Category Archives: Recreation

SUBURBAN MEN

Although I am not a suburban man, I am a rural man, I like this site:

SUBURBANMEN

 

 

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THE WYRDROAD

THE WYRDROAD

By the way, I’ve mentioned this before but I have a new Facebook Gaming page up. It reflects the interests of this blog and you are welcome to go there and join and then participate and make your own posts.

Here is the Address: Wyrdroad

ENIGMA – DESIGN OF THINGS TO COME

Enigma: A Steampunk-Themed Cafe Filled with Kinetic Sculptures Opens in Romania 

Welp, now we’ve seen everything. Just last week, a new cafe opened in Romania called Enigma that claims to be “the world’s first kinetic steampunk bar.” We have no way to verify if that’s true, but it certainly looks impressive from these photos, if you’re into that sort of thing. A slightly terrifying humanoid robot with a plasma lamp cranium bicycles by the door, and a variety of kinetic artworks churn and rotate on both the ceiling and walls. Watch the video to take a peek inside, and if you’re in town you can visit Enigma Cafe at Enigma at Iuliu Maniu, Nr 12, Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Photos by Zoly Zelenyak from The 6th-Sense Interiors. (via Steampunk Tendencies)

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’66 AND COUNTING

Recently I’ve been reading the Batman ’66 set of graphic novels. If you haven’t read them then you really need to do yourself a favor and read them as soon as possible.

They’re superb! Absolutely superb!

 

THE LOOTISTS – DESIGN OF THINGS TO COME

Excellent suggestions. I’ll return to this later on with ideas of my own I’ve used over the years, mainly as either hard to decipher clues or as misdirections.

20 Things to Loot From the Body

Adventurers are always looting the bodies of their fallen enemies. But often the NPC seems to have nothing but weapons, armour, (hopefully) a couple of magic items and a smattering of coinage.

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)

 

That’s great for PCs hunting for loot, but it sadly fails to provide any depth or verisimilitude to the experience; after all, everyone’s got bits and bobs in their pockets! Use the table below, to generate the details of minor items the fallen foes have about their person.

  1. A partially carved piece of wood that might represent a small dog…or it might not; the carving is so bad, it’s hard to tell.
  2. Three worn and bent silver coins of obviously ancient origin. The details on the coins’ faces cannot be made out, but one has a small chip missing.
  3. Two keys tied together with a short length of fraying twine.
  4. A bloodstained cloth along with a tightly wound bandage and a half-empty flask of oil.
  5. A small wooden box containing a fine white powder—snuff—that smells strongly of cinnamon.
  6. A list of names on a scrap of parchment. Only the last two have not had a line drawn through them.
  7. A much used and well-worn flint and steel along with some scraps of dried and frayed cloth all bundled together in a small, waterproof pouch.
  8. A handful of dried meat and an all but empty tiny jar of honey.
  9. An empty bone scroll tube missing both its stoppers. The bone is yellowed and obviously old.
  10. A tarnished and broken golden chain missing several links. Several of the links are very worn and the whole thing is worth no more than 10 gp—as scrap metal.
  11. A small, mud-stained book. The pages within are in better condition, although not particularly well written or illustrated. The work is an overview of a nearby kingdom and details major settlements and geographical features.
  12. Several long pieces of string all hopelessly tangled together.
  13. A dozen gold coins (seemingly). In reality, these heavy coins are of lead and have been covered with a golden wash. The job is good enough to stand a cursory glance.
  14. A whetstone, an oily rag and a small flask of oil all contained within a stained, slightly smelly belt pouch.
  15. A scrap of parchment with the message, “Midnight on the Street of Smoke.”
  16. A scrap of parchment depicting a very crude treasure map. Named features include, “Big Tree”, “Pond”, and “Bone Pile”. However, there are no other features to enable anyone to actually follow the map (or what the treasure might be).
  17. Several sheaves of parchment depicting scantily clad elven men in rather odd poses—the illustrations are surprisingly well detailed.
  18. A simple golden band—perhaps a wedding band. The engraving inside spells out “Beloved” in Dwarves runes. The ring is worth 50 gp.
  19. A pouch containing several bunches of dried herbs. Each bunch is tied with a different colour twine.
  20. Several small chunks of rock of a type found in the locality. Each of the chunks has fleck of gold embedded within that glimmers in the light—a tantalising clue (perhaps) to a nearby as yet undiscovered deposit of gold.

I Loot the Body

Are your PCs always looting the bodies of the fallen? Want more of these cool little details? Fear not—Raging Swan Press has got you covered! I Loot the Body, by Josh Vogt, is a virtually system neutral supplement designed to provide hundreds of small knickknacks to “populate” your NPC’s pouches and pockets.

THE IMPREGNABLE FORTRESS – ALLTHING

Slowly returning to blogging now that my broken wrist is mending. Just now able to type well again without pain.

 

Prepared!: The Impregnable Fortress of Dib

Posted In Articles, Front Page | 0 comments

The Impregnable Fortress of Dib
Cartography by Meshon Cantrill

We were traveling the old trade road up near the Blind Hills when we found it: an overturned wagon in the ditch. Evas took to the shadows, scouted ahead, and returned with strange details. The wagon had been transformed—such that it appeared to be a fierce fortress. Signs of goblin-work were apparent: broken shields reinforcing the walls, crude arrow slits cut into the driver’s bench, a makeshift flag hanging limply atop the whole affair. We left it alone, but even at a distance the smell of the odd fortress’s unfinished moat made us wretch…

The Impregnable Fortress of Dib is a location designed to offer a medium/easy challenge to four 1st- to 2nd-level characters.

The Exterior

Before you stands an unusual makeshift fortress. A large wooden wagon has been overturned a few feet from the road. An incomplete moat of sorts rings the structure; the vapors from its gelatinous contents reaching your nose even at fifty paces. The wagon has been reinforced with broken shields and scavenged planks; an unfortunate dead fox has been nailed unceremoniously atop a crude doorway. Slits and holes of various sizes have been bored and carved into the walls, and you hear wicked whispering and rustling coming from within. A flag made from cloth scraps hangs unmoving in the still air.

Dib Halfling-Chewer rules the fortress. Several months back, Dib and his cronies were ejected from a nearby goblin clan for indiscriminate wrestling. Since their expulsion from the clan, Dib and his minions have transformed a trade wagon into a dangerous roadside obstacle. The goblins retreat into the throne room when it is clear the fortress is breached. Assaulting the fortress is run as a combat encounter, with the fortress taking two actions on its initiative (+0). The fortress may:

  • Arrow Barrage. Ranged weapon attack. +4 to hit, range 80/320 ft., two targets. Hit: 5 piercing damage.
  • Spear Thrusts. Melee weapon attacks. +4 to hit, range 10 ft., two targets. Hit: 5 piercing damage.Spear thrusts have advantage against PCs attempting to lift the wagon.
  • Warmed Oil (Recharge 5–6) Spray blobs of warmed oil at all creatures within 20 ft. Each creature must make a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw or take 2 fire damage; a successful save halves the damage.

A general guide to assaulting the fortress is provided below.

Kicking in the Door. Forcing the door takes three solid kicks. Each kick uses an action and requires a DC 14 Strength (Athletics) check. Successfully kicking in the door allows the party to enter the area under the wagon (see below).

Lifting the Whole Damn Thing Up. Lifting and tipping the fortress over takes 2 rounds. Each round requires a successful DC 17 Strength (Athletics) check made by one PC. The DC of this check is reduced by one for each PC assisting. PCs involved in lifting the wagon may take no other actions that round. Failing the check on the second round results in the lifting PC(s) having to start over. Successfully lifting the wagon allows the PCs to enter the area under the wagon (see below).

Smashing a Hole. The fortress can simply be attacked with the aim of making an opening. The fortress (AC 12, HP 40) is considered defeated at zero hit points. Defeating the fortress allows the party to enter the area under the wagon.

Under the Wagon

Inside the makeshift stronghold, you find a dank and foul-smelling place. A small cauldron of rendered animal fat approaches boiling over a smoky fire. Two poorly made spears sit abandoned on the ground. A ladder suggests the wagon’s inhabitants have dug into the ground below.

Once their fortress is breached, the five goblins inside retreat into the throne room. A DC 10 Wisdom (Perception) check uncovers an oily sack with 25 sp and some shiny rocks.

The Tunnel and Throne Room

You crouch and descend into the goblin’s burrow. The tunnel, precariously carved and shored up with planking, runs straight for 30 feet before turning sharply. Peering around the corner, you see the goblin’s living quarters. A single sputtering torch illuminates the small chamber and the makeshift throne at the far end. Evil eyes blink from behind five small mounds of dirt. Suddenly, you hear the sound of bow strings being drawn…

The goblins make ranged attacks from behind half-cover until forced into melee. At the entrance to the chamber is a simple spike trap. Noticing the trap requires a Perception (Wisdom) check of 12. Disarming the trap requires a DC 12 Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check. Failure to notice or disarm the trap causes six sharp spikes to spring out of the ground. PCs within 5 feet of the trap must make a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw or take 1d6 (4) piercing damage; a successful save halves the damage. The throne hides Dib’s treasure hoard. A DC 12 Wisdom (Perception) check reveals the seat of the throne is loose and offset. Inside the throne is a small wooden chest containing 60 sp, 15 gp, and a scrap of cloth with Dib’s fortress design notes scribbled in smudged ink.

