Behind the Screens
Monthly Archives: June 2015
In tabletop gaming traps get overused. Online dungeon generators fill rooms with traps like an over-zealous interior decorator, balancing the ambiance of a lava pit with the appeal of rectal spikes. Games like Neverwinter and Skyrim only help propagate the myth that behind every closed door is a face-melting blast of fire.
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Well its been a while but I moved house just under two weeks ago so have been a bit busy doing none gamer stuff ;o).
With things starting to settle down I’ve managed to start sorting out one of my new WAC armies, my Carthaginians. Over the last year I’ve slowly been getting these painted by my painter chap Cornishmikey and now have enough done for a sizeable army. As normal I like to do my own basing and I’m doing the seem style as I’ve done with my Romans and Celts, here’s the first batch.
My Citizen Militia Phalanx, these are the new Victrix plastic models which I pre-ordered so also got a set of the limited LBM Scorpion shield transfers which look really cool I think ;o).
I’ve also managed to sort out my mounted Crusader Miniatures Numidian Prince.
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It’s been a while since I’ve worked on the Elemental Tribes project and the excitement of the upcoming Frostgrave release has inspired me to work on another clan. Now while I wouldn’t consider “life” to be an element I would consider it to be a source of magic. I really had trouble deciding how to do the elves. On one hand I had the lovely inspiration of the darker autumn elves from the Disciples franchise:
On the other I had the vibrant spring themed elves of Heroes of Might & Magic:
Because of the Reaper Bones miniatures I have on hand I decided to go with the latter.
So without further ado I introduce Sylvan Elves of the Life Tribe.
I picked up some Hero clix faeries a while back when I first started the idea of doing Elemental Tribes, so long ago in fact that I don’t remember what…
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Marvel unloaded a ton of news about both their future television shows and (All-New, All-Different) comics this week so its time for Dave (@podcast_pascoe) and Andrew (@goodsamaritan83) to suit up and take on all the big announcements.
Plus, with all the good comes some bad. Recently, a memo has circulated telling Marvel artists take they cannot sell or sketch anything Fantastic Four. In addition, the halting of the production of certain Fantastic 4 and X-Men properties is causing a stir amongst writers and artists. What does this do to the future of these titles? Find out on The 52 NOW!
Portugal is the European country which has more megalithic and prehistoric monuments and sites than anyother country, it is a drean land for archaeologists.
There are a lot of monuments from other eras and from many other European cultures such as Celtic monuments in avery high quantity and concentrated to the north of Portugal all the way to the its center, Roman monuments from the south to the very capital of the country ( Lisbon ) and to the east near the border with Spain, Germanic archeological sites in the north and their architecturalstyle is still very much visible in early christian churches when the Germanic tribe of the Vandals settled in Portugal with their origins in Sweden, migrating to the east of Europe and then into Portugal running away from the Huns. The Visigoths have also left a lot of culture,architecture and decendents and even from the Viking period…
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And now for something completely different… but entirely true.
Do you ever wish you could just leave your not-especially-exciting life and go on an adventure for a little bit? And I’m talking about a real adventure, not just playing D&D. Because I do.
You see, for the first time in my adult life I have stayed in one place for more than a year. For the past five years, I have lived in Hawaii, travelled around the Middle East for three months, come home (for about one minute), and then bumped around going from one country to the next. I’ve tried new foods, attempted to learn various languages, made new friends, and seen the world (well, some of it).
But then I decided I should go back to college and finally finish my degree, so I moved home and stayed put. A year and a half ago I went to India for 10 days; I haven’t left the States…
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Hollywood is developing yet another space blockbuster, The Martian, which apparently deals with the survival troubles of a solitary NASA astronaut accidentally stranded on a fairly realistic Mars. The trailer looks great, but I am concerned with one particular issue: will the movie be scientifically accurate? If yes, I will watch it in a 3D cinema here in Stockholm; if no, I’ll wait for it until it turns up in the “cheap DVDs” bin at the local supermarket somewhen in 2016.
I agree and I have made that mistake myself when younger.
My solution, learned through time and much experience is to make the escalating dangers and risks faced by the party more of a national, regional, and cosmic (external) nature than of a personal or intrinsic nature. In other words the dangers faced by the party go from being personal and tactical to regional and cosmic and external (kingdoms are falling, dukes are in revolt, regions are plunged into war, plagues are rampant, disasters break out, etc.) rather than continuing to escalate on a tactical and personal scale.
