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Archive for March, 2011

“MHDM (Monty Haul dungeon master) with a fondness for tpk’s seeking SSPG (Single Straight Power Gamer) who likes long delves through trap infested tombs and is open to “group” experiences.”

That’s right; I am looking to add a player to my online game so I thought I would offer up a spot to anyone that might actually read this blog. If you are looking for an immersive role play experience set in an extensive and elaborate home-brew campaign setting…then this is not the game for you. However, if you like to beat the crap out of things and take their stuff within the backdrop of a loose story as the DM tries to ball stomp or vagaj stomp (the Middle-Age Dm is an equal opportunity stomper) you with lots of laughs and vulgar language than this might be the game for you.

We typically play weekly on Friday nights at 9:30pm EST for a couple of hours (so..ahh yah were fucking turbo nerds). We use Maptools as a virtual table top and chat over Skype. We have only one hard and fast rule, no douches. So if you’re interested drop me a line in either the comments or on the contact page.

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this is a fictional re-enactment of me trying to give WoTC my money

What’s that saying? “Knee me in the groin once shame on you, knee me in the groin twice shame on me”. Well shame on me indeed. This all started a couple of weeks ago when I received an e-mail from Wizards notifying me that in 2 weeks time the new online monster builder would be officially launched, which was followed by me prancing around my living room, flapping my hands, and squealing multiple “OMG’s” as if the captain of the football team had just asked me to the summer sock hop. I have been patiently waiting for this thing to drop for a while.  This a big deal for me as a DM, because I pretty much try and stick to using monsters with the newer design principles, most of which are not in the older offline monster builder, thus regulating me to altering, leveling, re-skinning by hand and needing to sort through multiple books.

I even prepared myself mentally after the fiasco of the online character builder with helpful soothing coping thoughts such as “it’s not the end of the world if it isn’t perfect, nothing is ever perfect and expecting perfection is setting yourself up for disappointment”, “having something is better than nothing”, “this isn’t personal, they can’t possibly be doing this just to spite you, they don’t even know you” etc….

So as the 22nd approached I eagerly awaited the opportunity to pimp a run of the mill Minotaur Charger from the Monster Vault into an Elite badass mofo with a new “skewering” power to surprise the smug and to big for his britches charge-happy Scout in my online game. On the day of the release, after a couple of deep, centering breaths I nervously loaded up the program. It didn’t falter or freeze up and was surprisingly quick. The layout is similar to the character builder and I was easily able to bring up the Minotaur Charger stat block complete with picture (which was pretty cool). I then excitedly clicked the “customize” tab and…..well I don’t really no how to describe it, but there was just nothing. I am not talking like full of bugs freezing and crashing, just nothing, no functions. There was just the stat block, you couldn’t change or customize anything. There was a slide bar that changed the level but it didn’t’ correctly level the monster. So essentially this thing wasn’t really a monster builder per say, but was really more of a monster viewer, which for the record it was awesome at.  

To be clear this is part of the e-mail Wizards sent out:

 “On March 22, Wizards of the Coast will begin rolling out the new web-based Adventure Tools for D&D Insider, starting with the launch of the brand new D&D Monster Builder. Creating new monsters, customizing existing ones and building your adventures will be easier than ever before. On launch day, just log in to your D&D Insider account, click on the Adventure Tools button and give the new Monster Builder a try

I have to say that I honestly never saw this coming, well played Wizards well played indeed. I can’t for the life of me figure out why they did this. It’s like they want people to be angry or frustrated with them. There was no reason to do this, just release it when it is ready to go. After what happened with the online character builder I was content with them taking as much time as they needed on the monster builder so I wouldn’t want to, you know, put my fist through my computer screen….well fingers crossed on the release of the virtual table, because there is no way they can go 3 for 3 right?

