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Did Mike Mearls ruin everything?
November 5, 2010 10:46 AM   Subscribe


 
I saw the new Red Box at GenCon and was deeply disappointed that it wasn't a reprint of the original, but a new product. :(
posted by LSK at 10:48 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


4th Edition is a soulless husk polished to a brilliant sheen.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 11:16 AM on November 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


My 4E experience is pretty well limited to MeFi discussions and the Penny Arcade podcasts and posts about it. I had come away with a fairly positive opinion of the system, all things considered. But that disassociated mechanics series is pretty damning. I'd be interested in a rebuttal, whether it be that WotC has addressed the issue in supplements and later editions of the core books or that there are easy, consistent ways to avoid some of the problems as a DM, particularly the skill challenge problems.

And yeah, I know the article author discussed the Rule 0 Fallacy, but a broken-but-fixable rule is still better than a broken-and-unfixable one.
posted by jedicus at 11:38 AM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


4th edition is the quintessential miniatures combat game, as far as I'm concerned. As to whether or not it's a role-playing game, I'd have to say no, but I understand that some people are able to coax some role-playing out of the thing.

It does make me happy to see Mearls saying essentially this in the interview "Red Box Renaissance":
I almost think narrative games are a different hobby, where it really is group world building or literal group storytelling. In a more traditional roleplaying game like D&D, you build it as you go and it's almost like a game of football or some sport where the action arises as you go.
They've chosen to move towards miniatures combat and away from telling a story, which is really what the original roots of D&D are. The role-playing that people tried to do in 2nd and especially 3rd edition were abberations - storytelling kludges on top of a system designed to facilitate stabbing monsters in the face.

This isn't a bad or good choice, just where they've decided to take their product. But I personally won't be playing 4th edition or any of the derivatives (Red Box, Essentials).
posted by TypographicalError at 11:41 AM on November 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


Man, I would kill to play whatever version of D&D. Right now I'm in an on-again-off-again Changeling game that's using a hybrid Mutants and Masterminds system, that nobody understands. I've spent more time napping during game sessions than rolling dice.
posted by hellojed at 11:43 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I read Ryan Dancey's comment, and what he's basically saying is that Wizards of the Coast has come down with the same sort of corporate cancer that tends to strike any organization that grows too large, and renders them incapable of making good decisions. But in the interview, they seem to be talking about some other comment where Dancey predicted the imminent death of tabletop gaming as a business in general.

Wrong comment, or did both the interviewer and interviewee mistake WotC for the entire industry? Both seem plausible to me.
posted by Kalthare at 11:44 AM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Jedicus,

Skill Challenges made Easy.
posted by yeloson at 11:45 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


The role-playing that people tried to do in 2nd and especially 3rd edition were abberations - storytelling kludges on top of a system designed to facilitate stabbing monsters in the face.

Actually, Mearls isn't talking about 2nd or 3rd edition there, he's comparing it to games like Universalis, 1001 Nights, or Shock, and similar games, where literally, you do have stuff like group collaborative world building as part of play, instead of "Hey, I drew up a valley with 3 dungeons, and if we keep playing, then we can explore further!"
posted by yeloson at 11:50 AM on November 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


Kalthare - on the first page, the interviewer says he thinks that if D&D dies, the whole industry is at risk.

I'm not convinced, but whatever.

Couple pages into the interview, it seems like good reading.

Typo (hi again), although I'm not currently in a 4E campaign, I've definitely had some RP fun with it. I last played a very bedouin-esque Avenger who was convinced that his goddess was going to render the desert of his birth a fertile paradise. Regardless of how combat happens, it's still a tabletop RPG.
posted by kavasa at 11:56 AM on November 5, 2010


I worked at Wizards of the Coast from April 2007 to August 2008.

I can tell you from first-hand experience that the people that have worked on D&D love it. Not like, not enjoy, love. And you need to, to find your way into a job there. (And you need to, to stay employed there and to want to stay employed there.)
posted by andreaazure at 12:06 PM on November 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Eh. If I wanted to play a MMO version of the game I'd be on the version that's already available (D&D Online). Other than being able to push people around with more ease, there's very little I like about 4th. Kind of like how I liked the search-in-start-menu of vista, but not much else.

Maybe I've just reached the age of inflexibility, I can accept that if it means I don't have to play 4th again.
posted by LD Feral at 12:11 PM on November 5, 2010


if D&D dies, the whole industry is at risk.