D&D ON STEAM

D&D now on Steam, complete with dice and a Dungeon Master

Fantasy Grounds, one of the leading virtual tabletop platforms, now offers officially licensed Dungeons & Dragons content from Wizards of the Coast. Available through Steam, the software can allow players to virtually recreate the 5th edition D&D tabletop experience complete with dice rolling, 2D maps and a play experience completely controlled by a dungeon master.

Anyone who’s been playing D&D over the last decade remembers the promise of Wizard’s Virtual Table. First publicized in the back pages of 4th edition core rulebooks, it promised a fully-realized, 3D tabletop roleplaying experience. But over the lifecycle of 4th edition the vision wavered, and in 2012 the Virtual Table beta was officially cancelled.

In the meantime, a number of virtual tabletop solutions cropped up organically online, allowing players to come together from remote locations around the world and have an experience very similar to playing at a table together in the same room.

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One of the most capable solutions is Fantasy Grounds, which has a bewildering assortment of features and flexibilities that allow game masters to create everything from homebrew games, to Pathfinder and other established tabletop systems. Add to that the officially licensed D&D modules available for download, including add-on classes and monster collections, as well as entire campaigns.

The first set of products, including the D&D Complete Core Class Pack, D&D Complete Core Monster Pack, and The Lost Mine of Phandelver went on sale last week. Polygon has spent some time checking out the content in The Lost Mine module. Believe it or not, the entire experience, page-for-page, of the physical 5th edition D&D Starter Set is represented there. Beyond that, Fantasy Ground’s modules even include annotated maps hotlinked to spawn enemies onto the grid, ready to roll initiative.

We talked to the president and owner of Fantasy Grounds, Doug Davison, who said that more products are already in the pipeline.

“We have a queue that we’re working through right now,” Davison told Polygon. “We just finished up the preliminary work on the Hoard of the Dragon Queen adventure module, and so that’s currently in review right now. We’ve already conducted our internal reviews, and now it’s out in the hands of a few folks at Wizards of the Coast. So depending on how much needs to be changed during that process, I think you’re looking at a matter of maybe weeks before that’s available.”

Greg Tito, Wizard’s communications manager, confirmed for Polygon that other campaigns, including Rise of Tiamat and the recently released Princes of the Apocalypse, are on the way for Fantasy Grounds.

It’s interesting that Wizards is partnering with a tool which, for all intents and purposes, allows users to scrape content off the internet for free and easily insert it into their games. Fantasy Grounds’ own online tutorials give step-by-step instructions on how to grab maps and art from Google Images and drop it directly into user-generated games.

But Tito says players have been doing this sort of thing for generations, so why not support a tool that lets them do it easily? Furthermore, he hopes that fans will see the value in the for-pay Fantasy Grounds modules, as they leverage the strong work that the Wizards research and development team, as well as their publishing partners, produce in the physical books.

“It goes down to everything that we’ve been excited about in this partnership withFantasy Grounds,” Tito said. “It’s just another tool to allow people to play D&D the way they want to play it.”

DIGITAL MAPPING – GAMEPLAY

Dungeons and Dragons comes to life on digital maps

 

By Dennis Scimeca Feb 2, 2015, 9:01am CT
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A projector combined with a Web-based tabletop role playing game tool make for a new and really cool way to play Dungeons and Dragons.

Reddit user Silverlight is a developer for Roll20, an online tool for virtual tabletop role playing game sessions, so he knows a thing or two about blending technology into traditional RPG play. By pairing Roll20 with a projector mounted on the ceiling, Silverlight is able to display digital maps on the tabletop for a home session of D&D.

And the coolest thing about these digital maps is the ability to show characters’ actual line of sight as they explore. Discussing the setup on Reddit, Silverlight says that this functionality is built into Roll20, and he made the cones of vision possible by manually revealing portions of the map to the players.

This isn’t really a practical setup to replicate. Silverlight used an Epson brand projector to make the digital maps, and a cheap Epson projector should run you about $300 on Amazon. Still, it demonstrates new possibilities for playing tabletop role playing games. Roll20 runs in a Web browser. Maybe someone can figure out how to make this setup work using a much more affordable smartphone projector.

Photo via Silverlight/imgur

INSPIRATION – DESIGN OF THINGS TO COME

Getting the Most Out of the Inspiration Mechanic

Inspiration is a way to leverage this system as a DM to reward behavior you want to see at the game table. It’s suggested in the rulebooks that the DM award inspiration for a player playing his characters flaws and negative personality traits well, but the DM can award inspiration for other reasons as well.

Inspiration is one of the more awesome innovations of fifth edition. If you’re not using it as DM, you’re missing out.

You can hear more about this topic in the companion episode of the Game Master’s Journey podcast.

How inspiration can enhance your game

You can use inspiration as a “carrot” to reward behavior and gameplay you want to see more of.

You can use inspiration as a buffer against unfriendly dice and unwanted character death. This works especially well if you use the variant rule that allows inspiration to be spent after the die roll but after the results are announced. This also works well if you use the variant allowing inspiration to be used multiple times on a roll.

Inspiration can be a great way to hedge against a TPK (total party kill). This is helpful if an encounter starts to go south due to no fault of the players—maybe you gave them an encounter that is too difficult, or maybe the players are just having a really unlucky night with the dice. In a situation like this, look for reasons to give PCs inspiration.

Don’t give out more than one inspiration per two PCs, and don’t give a PC more than two inspiration in a given game session. Allow players to learn from their mistakes. Let them suffer the consequences of bad decisions or foolish actions.

Inspiration increases player agency and gives players more of a feeling of control over what happens to their characters.

Additional guidelines for awarding inspiration

Award inspiration for outstanding background write-ups and character development at character creation. This allows a PC to begin play with inspiration, which can be very helpful to “squishy” first-level characters. This encourages players to put more thought into their character before the game starts, leading to a living, breathing character instead of just a collection of numbers on a piece of paper.

Award inspiration for in-character creations like journal entries, letters and sketches. These not only add depth to the characters, but add a lot to the immersion of the players. Make sure to judge such creations on effort and impact as opposed to talent. Not everyone is an artist. If a creation adds to the enjoyment of the players and GM, then it’s worthy of an award.

Award inspiration for anything a player or a PC does that goes above and beyond. Try to be consistent in the kinds of things you award inspiration for. However, also gradually expect more from your players as the campaign goes on. Just as a higher level character needs more xp to advance a level, you should expect more from higher level characters to earn inspiration.

Inspiration variants and optional rules

These are various ways to make inspiration more powerful and useful. Be careful using more than one of these. Some of them synergize well, but some combinations could get out of hand.

Consider using the optional rule that a PC can choose to use inspiration after the die is rolled but before the result is announced. In this variant, the PC rolls a d20. If she chooses to use inspiration, she then rolls a second d20 and takes the higher roll. This makes it easier to use inspiration without fear of “wasting” it and allows PCs to have it and use it when it really matters. This improves inspiration’s ability to buffer against bad die rolls and character death. This does make inspiration more powerful, but more importantly, it makes it more relevant.

Allow inspiration to stack with advantage. By default inspiration gives advantage, which makes it useless in when the PC already has advantage. Allowing inspiration to be used with advantage makes inspiration useful in more situations. This works best with the optional rule allowing inspiration use to be declared after the roll but before results are determined. The PC rolls with advantage as normal (rolls 2d20). If the player then chooses to use advantage, she rolls a third d20 and takes the highest of the three rolls. This makes inspiration more powerful. It’s especially useful to give an epic feel to the game or in campaigns that are very lethal and/or difficult.

Allow inspiration to be used multiple times on a roll. This requires the optional rule that inspiration can be used after the roll but before results are announced by the GM. If the player uses inspiration, but still rolls poorly, another player can give the first player his inspiration die, allowing the first player to roll another d20. This can be done as many times as the party has inspiration dice. This allows a PC to succeed at a very important roll by using all the party’s inspiration at once. This builds a sense of teamwork and camaraderie, as inspiration even more becomes a party resource as opposed to an individual PC resource. This won’t break the game because although the PC will very likely succeed at the important role, the party now has much fewer (or no) inspiration dice left to spend.

Spending inspiration allows you to automatically succeed at a death save. Or, a more powerful version, spending inspiration allows you to stabilize at 0 hit points. This is a great way to further buffer against PC death. This works great for a GM who wants a lower mortality rate and also rolls in the open (or doesn’t want to fudge rolls).

Use of inspiration during a short rest allows you to recover spell slots. You recover a number of spell levels equal to the maximum level spell you can cast divided by three. You can divide this among slots as you wish.

