21 July 2015

D&D 30-Day Challenge: Day 30- Best Playing / DMing Experience

They saved the most difficult question for last.  Best experience.  Wow- that's hard.  I mean, my early experiences were AMAZING, new ground broken and all that.  I fondly remember those days and love to help other gamers live through that period in their own hobby.  But I became a DM pretty quickly, and got slotted into that role since the Reagan Administration.  So...  when I try to think of really amazing play experiences, I tend to think of my earliest days playing with Daniel and his brother, or in Boy Scouts. 

Now, as a DM some of the campaigns I've already mentioned come to mind.  The casual game with Bill, Dave and Chris back in high school just "feels" like what 80s D&D was supposed to be.  The amazing Mystara/Ravenloft campaign that began with Robby, Cami and Mary and boiled down to just Mary and Randi - the one I talked about with the marriages and deep in-character threads.  That game was amazing.  Lots of really, really good roleplaying from the PCs and some not-too-shabby DMing by yours truly.

I dunno.  There's a lot of good games I can point to, more as a DM than as a player.  If I had to pick right now, and had to limit the field specifically to D&D games, I guess I'd go with the Ravenloft campaign.  There was so much depth to the PCs thanks to Mary and Randi really having buy-in and having only two PCs meaning both got more than ample screen time and attention from the DM.

If I had to guess, though, I'd say my best experiences are yet to come.  I'm becoming a better Dungeon Master by learning from the best.  NTRPGCON started me down that road.  I'm trying new techniques, and exploring how I want the back half of my life to be where games are concerned.  It's time to game for quality over quantity, and include the ones who are most dear to me.  Zane and Kaylee will be old enough to play before I blink twice.  The best is yet to come.

D&D 30-Day Challenge: Day 29 - Most Frequently Rolled Number on a D20

I have no idea what the most frequently rolled number on a d20 actually is over my three decades of gaming - but it sure as heck isn't 20.  It feels like I could say 1 with some confidence.

My primary gaming dice are Chessex translucent red with white ink, bought to resemble my Koplow dice from 1986.  I bought four sets and keep them in a box that held Cuban cigars my friend Raul gave me on a cruise several years ago when he wanted to ditch the box and smuggle the cigars home.  I take those dice with me to my twice monthly D&D game over at Scott's place.

Damned if they don't consistently roll under 5 so much that I've taken to using my six-year-old son's dice instead.  Habitually.   Zane isn't quite old enough for full-on D&D yet, so his dice are living in my dice box lest his sister find them and lose them as she did when he had a dice bag.  So Dad kinda borrows them - and THAT d20 rolls pretty well.  All my signature red-and-white d20s?  Not so much.

D&D 30-Day Challenge: Day 28- PCs You Have Sworn Off Playing

I don't know that I have ever sworn off playing any particular PC.  I've actually liked all the characters I can recall playing.  No single D&D character sticks out to me as unworthy of a return play.

That said, I do have a personal rule about never, ever, playing Kender.  I think Kender work best on the pages of Dragonlance novels under the close supervision of the authors.  Putting Kender in PC hands is asking for trouble unless you are confident the player can play the Kender as intended, and not just use the Kender-related tropes as a bludgeon with which to beat the other PCs, the Dungeon Master, and the campaign in general about the head and shoulders.

So, if I ever played a Kender PC, I'd have sworn off playing him.

D&D 30-Day Challenge: Day 27- Favorite Curse of Cursed Item

This is an interesting question, and I'm going to have to go with Armor of Missile Attraction.

I love this particular cursed item because it is legitimately useful against melee attacks, acting as various forms of magic armor.  The hitch is that it gives enemies significant bonuses to hit the PC wearing it with missile weapons.  It becomes a piece of cursed equipment you want to get rid of immediately... or not?  Is the melee bonus worth living with the missile attraction?  Is it a worthwhile gamble?  Each character must make their own decision on that before seeking out a spellcaster who can drop a Remove Curse

D&D 30-Day Challenge: Day 26- Favorite Mundane Item

My favorite mundane item off the lists and lists of equipment that have found their way into D&D rulebooks over the years is a pretty simple one: the tinderbox.