So it was the second thing, then. And here I thought I was joking when I suggested it.
posted by Kalthare at 12:31 PM on November 5, 2010


Will somebody, anybody, play D&D with me? The bit in the Red Box interview where they said that the biggest challenge is getting people to come to the first session rings SO true. I've been trying to get something going with some new-to-RPG's people who want to start playing by using the Red Box, BECMI clones ANYTHING and every time I give everyone a copy of the rules or try to schedule a walk-thru/intro to the game , it's like all the interest vanishes and everybody is like "Oh, this is too hard." How much easier does it need to be people?

WHERE MY NERDS AT?
posted by KingEdRa at 1:01 PM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


it's like all the interest vanishes and everybody is like "Oh, this is too hard." How much easier does it need to be people?

I really think that veteran gamers simply don't understand how non-intuitive a lot of these rules are to new gamers. I had the same problem many years ago, when I first dipped my toe into gaming and I heard a lot about role-playing and the creative things that they came up with for their characters to do, and then when I got in the game it was holy shit, I have to go through umpteen steps and calculations just to have a character punch someone? You look at the rules for turning undead in 3.5, for example, and then remember that in World of Warcraft there would be exactly two steps: 1) point and 2) click.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:21 PM on November 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


People are going to have different opinions about the best rules for combat in a role-playing game, but those Penny-Arcade podcasts pretty much demolish the idea that 4th edition rules somehow stifle role-playing and story-telling.

Those encounters (combat and non-combat) were particular and dramatic--I can remember them all pretty vividly--half from excellent setup by the DM and half from the players applying the rules and role-playing creatively.

Even if you're not a fan of Penny-Arcade, if you like D&D, these podcasts are very entertaining. What I wouldn't give to play a game with a DM that talented.
posted by straight at 1:24 PM on November 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


KingEdRa, you know about online play, right? Skype + MapTools seems to be the standard these days, and there are plenty of places to find players.

I should also echo a common sentiment elsewhere: the industry is not the hobby. If WotC went away, there would still be people playing D&D and every other wonderful kind of RPG out there. If every major game company went away, people would still be playing games. Even if publishing itself went away, people would still be playing RPGs. The hobby does not require the industry to continue.
posted by jiawen at 1:27 PM on November 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


it's like all the interest vanishes and everybody is like "Oh, this is too hard." How much easier does it need to be people?

It is a victim of its own success. The complexity was a big issue thirty years ago as well, and even the astute Cecil Adams wrote in September 1980 that it "combine[d] the charm of a Pentagon briefing with the excitement of double-entry bookkeeping." As D&D and its many imitators got more widespread, the mechanics inherent in these games became more and more straightforward (you may substitute the words "elegant" or "simplistic" if you prefer). These days World of Warcraft and the like are what people tend to think of as a fantasy rpg: something that requires no mechanics at all. This is all well and good for a video game, but the tabletop game needs some sort of structure.

For those of us who have been around for a while (I started playing in the seventies, so I suppose that makes me a grognard), the complaint that it is too hard is odd and loopy. I play tabletop games regularly with a group of about six people, all of whom are younger than I. My preferred rpg is GURPS, but I hear endless mocking because of its ostensible complexity (which boils down to "roll three six-sided dice and try get lower than your skill level"). These are people who did not live through Rolemaster.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:49 PM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


In my experience, gaming groups have a tendency to drift away from rules. When people start with a game, they stick with the system's rules for a few years, but eventually every group starts making modifications. Someone wants to have a drinking contest, or make a political play for a dukedom or make friends with a dragon or something, and there's no rule for that (or an unsatisfying general one). So the DM makes up a rule and calls for a roll. That start happening frequently and hey-presto, you're playing a homebrew system.

Rules are great and necessary because they offer structure to people come into the hobby, and work very well for things like con tournaments and published modules. All the long-term campaigns I've played however, end-up about conflicts and challenges that aren't addressed by the core rules and have to be improvised or role-played. Combat and skill mechanics are still part of the game, but seem to receed in importance compared to the developed storyline and characters in longer campaigns.

Maybe I'm just a weirdo---we did end-up playing one campaign systemless for a couple of years---but I've never found a system's mechanics to be very important to a good game. Systems with a lot of dice rolling can be a pain (hello, Chivalry and Sorcery!), but at a certain point, the particular system mechanics are not that big of a deal.

I'm biased to prefer simpler over complex, but I can see the charm of a powers game like 4E D&D. It's a lot more like a Heros System game than my old AD&D campaigns, but both are valid ways to play. And if you can have fun doing it, who's to say it's wrong? Nobody is going to play by the strict rule-book anyway.
posted by bonehead at 1:58 PM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


(hello, Chivalry and Sorcery!)