Example: Nikki’s character has access to sixth-level spells. She can spend her inspiration during a short rest to recover either one 2nd-level spell slot or two 1st-level spell slots.

This allows spell casters to use their spells a little more freely. Be aware that this slightly cheapens the wizard’s Arcane Recovery ability. The wizard’s ability is still better at most levels, but it becomes less unique.

Use of inspiration during a short rest allows you to recover some hit points. You can roll a number of hit dice equal to your tier.

Tier 1 is levels 1-4

Tier 2 is levels 5-10

Tier 3 is levels 11-16

Tier 4 is levels 17-20

Example: Jim’s character is a fifth level rogue with a constitution modifier of +1. He can spend his inspiration during a short rest to regain 2d8+2 hit points.

This might be a good option in a campaign with a lot of combats and few chances for long rests. This works well with the optional rule allowing multiple inspirations per PC.

Allow PCs to accumulate more than one inspiration during a session. Any inspiration in excess of one are lost at the end of the session. This makes inspiration (and any of the variants you use) much more powerful. You will want to limit the total number of inspiration the PC can accumulate. I suggest a limit equal to the PC’s tier.

Tier 1 (levels 1-4), 1 inspiration

Tier 2 (levels 5-10), 2 inspiration

Tier 3 (levels 11-16), 3 inspiration

Tier 4 (levels 17-20), 4 inspiration

Hero Points

Hero points can have many of the same advantages as inspiration, but they work differently. Hero points are overall less powerful than inspiration. If you decide to use hero points and inspiration, decide if you will allow both to be used on the same roll.

Hero point variants

Here are a couple ways to make hero points more powerful. This is especially useful if you’re using hero points as a replacement for inspiration.

Allow the hero point bonus die to scale as the Bardic Inspiration die does.

Levels 1-4, d6

Levels 5-9, d8

Levels 10-14, d10

Levels 15-20, d12

Allow more than one hero point to be spent on one roll.

BATTLEFRONT

Very, very nice.

D20 MODERN AND URBAN FANTASY – DESIGN OF THINGS TO COME

I’m a longtime D&D player, but I’m also a sucker for urban fantasy. With the Dungeon Master’s Guide and some tweaking, I’ve begun to use the fifth edition rules to explore the possibilities of gunplay in a modern fantasy setting.

When Wizards of the Coast released the d20 Modern roleplaying game in 2002, I was in heaven. Gnolls in crushed velvet! Ogres decked out in London Fog overcoats! Living dumpsters that ate people!

I was crazy about the Urban Arcana campaign setting in particular. The scenario was a familiar one, seemingly plucked from my own daydreams. D&D monsters and magic (called “Shadow” within the setting) are finding their way into our world. The vast majority of humankind remains largely ignorant of this development, thanks to our awesome capacity for denial. Only a small number of humans and friendly Shadowkind races can even perceive—much less combat—the threats that such an incursion brings.

I ran my Urban Arcana campaign for six years. By that point, other games had clamored for my attention, but I never forgot how interested I was in the marriage of D&D to urban fantasy. When the fifth edition Dungeon Master’s Guide was released last December, I knew without a doubt that my first homebrew setting using the new rules would be an updated take on Urban Arcana, adapting firearms and modern armor for use in an urban fantasy game.

Rules of Engagement

The Dungeon Master’s Guide provides optional rules for firearms in D&D—including modern and even futuristic weapons. However, this left me in a quandary regarding character defenses. In a typical fantasy setting, adventurers, guards, and other possible combatants are fully expected to wear armor. There are no social penalties when characters are observed in full armor while going about their business. Modern settings are a different animal in this regard.

Using the old d20 Modern Core Rulebook as a guide, and tweaking the math for fifth edition, I created armor options for my “5e Modern” campaign. Because it can be assumed that most characters operate undercover, incognito, or simply in an unobtrusive manner for at least part of the time, I made sure that those options included concealable armor. More obvious armor—whether riot armor, flak jackets, or Land Warrior milspec armor—will likely have an affect on characters’ social ability checks and their ability to move freely in your campaign. By that same token, armor might afford bonuses to Charisma (Intimidation) checks.

Modern Armor
Armor Armor Class (AC) Strength Stealth Properties Weight
Light Armor
Heavy coat 11 + Dex modifier Disadvantage 6 lb.
Leather jacket 11 + Dex modifier 4 lb.
Light undercover shirt 11 + Dex modifier DR/2 ballistic 2 lb.
Kevlar-lined coat 12 + Dex modifier DR/2 ballistic 8 lb.
Undercover vest 13 + Dex modifier DR/2 ballistic 3 lb.
Medium Armor
Concealable vest 13 + Dex modifier (max 2) DR/3 ballistic 4 lb.
Light-duty vest 14 + Dex modifier (max 3) DR/3 ballistic 8 lb.
Tactical vest 15 + Dex modifier (max 2) Str 10 Disadvantage Resistance: ballistic 10 lb.
Heavy Armor
Special response vest 15 Str 10 Disadvantage Resistance: ballistic 15 lb.
Land Warrior armor 17 Str 13 Disadvantage DR/5 ballistic/slashing 10 lb.
Forced entry unit 18 Str 13 Disadvantage Resistance: ballistic/slashing 20 lb.

As you can see from the table, many of the heavier armors grant damage reduction (DR) or resistance to several damage types, including a new damage type: ballistic damage. In game terms, ballistic damage is the type of damage that firearms inflict, and is a subset of piercing damage. This means that all ballistic damage counts as piercing damage, but not all piercing damage counts as ballistic damage. Magical effects or creature properties that grant resistance to piercing damage also apply to ballistic damage, but effects or properties reducing ballistic damage do not automatically apply to piercing damage.

(Armor in my game currently has no price because my modern ruleset uses a wealth system for characters, similar to that used in d20 Modern. Characters gain equipment based on their wealth, rather than tracking income and expenses. I won’t get into the full system here, but it might make a good topic for a later installment of Behind the Screens.)

Who Gets What?

Because of the high potential damage granted to firearms, it was also necessary to introduce a complication or condition in order to balance their use with more traditional modes of attack. In my campaign, a character proficient with a firearm does not automatically add any proficiency bonus to the attack roll. Rather, proficiency with a firearm allows a character to use a bonus action to take the aim action, which adds the character’s proficiency bonus to the attack roll. Without taking the aim action (or if a character is using a firearm without proficiency), the shooter receives only the benefit of a Dexterity bonus on the attack roll.

When it came to weapon proficiencies, I decided that several classes would enjoy proficiency with firearms, while others would have to earn their proficiency with multiclassing or by training through the use of downtime days (see the Player’s Handbook). I divided firearms into two basic classes: sidearms (for anything up to a submachine gun) and long arms (for anything up to a light machine gun.) Anything heavier—such as a heavy machine gun, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, or a flamethrower—is given special dispensation according to the in-game situation. In my own campaign, I created a feat called Heavy Weapon Specialist that allows proficiency in all modern weapons heavier than a medium machine gun wielded by an unassisted individual on foot. I also made this feat available as a fighting style for the fighter class.

Firearm Proficiencies by Class
Class Firearm Proficiency
Bard Sidearms
Barbarian Long arms
Cleric None (though possibly granted through domains such as City or War)
Druid None
Fighter Long arms and sidearms
Monk Sidearms
Paladin Long arms and sidearms
Ranger Long arms and sidearms
Rogue Long arms or sidearms (chosen at character creation)
Sorcerer None
Warlock None (though sidearms and long arms can be created through the Pact of the Blade class feature)
Wizard None (though sidearm proficiency might be granted through the School of Technomancy)

Hold up! City Domain? School of Technomancy? I’ll get into those next time!

About the Author

Daniel Helmick is a contractor attached to the Dungeons & Dragons R&D department, formerly of the D&D Insider studio at Wizards of the Coast. He has contributed numerous articles and adventures to Dungeon and Dragon magazines, as well as the Tyranny of Dragons and Elemental Evil Adventurers League programs. He’s thinking about getting a cat, but he’s torn between the names Trapspringer and Dragonbait.

REVIEW OF THE CODEX MARTIALIS – GAMEPLAY

This is an older review I did for the Codex Martialis, a role-playing game supplement that heavily concentrates upon the way Real World weapons behave in actual combat. At least as closely as it is possible for imaginary games to truly emulate such weapon characteristics. That being said here is my review.

 

First of all, let me begin my review by saying that the Codex Martialis is simply one of the best-written gaming supplements I have ever read. It displays a high degree of professionalism in the effort.

As an example of this let me quote from the work itself:

Thanks to the unique weapon characteristics the choice of weapons becomes a major tactical consideration rather than a cosmetic adornment for a character. Weapons are not just rated for damage, but also for reach, defensive value, speed in follow-up attacks, effectiveness against armor and suitability for different types of attacks. The selection of weapons becomes another major aspect of the basic combat strategy.

I have now had the opportunity to read through the entire work and to play test it several times. What follows is my review.

