Sunday, June 22, 2008

Review: D&D 4e Pt 10 - DMG 3-4 - "Combat Encounters", "Building Encounters"

Book Two: Dungeon Master's Guide
Part the Third: Combat Encounters

1. When I saw all the additional rules in this section, I got worried; but mostly they're just good guidelines. In fact, the sense of the section is that they're here only if you really need them, and not as hard and fast rules of the land. Rules lawyers may disagree, but for me, I think if a situation from here came up and no one at the table knew the rule off hand, I wouldn't feel bad about improvising on the spot. The cool thing about these rules is that an improvisation probably wouldn't be too far off -- they're pretty common sense.

2. The disease and poison rules are always fun things to have in the DMG. I love all of the made-up diseases they list off, like Mummy Rot and Slimy Doom. (Both were in earlier versions of D&D, but I still like them, even though as of yet I haven't found a place for them in my campaigns.)

Part the Fourth: Building Encounters

1. Just as the roles for party members is handy when creating the player characters, so too the Monster Roles is going to be helpful in making encounters. I can't wait to get to the Monster Manual! That's always my favorite part of D&D anyway.

2. There's a big change here from the way encounters were constructed in 3.5. "CR" stats are gone, and the sliding scale of XP is also gone, and that's probably a good thing. Now monsters give a set amount of XP. Creating an encounter is as easy as taking the average monster XP for the characters' level, multiplying it by the number of characters, and then filling in threats until you have an amount of XP to match.

3. And Encounter Templates make it even easier! They give example scenarios, and you just plug in monsters of the appropriate level and role. Ka-pow! Mischief managed.
Same with traps, minions, and bosses.

4. One of the things I'm actually excited about for this version of D&D is the battle grid. Why is this the case, when back in 3.5 I never, ever used a grid (and probably missed out because of it, really -- 3.5 probably would have been a greatly improved experience for me if I had, in retrospect). But with 3.5 the problem was that the rules were really trying to do everything: in 4e they've narrowed the focus down, and encounters just make a lot of sense with a battle grid. That's why sections like "Encounter Settings" get me excited about running the game.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Review: D&D 4e Pt 9 - DMG 2 - "Running the Game"

Book Two: Dungeon Master's Guide
Part the Second: Running the Game

1. I'd heard before about the "Preparation Guide", which is the first part of this section. It gives you tips on how to prepare for a game if you have Four hours, Three, Two, One or No Time to prepare for your game. I thought it sounded great! I often go into games with little time to prepare, and having tips for when I don't have a lot of time sounded pretty sweet.

But the preparation guide assumes that, unless you have four or more hours, you'll be using a published adventure. True, it gives you a short side-bar about "If you don't want to use a published adventure...", but doesn't tell you how that changes based on preparation time - just that you should choose a dungeon map, and use the sample encounter groups from the MM. Sometime I should explain how much better my adventures are when they aren't published. (Although we did have an awful lot of fun with the Iron Kingdoms' published adventures a while back.)

2. Most of this chapter is for beginners, but it is good advice for the most part. The GM/Player relationship is a wee bit conventional for my taste, but things like Delegation and the afore-mentioned ability for players to suggest Quests does help out.

3. The Information Imperative is wonderful: Essentially, it states that if the characters need a piece of information for the adventure to continue, the DM should not hide it behind a skill roll or otherwise make it possible for them to not acquire the information.

4. Passive skill checks are cool, but a lot of paperwork for the DM.

5. The section on Improvising -- pure gold! From "Saying Yes" to the "Tips from the Pros" sidebar in which the writer learns that letting players have authority can be cool, this is one of the best parts of the book so far.

6. The troubleshooting section reads like a condensed version of the best advice one sees on the forums for problem groups. Good stuff here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Matrix is Unrealistic

Talking with Sam yesterday, I realized that, despite all the realism that went into making the movie "The Matrix", there was one detail about the movie that breaks my otherwise intact suspension of disbelief.

No, it's not the sequels: it's the character names. Let's take the three main characters. Neo, Morpheus, and Trinity. What's wrong with this picture?

That's right: they're all supposed to be the world's greatest hackers. But none of them utilize leet-speak in their names! Come on, movie! Who do you think you're fooling? The proper names for the three main characters are:


See? Just a little adjustment like that, and the whole movie becomes a startlingly believable tale of a man kung-fu-fighting AI programs in his head while flying in some sort of hovering submarine thing being chased by killer squid-robots.

The same thing goes for the conversation on N30's computer early in the film:

"w4k3 up, n30."
"w7f! wh0 4r3 y0u?"
"t3h m47r1x pwn5 y0u, n00b!"
"0h n035!"
"f0110w t3h wh173 r4bb17, kk?"
"101 wu7?"
"kn0(k kn0(k, n30."

Man, they could've really made something with the concept, if they'd just taken the time to get it right. Sad, really.

Saturday, June 7, 2008