Oh come on, you could die during character creation and have to start all over again. What's not to love!?!
posted by JaredSeth at 2:01 PM on November 5, 2010


KingEdRa,

I've found the best way to introduce nongamers to roleplaying is to have a one-shot ready to pull out at any point your friends are over and "Let's play a boardgame" is a valid option. Have characters ready to go, and teach the rules as you go.

People consider play to be fun, and the fun encourages them to learn rules. When you give them a book first, they see it as homework, and they don't want to do that. (Also: people can commit to playing 2-3 hours, people don't want to commit to playing 6 hour sessions, once a week, for indefinitely).

I usually stick with less-crunchy games as my entry point, but that's what I would do with Red Box D&D as well.

Alternatively, you can try something like Nearbygamers.com and similar sites to find folks.
posted by yeloson at 2:02 PM on November 5, 2010


The complexity was a big issue thirty years ago as well, and even the astute Cecil Adams wrote in September 1980 that it "combine[d] the charm of a Pentagon briefing with the excitement of double-entry bookkeeping."

That article that you quote is supposedly from September 1980, yet it mentions that Gary Gygax left TSR in the mid-eighties. Either there were some major after-the-fact revisions to it, or Cecil Adams was even more astute than you credit.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 2:05 PM on November 5, 2010


JaredSeth, not only did we play C&S, we played basic Traveller (2 Ls) too. Ever died in a police action on your second Marine tour? You didn't even get a medal for that!
posted by bonehead at 2:12 PM on November 5, 2010


Either there were some major after-the-fact revisions to it, or Cecil Adams was even more astute than you credit.

He is pretty good. I would not put precognition past him.

Even if you're not a fan of Penny-Arcade, if you like D&D, these podcasts are very entertaining. What I wouldn't give to play a game with a DM that talented.


You know, I have heard about these particular podcasts for a long time but I have never listened to them until today. I have listened to a couple of them now, and it is interesting but surprisingly joyless. I have rarely heard a bunch of roleplayers who laughed this little.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:15 PM on November 5, 2010


bonehead, I probably spent far more time creating characters in Traveller than I ever did playing it. It was how I would console myself when I didn't have a gaming group.
posted by JaredSeth at 2:24 PM on November 5, 2010


Only really tough part about getting an adult PnP going is the damn scheduling.
posted by absalom at 2:26 PM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you listen closely it's apparent that the podcasts are edited to take out dead air, (some) tangential discussions, (some) bookkeeping, etc. It wouldn't surprise me if they also cut out some of the more extended bouts of laughter. There's a certain amount of "let's keep things moving" from the DM. They are playing for a home audience, after all.

If you listen to the Penny Arcade Dark Sun podcast where Tycho is the DM, I seem to recall more laughter and general horsing around. The addition of Kris Straub and absence of Wil Wheaton may also have had something to do with it, since at that point the entire table is made up of people who are funny for a living.
posted by jedicus at 2:28 PM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have rarely heard a bunch of roleplayers who laughed this little.

It's worth noting that the first series of podcasts was done before 4e came out, as a promotional tool. So you have two guys who are RPG vets but are learning a new system, one guy who's never played before, and a DM who seems not to have run a game for professional assholes before. I find that the laughter picks up noticeably about halfway through the first series and maintains a pretty high entertainment value thereafter.

Or, if you prefer, the video of their two-hour live session at PAX this year. Very digestible, with a live studio audience.

As for 4e: I like it, although it is pretty combat-heavy. I'm currently running it. I also enjoyed 2e, although that barely seemed like a coherent game system, and 3e, although that was full of useless mandatory bits and forced me to use minis for the first time.

The dissociated mechanics thing matters about as much as one is attempting to simulate a specific view of reality. For instance, Alexander makes the point that it doesn't make any sense that a rogue who can Trick Strike can only Trick Strike once a day (or, more accurately, once per extended rest), because whatever he can physically do he should be able to always physically do. But it's fairly easy to construe a scenario in which a Trick Strike is not viable because the parameters necessary to pull it off are not present. Specific attacks demand specific counters and vice versa; the rogue finds that the encounter now presents him with the opportunity to Trick Strike and so he does; other encounters do not present him that same opportunity.

