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”

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”

RPG Rant: I Am a Selfish Designer

Sometimes, I really miss Pathfinder. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Pathfinder just as much as I used to, and some distance from it has really softened the edges of the system a bit (I even have a kind of appreciation for the glut of classes it currently has). But 5e has become my game of choice, and I genuinely love almost everything it has to offer. It’s a much more streamlined system that plays like a beautiful merger between the Old and New schools of game design. Monsters have never been easier to build, the magic item system allows you to maintain elegance and mystery in your items, and the staged class design makes designing alternate class features and subclasses much easier and more fun.

But…I guess I just miss designing for Pathfinder. Why? Let me explain.

The primary reason I left Pathfinder behind was the number crunching. Things just got too big and unwieldy. Even by level 10, characters could (and often were) swinging around big +20 attack bonuses and Armor Classes that shot way past the reasonable. Characters were lit up like Christmas trees with all of the “required” magic items. All in all, it was very much the antithesis of 5e’s design.

Whoa. I just realized that I’m writing about Pathfinder like it’s dead. And it is very much not dead. Continue reading “RPG Rant: I Am a Selfish Designer”

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