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Saying no can be such an easy thing for me given that I am prone to being a lazy, self-absorbed misanthrope. I can say no to almost anything, from lunch with the in-laws, dinner with other couples, cuddling with the wife, lap dances from strippers, household chores, to shopping for anything that isn’t nerd related. So why do I find it so hard to say no as DM? I am not talking about something interesting or creative in game, but more along the lines of player options such as races, classes, items, feats etc…. I think part of the problem, aside from my unconscious need to be liked and avoid rejection, is that there is a really heavy emphasis in a lot of gaming literature to say yes to the players wants or desires or risk

"NO FUN FOR YOU"

being called a massive douchey, control freak, hater of fun, dick DM that runs a lame game. I mean I don’t want to be lame, douchey I can handle, but not lame.

I think that this has made it difficult to set appropriate limits and boundaries. Perhaps you want to implement the new magic item rarity classification system in 4th edition D&D because you see it as step towards re-balancing the game…nope sorry you’re a dick that wants to kill fun. This has become more of an issue in modern gaming after companies began to figure out that they could make a fuck ton more money selling to the players rather than the DM’s, thereby saturating the market with character options and crunch with the inevitable power creep and unforeseen interactions that ensue, at which point the bean counters tell them that sales have stagnated and it’s time for a new edition and the processes starts over again…rinse and repeat.

I will give you an example from my online game of an instance where I felt I needed to say no. We are looking to add a new player or two. One of the new players wanted to play a Leader. Usually this not an issue and I am thrilled someone wants to play a Leader in these Striker dominated times, but there is already a Leader in the party, a friggin pacifist War Priest (don’t even get me started) no less. There was no way I even want to deal with two Leaders in the same party (particularly with 2 defenders and a striker filling the other slots), as the combats will grind out forever with no threat and it will just make encounter design miserable for me. I can also see this making the game suck overall for everyone. So I nut up and say no, which I think pissed off the potential new player and made me feel like a massive douchey, control freak, hater of fun, dick DM that runs a lame game.

One thing that gets left out in the “yes man” philosophy is that the game may need limits and boundaries to be fun for everyone, including the DM. I think the players bear some burden in this regard, as just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should, like just because we can clone a sheep’s nuts doesn’t mean that’s what we need to do. It is admirable that you can build a character that can pown the multiverse and one shot Orcus, but maybe reign that in a little bit tuff guy and think of everyone else at the table, including the DM and don’t force him to be a dick.

I think if I was to ever start another 4th edition campaign I would limit options from the start in terms of what sources to draw from, utilize inherent bonuses, and make use of the magic item rarity system. It would not be unlike my current home campaign as the players have never really read any of the materials let alone a forum thread, but a world away from my online game. Although in fairness to them there was kind of a mutual agreement from the get go, before I was thrust into the role of DM, that the game would be a smorgasbord de jour of power gaming.

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I had an opportunity to actually observe the dreaded Fortune Cards in action while gaming at a local convention the other weekend. I tried to prepare myself mentally for this as I knew there was an almost certain possibility of exposure, a sort of mental condom application if you will. When I sat down at the table and began to unpack my things I noticed out of the corner of my eye someone shuffling his deck, at which point my heart started to pound and I could feel the bile rising in my throat. Over the roar of blood pounding  and coursing through my ears I could vaguely make out some voice talking about how awesome these new cards are and had I seen them before. It took a while but eventually I realized he was actually talking to me and I was able to grunt back my acknowledgment of them. He seemed to keep talking to me and asked me if I had any. I had recovered enough by then to politely, if not curtly, respond with a “no”. Then it happened, this kindly older gentleman extended his hand and offered me a couple decks for free, to which I recoiled as if he was flashing me his junk in some seedy alleyway.