Alexander will dismiss this as flavor-text handwaving and house-ruling, as he does nearly immediately, but to do that dismisses one of the core notions of 4e: it presents the players with a set of rules and allows them to "skin" those rules in a manner of their own choosing. This is similar to virtually every other game system which attempts to simulate reality, since all of them do so imperfectly and all of them require a certain amount of narrative explanation not extant in the rule itself. There is no game system anywhere which perfectly models reality without explanation; not even reality models itself without explanation, hence the need for physicists. The ability to remodel these abilities from one game to the next according to a group's narration is precisely the sort of role-playing encouragement that 4e detractors find conspicuously absent and then scoff at when uncovered.

So it's not so much that I think he's wrong as I think it doesn't especially matter. Or, rather, I think he decides something doesn't make sense for him and then insists, repeatedly, that it "makes absolutely no sense" and dismisses any sense-making with "well, that's just a house rule, objectively it's still nonsense and anyone without your house-rule is in the land of nonsense". I'm left to wonder what game system he does enjoy, because I can't think of a game system that has not requested of me to describe what is happening in a way that the book does not.

He's right about one thing, though: 4e skill challenges really are awful.
posted by Errant at 2:55 PM on November 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


There's a certain amount of "let's keep things moving" from the DM. They are playing for a home audience, after all.

This seems like a great place to ask for Actual Play podcasts from gaming groups. I know there's mixed feelings about the Penny Arcade podcasts, but I've been looking far and wide for another listenable podcast and found maybe one. Say what you want about the PA podcast, but it's entertaining and it's slick and most importantly, it's accessible. Mostly, it's the quality of everyone involved (looking at specifically the second and third sessions). It stuck me that the reason why is that everyone involved is a writer, have an amazing sense of their characters, and hey, the DM literally wrote the book. It never once occurred to me that they weren't having fun because they weren't laughing, because it sounded like they were having a lot of fun.

It's the gold standard of D&D podcasts, and I'd love to hear suggestions for other podcasts.
posted by gc at 3:12 PM on November 5, 2010


I've had some success with meetup.com for finding local gamers...

I'm also planning to put on a game of dread soon to try to rope in some new people for our roleplaying games. The system is dead simple... If you want to do something, you pull a block from a jenga tower. If the tower falls, you die. (In fact, I found this game via a metafilter comment the last time we started arguing about fourth edition... This time around, it looks like I'll be buying the Shock rpg.)
posted by kaibutsu at 5:13 PM on November 5, 2010


I'm DMing a 4th Edition game and I must say that I'm really having fun with it so far (though I haven't had a chance to get into the thick of skill checks, so take that for what it's worth). I never played 1st Edition, but I played the others, and there are several things I like about it compared to them.

Vs. 2nd Edition
—Making each class viable and fun and to take the randomness out of character creation. Paladins were basically super-fighters who happened to get good scores. Other than the alignment parameters, fighters had not only few perks, but few interesting options during combat as far as their skills went. Thank 3rd Edition with the whole "feats" concept.

Vs. 3rd Edition
—Making combat fun for fighters and other martial classes. Now you can actually look at your skills and think, "Which move would I like to do now?" than the old "Who's near me? A Umberhulk? Okay, I hit him."
—Taking out prestige classes and instituting the whole paragon paths system. Although I loved the multiclass system in theory for 3rd, it turned into "How can I best set up my character for an awesome prestige class" instead. I like the idea that if you're a fighter, you're a fighter, but as a fighter you can get some pretty great, fun stuff and you don't have to worry about getting behind the power curve by choosing the wrong path for character advancement. Each class is (supposedly) balanced and offers a lot.
—Giving Wizards something to do at first level after they cast their one spell. Now there's an at-will power thing where they can throw a simple spell over and over (but still have their razzle-dazzle dailies), so they don't shoot one off then hang out in the background.
—Condensing all the skills into a short list that generally cover everything. Did we really need search AND spot? And each new book added another knowledge skill so by the end, it seemed to spiral out of control. Skills are now broad and being trained in them really help and are worth it. I do hope they make skill challenges better though.
—Revamping monster types to make it much easier to build challenging but fun encounters. I love the idea of "minion" monsters that die after one hit; it really allows you to throw a challenging but beatable horde at players.