One of the great advantages of the supplement, once you become familiar with the basic concepts involved, is fluidity. It creates a sort of underlying fluidity by imposing a substratum of combat techniques which, once mastered, allows fluidity by changing the outcomes of in-game combat scenarios from being merely an attrition play of hit points into a play of weapon mastery and combat employment techniques. This does take getting used to in comparison to standard D&D combat practices, but the outcome is well worth the effort. Once one becomes accustomed to the work then it is possible to use it to create and display a large variety of effective attack and counter-attack measures in rapid succession which gives the feel of an intense, hotly contested combat, rather than a mere stale exercise in die-rolling and numbers crunching “fight or flight of the calculators.” And I guess this is what I like best about the entire supplement, it is geared less to constricting combat into an imaginary “clash of the Geeky Die Titans,” where game combat is a boringly insipid mathematical exercise, and is instead designed to imply that combat is really about tactical skill, flexibility, fluidity (in the sense of moving fluidly from one applicable and effective technique or maneuver to another), training, and innovative use of resources, capabilities, and tactics. The supplement implies by both design and technique, that combat is far less about bonuses and more about training, thought, innovation, and adaptability. That combat is a matter of the mind as well of the body, of tactic as well as blind chance, and of skill in battle and not just habitual bonus accumulation. Or in other words even in a game in which certain elements are determined by mechanisms of tempered chance, by no better method than a “roll of the die” it is still skill, training, innovation, cleverness, and persistence that overcomes the seemingly impossible obstacles of a dangerous combat and wins the day before sunset. Die rolls may hinder, or assist, but they are no real match for skill and capability and brilliance in determining actual outcomes. A well trained man with a host of options and inherent capabilities will make his own luck, and he who relies merely upon the fickle grace of fortune would do well to learn that wisdom is a far greater god in combat than chance. Fortune favors the well-prepared man, and it is easy to be brave when you are sure of your own adaptability in any situation. The idea behind the Codex implies that the game combatant does not have to rely upon chance, luck, the die, or even magic to turn the tides of battle. The combatant may turn the tide of battle by skill, training, tactic, and cunning. And that is the way things are, and should be. Chance turns the tide of the moment, good tactics, on both the part of the group, and the part of the individual, turn the tide of the battle.

The degree of relative realism in the work is highly evolved given the natural limitations of role play gaming combat (which can be “only so-real”) and given the fact that most role play games resolve combat and tactical issues by emulating friction and chance through die roll. But one thing I really, really enjoy about this work is that given those natural limitations the Codex takes away much of the chance element and returns tactical skill to combat encounter as a measure of training, accomplishment, perseverance, and maneuver. In a manner of speaking the Codex is attempting to bring “Role-Play” to combat rather than saying it is just an exercise of chance, or a practice of powers.

The Codex Combat System can also be rather easily modified to fit most other gaming systems which rely upon die-rolling as a reflection of how to resolve combat practices, and the whole work interjects some very creative and interesting ideas for how to resolve the actual process of in-game combat elements. I refer to both the Martial Pool as a determination of how to enhance speed and flexibility to group combat, and to the various maneuver and practical engagement techniques such as the Martial Feats (I was particularly impressed by Feats such as Feint) that add a rich depth of combat possibilities. But to me the greatest strength of the entire work is that it takes combat away, whether this was the intention or not, from being merely an exercise in bootless chance and transforms combat into an interesting and varied practice in tactical choice, training, and personal player and character “fighting expression.”

The historical background presented within the work is also rather fascinating. A depth of historical material as well as pragmatic technique analogies are examined in detail, not as an historical work, but as reflective of how historical and real world elements of personal and tactical combat can be inter-woven into a fantasy game to create a far more rewarding experience than a mere combat re-enactment of, “magical boom-boom,” or “what power gives me the highest to-hit bonus.” In fact the supplement seems to purposely steer away from over reliance upon magic in game-combat fantasy tropes so as to intentionally explore the real potential of combat-fighters. It is not so much a work filled with trick maneuvers and rather unrealistic combat techniques that would be useless in an actual combat situation, but rather a thoughtful and measured examination of the “idea of real hand to hand combat as applied to a tactical wargaming paradigm.” A sort of well-imagined and cleverly constructed game interpretation of what really happens when men come to close quarters and grapple with each other, including aspects of why they move as they do, how they strike and defend as they do, why weapons behave as they do when yielded in such and such a manner, and so forth and so on. In short it is a well-conceived examination of both how to exploit trained character strengths and abilities, and of how to take advantage of built in limitations regarding the actualities of human (and by extension humanoid/non-human) weaponry and fighting capabilities in game combat situations.

To close my review let me briefly mention a few other points. Such as the Aescetics of the work. I especially liked the simple line drawings presented throughout the book. They matched the overall tone of the nature of the work, as well as allowing one to visualize basic points being discussed at issue. The illustrations matched the tone and atmosphere of the work as presenting realistic depictions of combat in game terms. They were “fitting” in my opinion. As were the historical references, which gave the work the feel of a more ancient text of advice about how to tactically overcome certain enemies. The references taken together with the various illustrations gave the entire Codex the feel of being “illuminated.”

Simplistically, but effectively.

The Appendixes were also valuable and useful, and much could be made of them in relation to the larger ideas presented in the Codex. The work even came with a Character Sheet specifically designed towards making good use of the various game combat advantages offered and described in the Codex.
As a suggestion for future works of this kind I would very much like to see the author and his team of co-designers develop a similar system for use in large-scale warfare, both on the tactical and strategic level. On the tactical level as an expression of maneuver and technique, similar in construction to the present work, but aimed more at small group combat and skirmishing encounters as applied to the battlefield. On the strategic level as a work that addresses matters of training, capability, and execution of large-scale group combat engagements. For instance in such a supplement geared to warfare-gaming, rather than to role play combat-gaming one might take the basic components and ideas of the Codex Martialis and expound upon them as they relate to issues such as logistics, technological advantage (due to armies possessing certain types of weapons, armor, and transport, and therefore possessing corresponding combat formations and techniques to accompany such advantages or disadvantages), tactical control of the battlefield (or lack thereof), terrain, unit and formation maneuver, espionage, morale, and so forth and so on. In other words I view the Codex Martialis as a sort of Gaming version of the Tacticon. I’d also suggest and would like to see a gaming version of the Strategicon.

If you would like more information on the Codex then I suggest purchasing the newest version of the work. There is also a good link on EN World where the author and others discuss various elements and implications of the work. That link can be found here: Martial Pool. I should also mention as a matter for those interested that the author has another brilliant thread dealing with historical matters and which can give one some idea of the research involved in developing the Codex. That other link can be found here: History, Mythology, Art.

I hope my review was useful to you.
Jack.

 

http://www.enworld.org/forum/general-rpg-rules-discussion/241602-martial-pool-new-combat-mechanic.html

http://www.enworld.org/forum/general-rpg-discussion/242110-history-mythology-art-rpgs.html

GOT D&D?

 

You’ll have to go to the original post to see the accompanying video, but it is interesting to see how the Australian media views Dungeons and Dragons in relation to works of fantasy, like Game of Thrones. Weird, but interesting.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcast: 19/01/2015

Reporter: Alison Caldwell

Dungeons and Dragons was the world’s most-popular fantasy role-playing game in the 1980s but hits like Game of Thrones have seen it experiencing a revival with a younger generation, and a warning this report contains strong language.

Transcript

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: In this internet and technology-obsessed age, it’s amazing what simpler pastimes survive.

Dungeons and Dragons, the fantasy role-playing game, was huge in the 1980’s and required little more than a pen and paper, a dice and a bit of imagination.

Now it’s undergoing something of a revival, as Alison Caldwell reports.

ALISON CALDWELL, REPORTER: In living rooms around Australia, a game of strategy and boundless imagination is keeping it’s fans up late into the night.

KIEM-AI NGUYEN, D&D GAMER: I’m not really sure what’s cool and what’s not. I don’t really keep in touch with pop culture, but I’d say it’s pretty cool.

ALISON CALDWELL: Long before Game of Thrones, Dungeons and Dragons lured players with the promise of legend and great adventure.

29-year-old Kiem-Ai Nguyen is one of a legion of new fans of the role-playing game.

KIEM-AI NGUYEN: I was always like, “Ugh, nerds! Ew! Sounds terrible! But a couple of years ago my partner roped me into it. He was like, “Oh, come on, Kiem, you’d love it. It’s a lot of fun. You talk s**t and roll a dice.”

ALISON CALDWELL: Tonight, Kiem’s party of adventurers is embarking on a whole new campaign. The last one played out for over a year.

KIEM-AI NGUYEN: I’m playing an elvin rogue. So, being a rogue, she’s really good with, like, bows and short swords. I just really love the conversation part, the actual role-playing.

ALISON CALDWELL: Michael is the dungeon master in Kiem’s game, the main storyteller and referee.

MICHAEL BARDSLEY, DUNGEON MASTER: In the course of a game, I’m doing things like controlling the non-player characters, controlling the monsters, making decisions about how things happen.

