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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The Art of Starting a Fight: Narrative Initiative in D&D

Everyone seems to be talking about Initiative, lately. Mike Mearls proposed his Greyhawk Initiative system and now everywhere I look around the blogosphere, people are either critiquing that system or proposing their own. Even Matthew Colville, who rarely speaks on mechanical issues decided to talk about initiative in the wave of this new system.

And I think there’s a reason for all of this Initiative has always been a bit of a bother in RPGs. Combat in real life doesn’t happen in “turns,” but it’s really the only way to simulate it at a table. Therefore, people have been trying for AGES to find a system that both flows well and gets as close to a real simulationist experience as possible.

I’ve got my own idea on how this can be achieved, but first let’s look at a few of the more popular options.

Continue reading “The Art of Starting a Fight: Narrative Initiative in D&D”

Owlboy, Maturity, and Failure

WARNING: VERY MINOR SPOILERS FOR OWLBOY

This article’s going to be a little different than my normal fair. Hope you still enjoy.

Recently, I purchased a new video game: Owlboy. On the surface, it’s a cute little platformer about an animated owl-boy named Otus and the friends he meets along the way. However, play for more than ten minutes and you’ll realize that this cute little platformer actually deals with some pretty heavy themes. Themes of death and loss; mourning and revenge. Most of all, though, Owlboy is a game about failure.

And the way Owlboy handles these themes got me thinking, as most things in this vein do, about D&D. How do we handle these sorts of dark topics and themes in D&D. How do we handle death or violence? How do we handle failure or loss? Continue reading “Owlboy, Maturity, and Failure”

The Legendary Elephant in the Room

Legendary Elephant (CR 14). Size: Huge; AC 18; HP 260; Speed 40 ft.; Gore +8 (20 piercing), Stomp +8 (32 Bludgeoning); Trampling Charge: If it moves 20 feet and hits with Gore, DC 18 Str save or knocked prone. If prone, free Stomp as bonus action. Frightening Trumpet: Action. All within 60 ft. make DC 18 Wis save or become frightened for 1 minute. Save at end of turn to negate. Success makes immune for 24 hours.; Legendary: 3 actions. Gore (1), Charge (2): Move 20 feet and Gore.

Okay, now that THAT joke is out of the way…

Let’s talk about legendary creatures, shall we? Continue reading “The Legendary Elephant in the Room”

Unearthed Arcana Review: Encounter Building

The newest Unearthed Arcana is actually for Dungeon Masters! And it’s a fix for one of the fiddliest systems in the game: encounter building! WOOO! Sound the alarms, or the dubstep or something! I don’t know! This never happens, I’m not sure how to react! Where’s my party horn? I need a hat. And confetti. And another hat! This is a momentous occasion, and must be celebrated as such!

Except…wait. It’s basically just a series of over-done tables? And its attempt at quantifying complications in combat is to…not quantify complications?

Guess I’ll put away my party hat and get out my keyboard. It’s time to go to work.

Continue reading “Unearthed Arcana Review: Encounter Building”

Messing With Monster Design 2: Instant Monsters

Last time I talked about monster design, it was to discuss variable features in monster design. If you missed that, then I encourage you to read it. This week, I’m going to talk about taking the next step in lazy monster design: Instant Monsters! Just add creativity! Continue reading “Messing With Monster Design 2: Instant Monsters”

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”

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