Anyway, I know 4th Edition isn't perfect, but I'm enjoying it more than I did 3rd Edition. Also the computerized character builder is very slick (even if you have to have a subscription). I just wish they would make the rest of the DM tools for it . . .
posted by Lord Chancellor at 5:21 PM on November 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm in the process of setting up my first tabletop RPG, in this case D&D 4e. I've never played, I've never DM'ed, but I grew up nerdy, got copies of my friend's brother's old 2nd edition (I believe books), where the very concept of THAC0 scared the pants off me. I've read various systems, I've talked to friends and acquaintances that played various systems, and I eventually picked 4e. Invariably, whenever I bring it up to my boardgaming group, people (other than those that will be playing) groan a bit and complain about how 4e isn't real D&D or how it's taken all the roleplaying out.

Psh.

Look, I'm a complete neophyte. I actually picked 4e partially because it had numbers and stuff to appease the people I am going to be playing with, people that get off on minmaxing and number crunching. At the same time, I am also going to be playing with people that do WoD, and frankly dig the storytelling thing. Hopefully I'll be able to appease both.

In my completely non-expert system, it seems like the system is what you make of it. I like the visualness of the combat of 4e, but I see no reason why there can't be roleplaying otherwise. I'm planning adventures that have no combat at all, where players can talk their way out of fighting, or talk their way into fighting. Some of these might be skill challenges and involve rolling dice, some of them might just involve the players playing their characters and convincing me that they pull it off.

I get that this could become a houseruling fiasco. But that's how I roll. Or not roll.
posted by X-Himy at 5:34 PM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I say we burn the stead down, then find the plot.
posted by clavdivs at 6:06 PM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anyone who complains that 4e doesn't encourage roleplaying hasn't read the 4e DMG - it's one of the best hands-on, immediately applicable, discussions of how to actually play the game I've seen. I've been running RPGs for 20 years and I still found lots of useful advice here, but it certainly looks good for a newbie too - this is the first DMG I can imagine someone picking up, reading, and running a game with.
posted by xiw at 7:29 PM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I second xiw's thoughts on the 4th Ed. DMG; it really is a great source of mostly advice about how to make good games, both role playing mechanics-wise. Things like player profiles and how to make the game fun and challenging for all play styles is great while talking about how to create tone and pacing is very too the point. It's a great resource in the RP department in making interesting but not overly complicated games (unless that's what your players are looking for).
posted by Lord Chancellor at 11:35 PM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


4th edition is the quintessential miniatures combat game, as far as I'm concerned. As to whether or not it's a role-playing game, I'd have to say no, but I understand that some people are able to coax some role-playing out of the thing.

1e AD&D had its movement speeds measured in inches on a tabletop. No version of D&D has ever not been about combat. As to whether it's a role-playing game, to me it beats all previous editions hands down for two reasons. Firstly the combat's kinetic. In older editions you stood there and swung until the monsters dropped or you did (3e was the worst for this with its full round attacks) - in 4e you move around and can drive the monsters around, behaving as I do when fighting with sword and board. Secondly, the skill system is much better - it's light enough that it doesn't get in the way or really prohibit things (unlike 3e with defined skills to use a rope and Craft(Basketweaving)), it isn't seriously counterproductive (2e NWPs) and it isn't pure freeform "what can I convince the DM" (1e). And Skill Challenges really help a DM improvise (more on them later). So you need to work a lot less hard to "coax some role-playing out of" 4e than previous editions of D&D. (That said, it's no Spirit of the Century, Dogs in the Vineyard, or Burning Wheel).

The dissociated mechanics thing matters about as much as one is attempting to simulate a specific view of reality.

Yup. And for those that don't like them, the essentials semi-reboot has provided versions of the core martial classes (Fighter, Rogue, Ranger) that have no daily powers and it's changed marking into a "Defender Aura" (i.e. the fighter owns the area around him) for people using those options.

He's right about one thing, though: 4e skill challenges really are awful.

No he isn't. The guidelines printed for 4e skill challenges are really awful. That's a different matter entirely. The link to skill challenges made easy explains a lot - but the first rule of skill challenges is that you don't explicitly mention them to the players. They are a means for the DM to keep score for mid level complexity plans. (I.e. things that shouldn't be a single skill check but shouldn't be an entire adventure either). The printed ones are mediocre, but as a tool to handle the mechanics of the sort of PC plan you can't prepare for they are wonderful.
posted by Francis at 5:08 AM on November 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


They've chosen to move towards miniatures combat and away from telling a story, which is really what the original roots of D&D are.

Um, the original roots of D&D were miniatures combat. IMO the role-playing stuff evolved because good players will do good role-playing regardless of what the rules say.
posted by Gelatin at 6:29 AM on November 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Um, the original roots of D&D were miniatures combat. IMO the role-playing stuff evolved because good players will do good role-playing regardless of what the rules say.