BEN MCKENZIE, GAME DESIGNER: Dungeons and Dragons is the earliest role-playing game. It’s been around since I think 1974. And a role-playing game is a game where you sit around and essentially tell a story together by playing the parts of characters and going through an adventure which is arbitrated by rules which adds an element of risk and danger that you might fail.

ALISON CALDWELL: Ben McKenzie is a game designer and a veteran D&D player.

BEN MCKENZIE: It comes out of the same sort of origins of geek culture as the very early video games. You know, guys in college who felt disenfranchised by the sort of traditional idea of masculinity making an alternate way for them to do these things that they wanted to do.

ALISON CALDWELL: Dungeon master Andy Hazel’ s group has been playing together for seven years.

ANDY HAZEL, DUNGEON MASTER: I didn’t really have a TV when I was younger so there was a lot more imagination and books going on. So, when a neighbour showed me this, I took to it straight away and then quickly converted a whole bunch of my friends at school and started writing adventures for them.

ALISON CALDWELL: Invented in the US in 1974, the board game’s appeal waned in the late ’80s with the advent of video games. Facing oblivion in the late-’90s, a new owner revamped the game, releasing new editions and a mind-boggling 20-sided dice.

ANDY HAZEL: So this is all from 1978 and it was all made by the original guy, Gary Gygax, who – he kind of – he wrote all these books and came up with them. He’s like God to many people.

ALISON CALDWELL: Andy and his group are purists. They prefer an earlier vintage.

ANDY HAZEL: I can often write huge adventures and people will just, like, turn the other direction and walk into the hills and I’ll have to improvise stuff. So, this is still much more about human contact and meeting up and having brown fizzy drinks and pizza and that sort of stuff.

ALISON CALDWELL: Fairfax columnist Clem Bastow has embraced Dungeons & Dragons.

CLEM BASTOW, D&D GAMER: My character today is called Zalga and he’s a half-ork magic user from the realm of Pomage. And he’s six foot five and he’s about 37. And I think his theme song would probably be Whitesnake’s Here I Go Again. He’s kind of just been wandering around and somehow ended up in this cabin with all these people.

ALISON CALDWELL: One reason for the revival in interest in D&D was the late-’90s cult teen drama series Freaks and Geeks. Incorporated into its final episode, Freak Daniel, played by James Franco, is ordered to hang out with geeks and play D&D as punishment. To his surprise, Daniel enjoys it.

That’s how Clem Bastow came to Dungeons & Dragons.

CLEM BASTOW: D&D in Freaks and Geeks is such a big part of those narratives. So when I found these books at the op’ shop, I just put the word out to people I thought might be interested and it turned out everybody in the email chain was interested.

ALISON CALDWELL: Once the domain of men only, today, around 10 per cent of D&D players are women.

CLEM BASTOW: Sometimes women just assume there’s not something there for them. But, I mean, we usually have a fairly even gender split. And what’s really interesting too is, you know, people don’t always play their own gender. So, right now we’ve got one woman in the campaign, but three women at the table.

KIEM-AI NGUYEN: I’m a feminist so I’m all about embracing, you know, everything. It’s becoming a fairly new thing for women to get involved in D&D. … I think we’re all so caught up in the internet world. In the end you try and look for something a little bit different, something creative. It’s kind of like a massive choose-your-own- adventure story, but there is no end to the story and that’s really cool.

LEIGH SALES: You would be surprised how many Dungeons & Dragons fans in the 7.30 office have outed themselves since we commissioned that story – or perhaps not!

BLACKLIST AND VIKINGS

I have a feeling that both the Blacklist and Vikings will be superb tonight.

Here we go…

THE COLLEGES TO COME?

Following up on the LARPful post. This could be an excellent stimulus for the imagination. Especially for writers. artists, actors, and perhaps even scientists who wanted a free-flowing environment to conduct chemical and physical experiments and make observations in a fun environment.

I can also see this being transformed easily into a Vadding Experience (the exploration of both modern and older ruins), that is LARPing could be used an an environment to train Vadders.

And finally this could also be easily used as a platform to develop ARGs (Alternate Reality Games and LARPs) and could even be used to train participants in Real World Skills (TSS: Transferable Skill Simulations) and in subjects such as ancient technologies and history.

So this could also easily become a GPAD, a Game of Personal Advancement and Development.

Anyway as far as the current Crowdfunding Project goes Claus, Good Luck and Godspeed. To you, your partners, and participants.

 

LARPFUL, LARK-LESS

I admit, I’ve always had a prejudice against LARPing. I’ve always considered it the sort of live-action joke of acting, and the running gag of gaming.

But I also gotta admit. It’s come a long, long way in recent years. Some of this looks really interesting, and would be especially so if you were a kid.

Live Action Role-Playing has a way of sinking its (metaphorical) claws into you. Consider American journalist Lizzie Stark, who in 2011 visited the Knudepunkt conference in Denmark, the most influential larp gathering of its kind. There, she climbed into the rabbit hole and never came out. I know, because I gave her a hug not two hours ago at this year’s conference. She’s still a journalist, and recently published a stunning book on breast cancer, but she’s also an avid larper and game designer in her own right.

“Discovering the Nordic scene felt like reading James Joyce or Gertrude Stein after spending a lifetime on fairy tales,” she wrote in her 2012 book about larping, Leaving Mundania. What would turn a critical American journalist into a die-hard larper? Good question, but let’s step back a bit here. Larp is organized pretend play. During a larp, participants dress up as characters and leave their normal lives behind for a while. A larp can be about cowboys in 1886, witches and wizards at a magical college, or an advertising agency from hell. Instead of watching or listening, you’re an active part of the experience. It’s like stepping into a TV show or novel. Or kids playing. Both descriptions are accurate.

The author as a general commanding 200 soldiers at Warlarp. Photo: Anders BernerNordic larp, the type that gets the most press, and the one in which I participate, evolved out of the scenes in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland (but not Iceland, the other Nordic country). Not only does some of the most outrageous and mind-blowing stuff happen there (want to play soulless ad execs or tortured prisoner for fun? Nordic larp is for you), the Nordic larp movement has also spawned the world’s most celebrated larp conference. It’s called Knudepunkt (“Nodal Point”) and has taken place annually since 1997. It’s a 100 percent volunteer-driven event, where larp enthusiasts of all stripes come together to discuss, play, and party.

The event has slowly grown from around a hundred participants from the four Nordic countries (sorry, Iceland) to almost 600 this year from almost 30 different countries. It’s a magical playground like no other, where devoted hobbyists and academics stay up late at night to rant about subjects like realistic characters, psychological safety, and techniques to simulate rape.

Simulated rape? Really? Yeah. I started out larping for shits and giggles, and while I still do that, I sometimes also larp for more serious purposes these days. I’ve played a prisoner in a not-that-long-after-tomorrow prison and have been tortured using genuine Gitmo techniques. I’ve been a jealous husband in an 1829 Jane Austen romantic comedy. And I’ve played a heartless peacekeeping soldier, who couldn’t care less about the locals. Not all of this has been “fun,” but all have been experiences I treasure and which have helped form me.

Maybe that’s why I love this hobby, and especially this conference, so much. At one moment, I’ll be at a lecture where a Finnish Ph.D. in Game Studies is earnestly telling us all why we need to rethink our definition of “games,” and at the next moment, I’ll be knee-deep in a Russian presentation about larps in the 90’s, and hear a story of how some deranged madman thought he was actually the “Son of Sauron”—yeah, that Sauron, the bad guy from Lord of the Rings. I know, Sauron wasn’t big on sons, but this guy wasn’t big on reason, either.

I was 13 when I started larping. My friend Jeppe and I used a bizarre-looking club as a shared weapon, and our costumes were bed sheets with a hole cut out at the head. The club included materials like “crappy stick,” “lumps of felt,” ”newspaper” and was a bright orange colour. Bright orange. And nobody cared—least of all people from the outside.

The author at a young age at the Knudepunkt 2000 conference. Photo courtesy Claus Raasted.Now I’m 35, and my latest larp project was a four-day event about witches and wizards held at an honest-to-Gandalf fairytale castle. It got featured in People and TIME and on MTV, Fox News, and Good Morning America. And they didn’t talk about us like we were freaks and weirdos. “You guys, they have a castle for this larp. A real, freaking castle,” one journalist wrote. Granted, the author does write for Nerdist, which, needless to say, is on the nerdy side of the media spectrum. But the strange thing was the writer for Teen Vogue magazine was just as enthusiastic.

“Hello, I live in San Diego, California,” an email from a would-be participant began, “and I saw your website published on Teen Vogue.”

WTF!?

I’ve been participating in larps for two decades, and even though I’ve been part of the avant-garde Nordic larp movement for more than a decade, I can say for sure that this one caught me flatfooted. When I was a teenager larping was a hobby for the weird, the bright, and the creative. We definitely didn’t read Teen Vogue, and I swear by Spock’s ears that Teen Vogue didn’t write about us.