Why is the lowly tinderbox a favorite of mine?  Well, because it caused me as a young gamer to think for the first time about the mundanities my character faced in the D&D universe.  In basic D&D when we started, we told our DM we were lighting torches, and he never asked "how", we just did it.  Upon discovering the need for a tinderbox with which to light torches and set campfires, my mind started drifting to all the other things my character needed to survive.  Bedroll, hammer, spikes... Hey, a bullseye lantern could be REALLY useful for signaling as well as lighting our path.  I could use a mirror, too.  Hey, rope.  And spikes while we're at it.  Do I need a dagger for eating and utility use even though as a Cleric I can't fight with edged weapons? 

The tinderbox got me thinking, and thinking got me immersing.  And immersion made me a better player and Dungeon Master.

D&D 30-Day Challenge: Day 25- Favorite Magic Item

I love magic items, but they're a double-edged +1 sword (+3 vs. Lycantrhopes.)

I feel magic items can be overdone.  One of the things I disliked about 4th Edition (and I did like it overall) was that the math expected PCs to have a certain quality of magic arms and armor at a given level - this is far too much magic for me.

Magic should be rare and, well, magical.  The very concept of a magic shop is a bit antithetical to the way I tend to run D&D.  If PCs end up with multiple magic items, it's because they've been delving into ancient ruins or abandoned fortresses where such items of power have been lost since antiquity.  Like the gifts of Galadriel, or Orcrist, Glamdring and Sting, magic items need to be uncommon and mysterious.

The runner-up for my favorite magic item is runner-up because it comes from The Palladium Fantasy RPG.  It's called Otoni's Dagger of Assassination.  This dagger, when thrown, will keep re-inserting itself into a target until the target is dead, or until it is seized by a STR 15 or better.  That's pretty sweet. 

So, in the D&D realm, there's the old favorites.  Elven boots, bags of holding, etc.  Lots of utility in items like those.  I'm going to go to 4e for this, though.  My favorite magic item is something that just drips with atmosphere.  4e gave us The Raven Queen, goddess of death.  Now, she's not evil, she's just doing a job that needs doing since death is the inevitable end of life.  There is a magic item that is a raven's feather blessed by the Raven Queen.  This feather is attuned to a person.  The feather will then change color if that person dies.  Not a magic weapon, or an amazing item, but think of the story possibilities a DM can evoke when there is tangible proof of when a far away loved one dies... or is still alive after a very long time.  This is the sort of magic item you can hang an adventure on without giving the PCs incredible amounts of power.  I dig it.

16 July 2015

D&D 30-Day Challenge: Day 24- Favorite Spell

I think most adventurers would immediately jump to some of the obvious answers, like Cure Light Wounds or Magic Missile or Fireball.  Now, these are all spells of some utility to be sure.

Cure spells will always be a favorite of players, since they are necessary to keeping the PCs alive and well.

Magic Missile is a great spell in BECMI, since it does 1d6+1 as opposed to 1d4+1 in AD&D, and it never misses.  Sometimes it might be the only effective attack your party has against a creature with spells or immunity to normal weapons.

Fireball is the old standby for massive damage to lots of enemies.  Everyone wants to pick up Fireball at 5th level and use it to make Orc Chops on their very next dungeon delve.  Great spell, Fireball, but be careful using it indoors with a DM who has a grasp of physics.

My choice probably belongs on the list of obvious choices above.  I'm going to go with Sleep.  The Sleep spell can be terrifyingly useful in combat if employed properly, and in non-combat situations it can be quite useful as well for knocking out guards or sneaking past cultists or just robbing the local general store blind and then leaving a promissory note to pay for the gear and rations once you recover the treasure from the goblin caves outside of town.  So for me, Sleep is my favorite spell.