargame with named units. I don’t care what they say about Skill Challenges and roleplaying, they’ve stripped out almost everything that wasn’t about fighting.

Of course, some would argue they haven’t gone far enough. Certainly, the blog post that accompanies the strip remembers:

His group can scarcely believe the stories I tell them about earlier versions of the game, of sundered stats and experience loss and THAC0, when players could win and still lose.

Oh for the good ol’ days…

Finally some goddamn action

Being the unrelentant D&D nerd that I am, I frequent a number of webcomics, of which Order of the Stick is one of my favourites.

For the last I can’t remember how long, there hasn’t been a decent amount of action. The occasional fight here, and the mediocre chuckle there, but nothing has stood out as freaking awesome since the fall of Azure City.

That is, until Haley gets attacked by some old buddies she left behind. Even so, it seemed like things were going to be less than stellar until Belkar got in on the action. That halfling makes this comic.

If you’ve wandered away from OOTS lately because it just isn’t the same, then I suggest you start with the latest scene, or if you’re really impatient, jump to the really awesome bits 🙂

On games where the PC cannot suck

I’ve been waiting to see how this scene would be handled by Darths and Droids.

It actually speaks to an issue that Flip and I encountered with Trail of Cthulhu. Unlike most other game systems, there are no dice rolls for investigation. While there is an element of resource management in the game, it boils down to automatic success for any form of information gathering, and is pretty light on for failure in other parts of the system as well.

Now, I can understand that people don’t like to play characters who suck, but without risk of failure, there is no greatness.

Take, for example, Rolemaster. While it has a reputation for stupefying amounts of arithmetic, and rules to cover even the most obscure situations to the most miniscule detail, the best feature of the game is its critical tables. And the reason for this is that this table can be applied both to player characters and their enemies alike. The amazing level of detail leads to much more dramatic and memorable events.

Every person I know who has played Rolemaster can give an example of amazing things happening while trying to keep their grip on a mechanical gryphon, choking to death while invisible so they can’t be rescued, or watching their enemies die with an astonished expression as their spell backfired and their head popped off.

I bet you can’t find me a Trail of Cthulhu player who can honestly tell you how excited they were when they emerged from the sorcerer’s study having found the spell book, map of the Dreamlands, time and location of the next opening of the Gate of Deeper Slumber, and sample of Shoggoth ooze.