But all that has changed. The Interwebz is good for many things, and only 90 percent of them are porn. One thing it’s great at is connecting communities. I remember watching a documentary about Star Wars stormtrooper fans some years back. There was this guy from Mexico (or somewhere equally populated, but remote) who was the only dude in his village who thought Star Wars was cool. But due to the power of the electronic superhighways, he found kindred spirits all over the world. He was no longer alone, and now his story has been told to millions of people around the world because of that documentary.

I wasn’t that stormtrooper, but I know a bit about how he felt. When I started larping in 1993, we were maybe a thousand larpers in Denmark. Now, more than 100,000 Danes larp, and I’ve had sit-downs with Danish ministers (plural) about why larping is something they should be aware of. We’ve come a long way, and one of the reasons we’ve gotten to where we are today is because some people got together at the first Knudepunkt conference in 1997 and talked about their hobby in a serious way.

The author being tortured at Kapo in 2011. Photo by Peter Munthe-Kaas.So why do we do it? We do we take games so seriously? Isn’t it just about having fun? Well, sure. But “fun” can mean many things. I’m also quite sure that no one will mock Johnny Depp for taking his acting seriously even in comedic roles. If creative expression was only about getting a few laughs and making people feel good, there’d be no Schindler’s List, no Oedipus, and definitely no Passion of the Christ.

And now I’ve got to go. Because I need to explain to some critical firebrands that we shouldn’t be afraid of the girl from Teen Vogue who wants to pretend she’s a witch in a magical castle. We should remember that all journeys of the imagination begin somewhere, and that the easiest way to get people to understand the rabbit hole is to make them want to jump into it.

After all, if we’re to come out of the shadows and into the light, we have to show the world that while we may sometimes pretend to be vampires who dislike the sunlight, we do it in cool and interesting ways.

Claus Raasted

Claus Raasted has made his living doing larps since 2002, and is the author of 17 books on the subject. His most famous project is the Harry Potter inspired larp “College of Wizardry”, which made its rounds on global media in December 2014. When he’s not busy with projects, he’s happily married and is the proud owner of 100 kgs of LEGO.

BATMAN VERSUS SUPERMAN

An older interview but a good one for insights…

Exclusive Interview With Zack Snyder, Director Of ‘Batman Vs. Superman’

Director Zack Snyder at the Japan premiere of his film “Man of Steel” in Tokyo, Japan, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. (Shizuo Kambayashi/AP)

With the Man of Steel sequel about to start shooting in Detroit, fans have been hoping new information about the movie will drop soon, and desperately awaiting the reveal of the new batsuit and Wonder Woman costume. Well, dear readers, I had a chance to speak at length with the film’s director Zack Snyder, and we talked about Batman’s 75th Anniversary this year, about how he became a Batman fan, about his past film projects… and yes, about the upcoming Batman-Superman-Wonder Woman film.

Snyder revealed some interesting information about how Batman came to be involved in the story, about how Batman and Superman will face off in the movie, about how Watchmen is a good template for approaching a world where Batman and Superman coexist, and about the new costumes — including the giant picture of the costumes that’s hanging on the wall in his office (feel free to freak out).

We also discussed how his thoughts on the history of Terry Gilliam’s Watchmen project caused a crazy media reaction that got out of hand. And he told me how you might get to see his intended version of Sucker Punch some day, if all goes well.

One thing that comes across clearly when speaking with Zack Snyder is his passion for these projects, and how much thought he puts into the worlds and characters he builds on screen. You might be surprised to find out some of your assumptions about him or his films are probably very wrong. There are layers and ideas at work that too often go unappreciated, and as a fan of Snyder’s work I was happy to have this chance to explore those issues in depth with him.

To this day, his Watchmen remains one of the true masterpieces of the genre, and hearing him discuss it and how he is approaching this next DC film makes me suspect we might be getting another masterpiece in 2016 — and if you think that’s hyperbolic, just wait until you read what he said about his approach to the characters and story.

Okay, I think I’ve teased you enough, so let’s get on with it! And pay close attention to the details, folks…

MH: When did you become a fan of Batman, and of comics in general? Was it in the mid-1980s with the arrival of The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen, two comics you often discuss with such adoration?

ZS: Frank [Miller]‘s book really made me see that comic books, and Batman specifically, could really reflect political and social concepts that I felt like maybe before I hadn’t imagined were possible. Watchmen, of course, I sort of see in the same light — that being, this comic that’s able to shed light on what I would say is our reality, but do it through the sort of metaphor and mythology of comic books, right?

For me, that’s really what The Dark Knight Returns did as well. When I read it, I felt like — of course I knew who Batman was and I was familiar with him as a comic book hero — but it was that book that made me say, “Gosh, you know this could be an amazing film.” At the time, I was just starting my college career, but I thought, “Wow this would be a cool movie!” I wasn’t sure exactly how that would manifest itself, but you know you dream when you’re a kid and you’re in college, “God, if one day I could make a Batman movie, that would be awesome!”

The reality of course is another thing, but it’s kind of amazing that it’s worked out as it has. You know, that’s the thing that you’ve just gotta be super-grateful for, and at the same time you’ve gotta take these opportunities. I think, in my mind — I don’t want to say make the most of it, but in a way you really have to accept these challenges and really try and realize those [opportunities]… Because, the things you thought when you first read them, you try to recapture those feelings. I always say that about Watchmen, when I first read it I had an emotional response to it, and that’s what I always tried to get at when I made the movie. It was a certain way of feeling, and I feel like that was what I really pursued — those ideas.

And I think those same opportunities exist for Batman and Superman, in the sense that they teach us about ourselves. I think Batman — now after Chris [Nolan]‘s movies and the way we track Batman through his cinematic history — he does have this license to enter our world and be a real character and not a complete cartoon, and he’s able to tell us about the way we live and our society. He moves with us, his morality — I think Superman probably less so, but I think Batman definitely sort of reflects us in a more personal way.

MH: Superman is kind of the ideal of what we’d like to be, and Batman is kind of rooted in what we are. He reflects what we are, so to speak.

ZS: Oh, 100%. And I think that’s at the heart of that, you know.

MH: When you came aboard Man of Steel, were you thinking in the back of your mind, “I could be the guy who gets to reboot Batman on film too!”

ZS: I gotta be honest, it definitely was a thing that… after Man of Steel finished and we started talking about what would be in the next movie, I started subtly mentioning that it would be cool if he faced Batman. In the first meeting, it was like, “Maybe Batman?” Maybe at the end of the second movie, some Kryptonite gets delivered to Bruce Wayne’s house or something. Like in a cryptic way, that’s the first time we see him. But then, once you say it out loud, right? You’re in a story meeting talking about, like, who should [Superman] fight if he fought this giant alien threat Zod who was basically his equal physically, from his planet, fighting on our turf… You know, who to fight next? The problem is, once you say it out loud, then it’s kind of hard to go back, right? Once you say, “What about Batman?” then you realize, “Okay, that’s a cool idea. What else?” I mean, what do you say after that? …But I’m not gonna say at all that when I took the job to do Man of Steel that I did it in a subversive way to get to Batman. I really believe that only after contemplating who could face [Superman] did Batman come into the picture.

MH: This year is the 75th anniversary of the first published Batman story, of course. But when the Man of Steel sequel hits theaters, it’ll be the 75th anniversary of Wonder Woman’s first appearance in comics as well. And this year happens to be the 40th anniversary of Wonder Woman’s first live-action appearance, in the Cathy Lee Crosby TV movie on ABC. And on top of all of that, your Man of Steel sequel releases during the 35th anniversary of the first Christopher Reeve Superman film, too. So there’s all of these anniversaries and all of this history coming together around this production. Had you realized how significant the timing of this film was going to be? And that you’d be launching the first movie really showing and firmly establishing the much bigger DC Universe on film at this important time in everyone’s history?

ZS: We just went through Superman’s 75th, and it was very exciting… and to me, it was just really awesome. And the idea of having the Batman 75th and the Wonder Woman 75th together is kind of an amazing thing, too… The thing also that’s really fascinating for me is that, even just in the tests we’ve been doing, the costumes, right? You basically have Batman and Superman — and this is without Ben [Affleck] and Henry [Cavill] in the costumes, but just like the stand-ins, just testing to see what the costumes look like. And you have them standing there and they’re standing in the same shot — and then we have Wonder Woman, you know, all three of them in the same shot. Even just for a test, you really have to go, “Wow, that’s crazy!” Not only is it the first time that I’m seeing them, it’s the first time they’ve ever existed together on screen in a movie. And that’s kind of a huge deal. Even just Batman and Superman standing next to each other… [I]t’s kind of epic. You do sort of sense the weight of the pop culture iconography jumping out of its skin when you’re standing there looking at the two of them and Wonder Woman. It’s crazy. But it’s fun. I mean, I have the first photo, I’ve got it in my archive because I was like, “Okay, I better keep this, it’s gonna be worth something,” [laughs]!