A sort of personal plateau is reached on the personal and tactical level (as occurs in Real Life and in the Real World), so that no character , no matter how well developed, ever really becomes hyper-enabled or super-powered but the level of the threats and dangers posed by the outside world continue to scale upwards (or at least laterally). No character however ever becomes god-like or invulnerable or immune to threat.
This also is an ideal form of campaign or setting or milieu for Kingmaker scenarios which I greatly favor over the mere super powered character form of fantasy game.
Superhero characters are fine for superhero games But even they have inborn limits) but they have no real place in fantasy games in my opinion.
Your gaming group has seen it all. They’ve slain more Orcs than Aragorn on a bender. They’ve thrashed more demons than your average ICP concert. And they’ve laid with more elf wenches than…well, Aragorn. What’s left to throw at your party, when it feels like every adventure is a re-tread? How do you keep your players involved? What more could you ask of the stoic, chisel-jawed men around your gaming table, quietly brooding in a sea of mystery and depth?
Forgive us, it’s opposite day.
If you’re anything like me the quests you write will escalate in danger and importance, slowly climbing the mountain of epic, until the party is eating ancient monsters for breakfast and shitting legend. Their equipment is so expensive that one character could stabilize Middle Earth’s economy by dying abruptly in a national bank. And the monsters that can actually scare the…
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Margins are both a universal and remarkable feature of books. From the very earliest specimens produced two millennia ago, to the e-readers we use today, books contain pages that hold both text and a significant amount of blank space. What a strange pair they are: words, the primary reason for the book’s existence; and a vast emptiness present on all sides of the text. A particularly remarkable aspect of marginal space is that there is so much of it in medieval books. My own work on the twelfth century, reflecting broader medieval patterns, shows that pages from that period consist of approximately 50% margin, although in some cases it can be significantly more. This implies, astonishingly, that the majority of medieval books are half empty, despite the fact that parchment was expensive and sometimes even hard to come by. Why is this?
Fig. 1 – London, British Library, Add. MS 43725 (4th century) – Source
One answer to this question is a simple one: because this is how…
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The works of the late Sir Terry Pratchett were a major influence on me as a young nerd. I went into it as a heartfelt rundown of my favourites in the Top 10 Discworld books, from which you may recall I could barely begin to describe my love for Interesting Times. It is the seventeenth novel in the series, and the fifth to chronicle Rincewind’s unwitting ambles through space, time, life, death, and a series of holes in the ground.
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I happen to like these kinds of maps. They are excellent spurs to the imagination.
The overlord (now long deposed and deceased) of Ettin Manor kept his most precious of treasures down in the secret chambers underneath the manor. Further, he defended these treasure chambers with traps and intricate secret doors.
While his defenses have never yet been entirely breached, some looters have broken into one treasure chamber and looted it before being stopped by a solid stone door with a lock beyond their skills. More disturbing is that one of the ancient treasures appears to have… hatched… in the interim and a series of tunnels and chambers have been dug out from one particularly secret chamber. It leaves you to wonder what sort of creature would dig through so much earth and stone and yet never dig to the surface…
The most difficult chambers to get to are a pair of chambers at the…
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One of the most fun things I've ever done with my wife and children...
A couple of months ago, a friend asked me if I’d teach him and his 6th-grade son how to play D&D. I’d been thinking for a while about playing with my own kids, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity.
After recruiting several other parent-and-kid combos, I set up a gaming night at my house, with a pool of players ranging from 2nd- to 6th-graders and their parents. Here’s how it went for me.
PREPARATIONS AND PREGENS
This might come as a shock, but not every kid wants to roll dice and slay goblins. In fact, one of those not-every-kids is none other than my own son. A couple of parents brought multiple kids, so I wasn’t surprised as things got going that my son and several of his fifth-grade friends just weren’t interested—as was also the case for a parent or two.
As a DM, it’s important to not take this personally. I told the players (kids and adults) that they were free to go play video games. What remained were two parents, a sixth-grader, a fifth-grader, an incredibly excited 2nd-grader, and my 2nd-grade daughter who just wanted to co-DM and roll the dice for me.
