Player-Facing Design

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about something I call Player-Facing Design. I’m sure I didn’t come up with this concept. I bet it’s not even an old one. But it’s something I don’t see people talking about too much, so I’m going to talk about it.

The idea comes from consumer-facing initiatives in business. You want the customer to have everything they need so that their experience is as easy and pleasant as possible. The same goes for game design. You want things to be as simple and forward-facing as possible so that the players (and the GM) have an easy time grasping and playing the game. It’s the design-concept that brought us things like Beginner Boxes and Quick-Startup Guides. The problem is, of course, that it can get a little…sticky. Continue reading “Player-Facing Design”

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Unearthed Arcana Review: The Ranger, Revised

Yeah, it’s a new blog post after 3 months of silence. Deal with it.

So Mike Mearls and the D&D Crew have officially released another version of the Ranger in this month’s Unearthed Arcana, attempting once again to create the perfect version of the class. Or at least the version that satisfies the majority of people. And I mean that, by the way. This is very obviously an attempt to satisfy as many people as possible. I’ll get to why that is in a bit.

Did they succeed in that? I don’t know. Only time, playtesting, and surveys will tell if it satisfied the majority of people. I can’t answer for them. I can only answer for myself. So, did the new ranger satisfy me?

In a word: no. But I’m rarely complacent with just writing a single word. So, what’s going on with this Ranger? Why can’t I just be happy with what I’m given?

Read the ranger for yourself HERE!

Continue reading “Unearthed Arcana Review: The Ranger, Revised”

Messing With Monster Design: Variable Features

I’ve been playing a lot of the Cypher System, lately. Specifically, I was running a Star Wars game using Cypher. It’s a surprisingly-versatile system that can cover basically any and all thematic bases when running a game. To be sure, it won’t replace D&D, Call of Cthulhu, or World of Darkness, but it’s most definitely flexible enough to play games using any of those settings.

My favorite part of the system is the simple versatility of the challenge/NPC/monster design system. Popping open the core rulebook itself to the “NPCs/Enemies” section might deceive you into thinking that creature design is very complex. Each monster, despite essentially being a simple bucket of target numbers, tends to take up a full page. Each ability is listed in detail, and there seems to be a conspicuous amount of design work built into each monster or NPC. Continue reading “Messing With Monster Design: Variable Features”

Monstrous Monday: Armored Arachnid, Gohma

I promised a boss monster last week, and I plan to deliver! That’s why I’m giving you guys the mother of arachnids, Gohma! That’s right, this little lady right here.

Queen-gohma-Ocarina-of-Time-by_sulamoon

Continue reading “Monstrous Monday: Armored Arachnid, Gohma”

Monstrous Monday: The Dodongo

And finally, we reach the dodongo! The big challenge with this one was to create a monster with a weak point: the dodongo’s tail. The inherent problem with this is that standard D&D doesn’t have facing rules. Therefore, “getting behind” the dodongo in order to attack it is superfluous. Instead, I decided to add a trait called “weak point,” allowing the player to bypass the dodongo’s damage resistance by suffering disadvantage on their attack roll. Simple, and appropriate.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not problematic. Continue reading “Monstrous Monday: The Dodongo”

Monstrous Monday: Night of the Living Redead

This whole “Design Zelda Monsters” thing is proving to be an interesting experience. See, as similar as many video games and tabletop games are, there are still inherent differences in the way we treat tactics and tone within games. In a video game, tone is often established by visuals and sound. At the table, we have a very different view of the world. If we see it at all, it’s usually from a god’s-eye perspective. We invent a lot of what we see in our own minds. Similarly, tactics are often very different in a video game where you’re dealing with active, mobile characters rather than turn-based tactical movement.

Therefore, when designing a monster like the redead from Zelda, I had an interesting task ahead of me. I had to create a monster that functioned mechanically like the redead. But I also had to create something that felt like a redead. I wanted to give the players the creep-factor of simply seeing it standing in a tomb, unmoving. But I also wanted to establish the shock when it screams and freezes you in place, and the slow horror as it approaches. Continue reading “Monstrous Monday: Night of the Living Redead”

Monstrous “Monday”: Deku Baba

And, finally, Monstrous Monday is back! …On a Wednesday! I know I took a bit of an unplanned break for a couple weeks, and I apologize. I should really be holding myself to a better standard. But now I’m back, and I’m here to tell you about one of my favorite monsters in Legend of Zelda. The Deku Baba! Continue reading “Monstrous “Monday”: Deku Baba”

It’s Time to Talk About Superiority Dice

I decided not to review the new Unearthed Arcana. It’s fine, and while it’s more beefy than a few prior versions (the tiefling document, in particular), it’s still a bit scant, and definitely skews toward player options, which is something I’d like to see them get away from with these documents. Especially since they’re only coming out with 6 each year, now.

One thing did strike me, though, while I was reading it (LINK so that you can follow along). The Monster Hunter archetype for the fighter, like the Scout and Cavalier that came out earlier this year in their Kits of Old document (LINK), uses superiority dice in a very unique way to help shape the flavor of the class and offering a variety of options linked through this one system.

I liked this idea back in the Kits of Old doc, and I like it here. However, there are some issues that I would like to discuss regarding the way these superiority dice are being used. What makes superiority dice great (and they really are great), and what parts could really be improved? Continue reading “It’s Time to Talk About Superiority Dice”

Dungeon Master’s Guild Review: Backgrounds, Vol. 1

Full Disclosure: Shamus Williams, author of this product, asked me to review it.

This product is an interesting opportunity for me, as a reviewer/critic/whatever. When I review a class, archetype, or subsystem, I have a lot of crunchy bits to talk about. So much, in fact, that I think I went a little overboard last time, with the Swordmage. I left basically nothing to the imagination.

With this one…if I talk about the crunchy bits, there’s really not much for people to spend money on. Therefore, I’m going to have to be a bit more careful with my wording on this review.

Before we begin, here’s a link to the document in question:

BACKGROUNDS, VOL. 1, BY SHAMUS WILLIAMS

Continue reading “Dungeon Master’s Guild Review: Backgrounds, Vol. 1”

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