MH: Fans are wondering, because there have been some reports that it could be much later this summer or even next year before the suits are revealed. Can you tell us if we really might have to wait six months to a year to see them, or could it be sooner?

ZS: Unfortunately, I don’t even know the timeline… Because the movie takes place so far from now, it’s hard to know exactly. That all gets tied to marketing and strategies for the movie. It’s not just a free-for-all, which I’d love it to be. Because I take a picture of the suit with my camera– I’m actually staring at one right now in my office. And it’s just massive on my wall in my office and it’s epic, let me tell you! And I’m like, “God, I want to send this to the Internet immediately.” But I know I’m not allowed to [laughs]! I do value the sort of excitement of the way the film is [revealed]… the pieces that are released and sort of trickle out to everybody, and those reveals are exciting milestones for us.

MH: People are always looking for the set photos and things. Feel free to tell fans, “Wait for the official release, it’ll be epic and that’s the way to experience this.” They’ll only get to go through this once, where you see Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman for the first time together like this, and it should be something better than a cheesy picture on an iPhone.

ZS: The one nice thing is that, the schedule is designed carefully so that I don’t know that that’ll be [a problem]– but who knows, these cats are pretty good at getting the drop on us with these photos. But, when we finally do show it, it’s gonna be real fun. And it’s true, you gotta make sure– you’re gonna want the real shot…

MH: When I first saw Watchmen, I came out thinking “That’s the way to approach a DC superhero team-up universe where the characters exist together, pseudo-realism and peering into the political implications and social backlash that would exist against costumed vigilantes, and really showing us the true nature of the sort of violence that would occur rather than sanitized bloodless, restrained application of force.” Can we expect some of those same kind of sensibilities to inform your approach to this next film? Not storywise, but that idea — which you mentioned earlier — of putting these realistic elements on screen, but also alongside some of the more fantastic things like Dr. Manhattan for example, but it all fits so perfectly?

ZS: …I think with Superman we have this opportunity to place this icon within the sort of real world we live in. And I think that, honestly, the thing I was surprised about in response to Superman was how everyone clings to the Christopher Reeve version of Superman, you know? How tightly they cling to those ideas, not really the comic book version but more the movie version… If you really analyze the comic book version of Superman, he’s killed, he’s done all the things– I guess the rules that people associate with Superman in the movie world are not the rules that really apply to him in the comic book world, because those rules are different. He’s done all the things and more that we’ve shown him doing, right? It’s just funny to see people really taking it personally… because I made him real, you know, I made him feel, or made consequences [in] the world. I felt like, it was the same thing in Watchmen. We really wanted to show it wasn’t just like they thought, like the PG-13 version where everyone just gets up and they’re fine. I really wanted to show the violence is real, people get killed or get hurt, and it’s not fun or funny. And I guess for me, it was like I wanted a hero in Superman that was a real hero and sort of reflected the world we live in now…

MH: He’s a big enough character and a good enough character, and the source material is rich enough, I think the material allows for a lot of these different approaches to the character. So when fans kind of feel like there’s only one correct way to approach it and only one right way, that’s a limited way of thinking about it, in my opinion.

ZS: I really believe this — and I think it’s obvious — I believe superheroes, they’re our modern myths. They’re our mythology in the modern world, and myth is designed to tell us about ourselves. In the ancient world, a volcano would go off or the stars would fall from the sky, and they would make a myth up around it to help ancient man to sleep at night or understand it, or at least to have a way of dealing with these things that were outside of their control. So, they’d make a story about a god on a mountain or whatever it is. And I think that’s kind of what our superheroes can do for us, they can help us explain our world a little bit.

I think that’s what Watchmen is a perfect example of, this comic book that tells us who we are. It actually tells us about our century, and about the nuclear age, and politics, and the balance between obliterating ourselves and going into the future, and what is justice, and what is the difference between right and wrong in the world– all the things are in the comic, and in the movie. And I think that Batman and Superman also in a weird way occupy similar space, that they are the most powerful, iconographic superhero figures, and they occupy a place in all of our collective consciousness. Almost every person in the world at one time or another has said, “I’m Batman!” I believe that that’s a powerful thing. And he absolutely can tell us about ourselves.

As we’ve been writing the script and talking about what to do with these characters, how they face off and why and what it means, you know, we’ve really tried to think about it in a real– I guess in a way that talks about who we are as well.

MH: I think the film wasn’t just faithful to the Watchmen comic, I think — and I know this is a controversial position — I think you got a lot more right, especially with the revelation of what the “secret conspiracy” was. I think it worked better and actually spoke more to the themes of the story, about this idea of the ultimate use of violence, finding some ultimate use of violence that would bring about ultimate peace. And how much vigilantism, our politics and warfare, and all of these things that are that same kind of balance seeking that same kind of thing. Your film really, I felt, got a lot of those things more right than the comic did in some ways. Not to take anything away from the comic, obviously.

ZS: No, no — and by the way, you know how I feel about the comic — but I just felt like, especially that concept, it just seemed obvious to me that of course you blame God. That’s the move. That’s Adrian [Veidt]‘s move, you pin it on God if you can. And I just felt like, to me it seemed dramatically obvious. … It’s funny, Terry Gilliam and I having this ridiculous back and forth– by the way, Terry Gilliam is literally one of my favorite filmmakers, and literally Brazil is one of my favorite movies of all time. I consider it a masterpiece… I don’t know, I just find the whole conversation, that whole thing that happened, ludicrous.

MH: So did I. It seemed very much to me like there were some folks within the media and within the fan community who were trying to create this false conflict, actually. Because I thought what you said was not only true, it was also very obvious what you meant. There were outlets that claimed you bashed Terry Gilliam or denounced him as a filmmaker, when obviously what you meant was that at that time it’s true the general consensus among studios and Terry Gilliam was that the story had to be changed or it just couldn’t be done. And people kind of refer to it as the “Terry Gilliam Watchmen project,” so when you said that, I took it as that kind of a reference, “Well, people thought this, and I was trying to rescue it from being changed.”

ZS: Exactly. That’s exactly how I meant it. I just meant that, you know– all I wanted to do was do it as close as I could to the way it was in the comic book. That was my entire point of view. And everyone was like, “You can’t do it like it was in the comic book, you have to figure out a way around it.” And I just said, “Well, let’s try it — and maybe we’ll fail — but that’s the idea.” So yeah, I agree. Look, I have nothing but respect for Terry Gilliam, and I think he’s a genius. So, that’s that.

MH: When I saw 300: Rise of An Empire, I happen to have seen Jason and the Argonauts two days earlier on the big screen at Quentin Tarantino’s theater in West Hollywood [note: it is actually in Los Angeles, I misspoke here]… I saw them basically back-to-back. When I saw it — and I’m glad I did, because I don’t know if I would’ve made the connection — I felt like there’s a very strong connection between Jason and the Argonauts and your 300 movies. Did you go back and look at those older kind of classic sword-and-sandles genre movies to inform or think about how to approach the 300 series?

ZS: I’ll be honest, I do think those movies touched me most powerfully when I was watching them on Saturday afternoon on TV at home. And probably Frank [Miller] as well, to be honest… I think the connection for me is that idea of taking Greek myth or Greek mythology or fake Greek settings, whatever you want to call it — that time in between history, it feels like it’s sort of out of history but it’s in a time, right? And it’s kind of setting a movie there. I think if anything, that’s what those movies really are able to do to me. Because in a way they feel like, it’s almost like Excalibur, where you feel like it happened, but it still exists outside of the reality we know [and] what’s possible to us. But there was another time when that was.

And maybe that’s kind of what 300 is about, in a weird way. It’s about history that’s out of time. It’s funny, because I was talking — and I won’t say who said it — but I was talking to a history professor who said that 300 has done more for the classics than any school. Because kids, they see 300, and then they’ve read Herodotus or sort of gone to look at the real story of 300, and it’s just one of those things… Even my kids at school… this was before they even knew that I did the movie, right? The teacher would bring in 300 to show, to get them excited about history. They’d edited it, of course. But, you know, this is a way of starting to talk about Thermopylae. I’m not an advocate of that, I gotta be honest, [laughing] because I just find that slightly irresponsible. But on the other hand, the kids would be like, “That was cool, maybe history’s okay.”

MH: You probably won a lot of converts to it who might not otherwise have paid as much attention or sought out those stories.

ZS: I 100% think that’s true. Look, I think it’s a lot of fun, that’s my feeling about it. I mean, I make those movies with a sense of irony. I made both those movies with a sense of, you know, there was a tongue in our cheek… I believe in the heroic aspect of the sacrifice, and that’s not funny. But there was a tone to the movie, it knows what it is, it’s not trying to pull the wool over your eyes. It’s very straightforward about what it’s doing.