Ah, slight clarification. The original roots of D&D were out of a game called Braunstein that Dave Arneson tipped completely on its head by treating as a roleplayer rather than minatures gamer. Arneson then brought in Gygax as a game designer and they used minatures rules for combat because that's what they had and because they were making things up as they went along. The goal of D&D was to roleplay right from the word go. But all it has really ever had was combat rules and some nods to spells and skills.
posted by Francis at 6:45 AM on November 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


D&D's origins change depending on who's alive during the telling.
posted by mobunited at 12:04 PM on November 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Am I the only one who played Arduin?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 11:03 PM on November 6, 2010


These days World of Warcraft and the like are what people tend to think of as a fantasy rpg: something that requires no mechanics at all.

World of Warcraft does have mechanics, and if this is the Blizzard I know they're probably damn good ones. It's just that, like most video games, the mechanics are hidden away. They're still visible if you look for them, which is what power gamers will do. If everyone had to learn critical hit chances, optimal weapon/armor combinations, character builds, etc., then the game wouldn't be nearly as popular among "normals" as it is. Tabletop RPGs don't have the luxury of hiding them, which necessarily means it requires a more rarified type of geek to get into them.

You know, I have heard about these particular podcasts for a long time but I have never listened to them until today. I have listened to a couple of them now, and it is interesting but surprisingly joyless. I have rarely heard a bunch of roleplayers who laughed this little.

You should go over to yog-sothoth.com and look through its downloads for the two playthroughs of classic adventure The Haunting. Neither one ends well for the people involved, but they're all having a blast. They prove you don't need a somber mood to run a horror game at all, and if you don't need it to run Lovecraftian horror, well....

Um, the original roots of D&D were miniatures combat.

The original roots of D&D were pulp fantasy novels and wargames.

I have been very good this thread, and I demand a cookie.
posted by JHarris at 10:36 PM on November 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Your Knowledge (Nerdery) skill check succeeded, and you made your Will save against getting involved in another edition fight.

Here is your (context-appropriate) cookie.
posted by jedicus at 6:47 AM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm having trouble figuring out how to direct-link downloads at yog-sothoth, so here are some Dropbox fileshare links to one of those runs of The Haunting: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Thrill to the adventures of the deadliest bed known to roleplaying*! Listen in terror as a group of people get cut to ribbons by a simple animate dagger! I'll leave 'em up for a couple of weeks.

* The Haunting is the single most-played Call of Cthulhu adventure of all time, included in every edition of the game and even included in the free "Quick Start" rules Chaosium is distributing. Arguably more than half of all CoC fans have played it. Getting knocked out the window by that bed is a rite of passage among horror gamers.

One more thing, the head column on the Escapist's list right now has this description: Being a good gamesmaster isn't just about running the game; you've also got to create the right atmosphere.

I am not actually sure about that. We've had a lot of fun with a decidedly un-atmospheric Call of Cthulhu campaign. I've heard of people turning down the lights, lighting candles and playing sound effects, and if that stuff works for you fine. But to me it seems like an equivalent of dragging out the cold spaghetti at Halloween and telling blindfolded kids they're worms. And there have been memorable stories to come out of gaming conventions, where it's nearly impossible to set up and kind of spooky mood when people at the next table over are screaming something unintelligible about Space Orks.

Here is your (context-appropriate) cookie.

Mmm, random-y!
posted by JHarris at 9:37 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I should also say, now that I've had a chance to read some of Mearls' comments about the design of Essentials and Red Box, and his comments about narrative gaming vs. combat, that he sounds pretty level-headed and his reign will probably be good for the game.
posted by JHarris at 9:51 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry if this is a derail -- but other highlights from the Penny Arcade D&D podcasts.

* At the end of series 2, the hilarious moment when Mike seems genuinely convinced that dice rolling is a skill and that Jerry is bad at it.

* Early in series 3, there is a fairly subtle puzzle based on colors found in the dungeon. Mike solves it *bam* without even thinking and it becomes apparent that while most of us sort of picture what the DM is describing, Mike (the artist for Penny Arcade) obviously had a genuine full-color picture in his head.

* Chris Perkins (the DM)'s consistently great NPC role-playing, having distinct, non-annoying voices for each character and improvising adroitly and in character in the face of players doing and saying things that vary widely in how in-character they're playing.

Like GC, I would be hugely grateful for a link to podcasts of live D&D games that are even half as entertaining as these are.
posted by straight at 11:23 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


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