Eventually we got down to business and started laying some smack on the bad guys. Sultan Gris, my little half-orc twin blade ranger and first mate of the Shattered Dream was throwing himself into the front lines with reckless abandon as the Paladin (played by a pre-pubescent boy) seemed to prefer sticking to rear and sending in some sort of bat companion. During this rather terrible LFR module, I really tried to observe these Fortune Cards in action with as much of an unbiased eye as my ultra biased eye could manage. I didn’t find them particularly overpowered, although in fairness these decks were built from freshly opened packs and therefore not specifically “optimized” for the given character.  When this occurs, as there is already an “optimization thread” on the Wizards boards, I can definitely see this being a bit of a power creep. I also found that it added some more grind to a combat system that is already high on the grindy side. So now when it comes to someone’s turn you get to not only watch them sift through their character sheet but also draw or play a card. I also find that, for me, they really break immersion. If you want to do something cool and grab a little fortune, then play boldly. Ask your DM if you can do or try something out of the ordinary to get your combat advantage. Let’s get it back to that rather than some mechanical gimmick. The players in my online game are always asking to do some funky crazy shit like “ahh Jason I would like to leap over the table and onto the Hobgoblin and then monkey flip him into the fire pit”. My response is absolutely; now let’s figure out how you can do that and what might happen if you impale yourself on his sword.  In the end my feelings about these Fortune Cards, other than utter disdain, is that they are truly superfluous, and not unlike a third nipple.

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FYI the character builder still sucks……Let me give you a brief rundown of my recent donnybrook with the turd builder.  Last weekend I somehow managed to get the green light to go to this mini-con around my place (no small feat with a newborn and 2 year-old who thinks he’s the boss of me) so I can, you know, actually play for a change instead of always being the douche behind the screen trying to dick punch your character.  I needed to create some PC’s to roll with on short notice, and by short notice I mean the night before.  I was like no worries right, this is what the online turd builder was made for, it was supposed to make my life easier and dazzle me with its speed and functionality, and for sure after several months any bugs would be ironed out just like they said, right? Well, that night, if the online turd builder was a person I would have beat it with a sack of doorknobs.

First off, not a technical snafu, but the 20 character limit has got to go. I know you can now export them to your hardrive, but this is just an added step that wasn’t there before in the offline builder. After I make some room, so long Ken Benobi my little swordmage/psion, I settle in to whip up some characters only to have the system freeze up and boot me off twice. This might not have been so bad if reloading the turd builder wasn’t actually slower than paint drying.  Once I am back in I settle down and bang out a striker, leader, and defender at various levels so I can fill any needed role at the table (what can I say all the team sports as a kid has rubbed off on me) and go to print, which is where the wheels really fell off as for some reason it refused to let me print in black and white. I couldn’t even get the printer options to come up on the screen. I was tempted to go online and see if Hasbro was now in the color ink business. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, aside from the fact that color ink is more expensive than plutonium, but I was running low on color and I was worried that the pages might be hard to read.  Turns out I was worried for nothing as whenever I tried to print no ink actually made it onto the page as my printer would just spit out blank page after blank page. At this point my rage was percolating around “Hulk smash” levels as I was cruising the forums looking for known issues and fixes. It turns out I just needed to create a pdf of the character file, save it to my hardrive, then print it out, like that’s totally convenient right? Well at least I was able to then print in black and white.

After several months I was really expecting better, especially for a service I am paying for. Instead I really felt like this thing was just pissing in my face. Although having said all that, I will give them this the interface is really nice and slick looking, and I think that if they can ever get their shit together it will be a really solid deal, except for the whole needing to maintain a monthly subscription to use. I will tell you this, all the guys in my online game that I run use the old offline character builder that some dude has hacked and is continuously adding the new content to with way less issues that I am having with the “new” and “improved” paid one.

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My friend Liam, hater of LFR, Defenders, puppies, your mother, and everything that is good in the world is holding a contest over at his lair The Shattered Sea.  For those of you who don’t know,  when not crushing the likes of the lovable Drax under his DM boot-heel, Liam is the creator of the most excellent campaign setting The Shattered Sea. Never content to rest on his laurels, Liam is looking to expand the Shattered Sea  into new mediums and perhaps world domination. This is where you fit into his machinations, as he is holding a contest looking for a comic artist who would be interested in illustrating a series of comics based on The Shattered Sea. You can find out more details at his site as well as some interesting live play podcasts, musings, and of course the world of the Shattered Sea.

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