Because this was going to be the first time playing D&D for all the players, I wanted to run something I was familiar with so I could focus on different hooks to get them into the adventure. I opted for the Lost Mine of Phandelveradventure in the D&D Starter Set, having played it once or twice with coworkers.
Conveniently, the Starter Set also comes with a number of pregenerated characters. Though rolling up a character is great fun, I quickly realized that doing so would have taken up our whole first gaming session as I tried to help all the players create characters for the first time. It was important to get to the fun as fast as possible, and pregens are the best way to get everyone playing the game quickly.
CHARACTERS, NOT STAT BLOCKS
As the players got ready, I went over possible character choices by focusing on play styles. For example, do you want to sneak in the shadows? Hit monsters with a sword up close, or shoot arrows from a distance? Cast magic spells? I focused on what type of heroes the players wanted to be, not on how much damage each class dealt or which race had the best features.
I did a really high-level overview of combat. Here’s a d20. On your character sheet, here’s the number you add to hit the monster. If you hit, here’s what you roll for damage. Here’s the number the monster needs to hit you. Here’s your health. For everything else, I just left it for explanation if and when it came up in the game. New players—kids and adults alike—often have short attention spans that don’t want or need a math lesson or a discussion of mechanics.
A player’s first time roleplaying can be awkward, so I quickly worked through the adventure background and right into the goblin ambush to get everyone focused on the game. Once the dice were rolling, the real fun began. The party encountered a goblin ambush that turned into a classic battle of heroic successes and humorous failures. I found that the key to keeping the players hooked was spinning good dice rolls into flavored descriptions and poor rolls into comedic moments. This made the players feel like action heroes in a movie.
For example, one of the parents decided to have a character jump from a ledge down onto a goblin below. I explained that there could be consequences for stumbling on this 20-foot jump, but the player went for it anyway—and rolled low, missing the goblin. Given a chance to land without harm, the character then failed a Dexterity save, so I got to describe how the hero plummeted to the ground and landed face-first at the goblin’s feet.
At this point, one of the kids decided to try the jumping trick to save the fallen character. This time, the roll was high and the second character crashed onto the goblin. As DM, I wanted to keep the action-hero feel going, so I told the player whose character was prone on the ground to make another Dexterity check. Another low roll, so I got to describe how the kid’s character crashed down onto the goblin, which crashed into the fallen hero—who wound up taking more damage from the ally than if the goblin had just attacked with its sword.
SHORT AND SWEET
In the end, that moment in the ambush turned out to be a pivotal point in the game, with everyone laughing and engaged in the adventure. To try to hold onto that engagement, I kept the play session short and focused. We played for about an hour and a half before pizza arrived—at which point, we lost the bulk of the players to food and video games. That was okay, though, because that was all the time it took for the night to be a huge success.
Over subsequent sessions, that first game has evolved into semi-monthly game nights that have included a Magic: The Gathering mini-tournament and a few different board games. We keep coming back to D&D, though, and I hope to write more about our games in upcoming installments of Behind the Screens.
HEROES OF HESIOD
In the past, we’ve also published a shorter version of a D&D experience: The Heroes of Hesiod. An updated version of The Heroes of Hesiod will soon be available in a forthcoming Dragon+ issue.
About the Author
Tom Olsen is a senior game designer on the Dungeons & Dragons team, focusing primarily on digital projects. Tom has worked on multiple teams and projects, including D&D Insider, Magic: The Gathering Online, and various D&D licensed games, but is most proud of his work on Lords of Waterdeep for iOS.
For two weeks I was very sick with some type of intestinal/stomach flu. Don’t know how I got it and the main infection only lasted a week but for the following week I was simply exhausted. Probably as a result of dehydration and lack of food (I went one twenty hour period without either eating or drinking – couldn’t stomach either) and a three day period of eating very, very little – mainly only crackers.
Yesterday, two weeks to the day that it happened (becoming infected) was the very first day where I felt completely recovered and back to normal. Though I had other things to do to catch up with my normal work so I couldn’t blog.
Anyway that is why I have been absent so much lately.
But now I’m returned.
Though for awhile my posts will be sporadic. Because I am also behind on other things as well such as my novel.