There’s that Leonidas scene, the apple eating scene in the movie — in the original 300 – where’s he’s all like, “There’s no reason we can’t be civil, is there?” And the guy’s stabbing, he’s killing helpless guys laying on the ground, and he’s like, “No, no sire, none.” It’s kind of like, okay I get it! I think that stuff is fun. …But that idea of a beautiful death is a thing that is outside of our way of thinking. These are guys that literally had this aesthetic idea about how they would die on the battlefield, almost like samurai. They had a picture in their mind of the perfect death, and these Spartans were looking to fulfill that. And that is a thing that is outside of our way of thinking.

MH: “A good death is its own reward.”

ZS: Yeah, by the way, a little bit. And those scenes I find really kind of fun and interesting, and fun to kind of challenge the viewer with, because… it’s just not the way we think. That’s the Fassbender line in 300, where Mike Fassbender says, “With all the world’s armies down there, there’s gotta be someone who can give it to me.” Like, basically, “I’m crossing my fingers that someone down there can kill me! Maybe?”

MH: The media and fans kind of treat it like there’s this harsh competitiveness between Marvel and DC to the point you’re trying to hurt each other’s films. But my feeling is — and I wrote an article for Forbes about it saying — that’s not really true. There’s a competitiveness, but everyone wins when there’s a successful film in the genre, and nobody wants to cause the other’s films to fail. Is that true?

ZS: I think that’s 100% true. Look, I’m a fan of the Marvel movies… and the thing that’s awesome is, we make a different movie. We have a different product than them, although they both exist in sort of the superhero world, which is great. I think that those are the opportunities. That’s what you get at the movies, you get a chance to go to all these different worlds. And I’m as interested in going to the Marvel Universe as anybody. So, I personally don’t think that there’s any, from my point of view, we definitely don’t have any animosity or anything of that nature. We’re all in this big business together, and we hope people are interested in the adventures that we put up on screen. And I do believe it’s infectious, and the next weekend you’re like, “You know what? Let’s go do that again, that was awesome. We saw a cool movie, maybe we’ll get another cool movie.”

[On how his films are often misunderstood and underestimated…]

ZS: We were just talking about — and I don’t know if it’ll happen — but I was talking to DJ [John DesJardin], my visual effects supervisor, about doing this special edition of Sucker Punch, which is sort of like this super-super-uncensored “uninfluenced by the studio” version of the movie. Which exists, you know, I had it cut. It was my very, very first cut of the movie, which is basically more like the script… it’s much more meta, it’s much more of an indictment of fandom and it’s just… harder on the genre, which is how it was designed.

MH: That message was there, and I got it. You’ve said before that you think people misunderstood your films and that they don’t get credit for being as smart as they are. I absolutely agree and that’s the argument I’ve been making for years, including about Sucker Punch, which I think is great.

ZS: Did you see that SlashFilm thing that they did on Sucker Punch? The SlashFilm guy [Adam Quigley] did this little video, it’s about seven minutes long, I think it’s called, “You Don’t Understand Sucker Punch.” And he really breaks it down in a really, really cool way, and I was like, “ Wow!” …His thing is like, you can dislike the film, but you can’t dislike it because it’s “dumb.” That was his argument, you know — it’s fine to not like a movie, but you can’t not like a movie for something that it is not. And it is frustrating, I’ll be 100% honest. Sometimes I do get frustrated. I’m categorized as basically this visualist whose movies don’t mean anything–

MH: Which is completely false.

ZS: –I think that that’s part of it… aesthetically those things are so important to me, that I think people just assume that’s just “eye candy” so it doesn’t mean anything. I don’t know, maybe I’m crazy…

MH: No, there are actually some really good essays written by feminist journalists defending Sucker Punch and pointing out that the misunderstanding about the movie is entirely because people are assessing it through the typical, standard fanboy approach to watching these films and to looking at women, and the film is the opposite of that. Really, really eye-opening assessments of the movie by these women and I send the links around all the time to people whenever I see a conversation come up about the film.

ZS: Yeah. By the way, you should send them to me. You should, because I really feel like there’s one thing about it that I always say — and I don’t want to bore you with it — but, it’s one of those things that I find it’s not hard to look at it like, there’s not one redeemable male character in the movie except for the imaginary bus driver, you know what I mean? It’s the Scott Glenn character, this kind of fake father we all imagine but that is not real. It’s very much an incredibly girl-power movie, not like girl-power in the comic book way but in the sort of psychological way.

MH: The camera’s never looking at them from an ogling perspective — the same as with 300. Nobody’s complaining that 300 that movie is just hyper-sexualizing the men and doing nothing but ogling them, even though they’re half-naked, and it’s because the film is from their perspective and has a male perspective. And Sucker Punch very much has that female perspective, which is one of the main points some of these essays have made… I think you’ll find it enlightening just how many fangirls like that movie…

ZS: That’s interesting, that’s really cool. But yeah, please do send that along, that’d be awesome.

Big thanks to Zack Snyder for taking so much time to talk with me! Hope you enjoyed it, dear readers — sound off with your thoughts and comments below!

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GIVE A LITTLE BIT…

Your Dungeon Master works hard to make sure you have a fantastic campaign. So how can you repay them? By showing your appreciation!

Since February is now officially “Dungeon Master Appreciation Month,” it only felt right to come up with 28 ways you can appreciate your DM. How many will you squeeze into the month?

  1. Offer to host the next session at your place!
  2. Create a soundtrack to match the current campaign setting.
  3. Make them a batch of Fireball truffles.
  4. Pay for the DM’s share of the pizza order.
  5. Submit the DM’s best quotes to outofcontextdnd.tumblr.com.
  6. Give them a hand-painted miniature of an important NPC in your campaign.
  7. Make sure the DM’s glass is always full, whether they’re drinking water, coffee, or mead.
  8. Recommend they DM for the D&D Adventurer’s League at your friendly local game store.
  9. Immortalize your campaign’s story in the GameTales subreddit.
  10. Secretly talk to all of the players in your campaign, and have everyone come to the next session dressed up as their character!
  11. Bring the DM a bottle of wine with a customized label matching your current campaign (handmade by you, of course!). You can find a template here.
  12. Share an amazing thing your DM did in the DnD subreddit.
  13. Make a batch of Tavern Stew for the DM and other players.
  14. Share a clip of the epic campaign (or the hilarious NPC the DM voices) on Vine or Instagram.
  15. Tweet your appreciation for your DM using #DnDDMA!
  16. Are you artistically inclined? Volunteer to draw/paint beautiful character representations or maps. Not so artsy? Find a talented friend and commission the artwork.
  17. Send a Thank You card after a fantastic session, and let them know what impressed you–was it the puzzle they wrote? How they had you laughing the whole time? How the monsters were perfectly matched to make it a hard (but not completely lethal) fight?
  18. Get tickets to an upcoming gaming convention and take your DM! Check out the cons recommended by the D&D team here.
  19. Offer to record your next session and edit into a podcast or video.
  20. Write an ode to your DM on the official Dungeons & Dragons Facebook page. 
  21. Sign your DM up for Dungeons and Dragons Online and play a session with them! (If you’re feeling extra generous, make them a VIP!)
  22. Create a sash, crown, robe, or other accessory to signify your DM is the “World’s Greatest.” Insist they wear it to each session!
  23. Make your DM a dice tower.
  24. Create a “pump up playlist” to get your DM in the mood on their way to the next session. Some suggestions are Assorted Intricacies’ “Roll a D6,” Weird Al’s “White and Nerdy,” Stephen Lynch’s “D&D,” and The Doubleclicks’ “This Fantasy World.”
  25. Present a gift to your DM, but make them solve a puzzle or riddle similar to ones they put in your campaign before they can receive it!
  26. Make an in-character “scrapbook” of your adventure with notes/”diary entries” from each day and drawings of people, places, and monsters you encountered. Give it to your DM at the end of the campaign!
  27. Make a dice bag using fabric patterns and colors that your DM will love!
  28. Offer to DM a future campaign so they have a chance to play!

(Editor’s Note: As mentioned in our earlier letter, if you’re feeling inspired to give Dungeon Mastering a try, or want to start appreciating your Dungeon Master right now, then the Dungeon Master’s Guide is the perfect gift for the storyteller in your life!)

About the Author

Geeky Hostess (Tara Theoharis) blogs about “incorporating your geeky passions into your everyday life through parties, gift ideas, home decor, recipes, etiquette, fashion, and more.” More advice, ideas and recipes can be found at http://geekyhostess.com.

THE PROJECTED GAME

Actually I’m working on an invention that would replace this altogether for all kinds of tabletop games, not just Role Play but Wargaming, Board Games, etc. Anything imaginable played on a tabletop.

But I still like the general set-up described/displayed here.

DnD_DigitalMap.jpg (1300×975)

Dungeons and Dragons comes to life on digital maps

A projector combined with a Web-based tabletop role playing game tool make for a new and really cool way to play Dungeons and Dragons.

Reddit user Silverlight is a developer for Roll20, an online tool for virtual tabletop role playing game sessions, so he knows a thing or two about blending technology into traditional RPG play. By pairing Roll20 with a projector mounted on the ceiling, Silverlight is able to display digital maps on the tabletop for a home session of D&D.

And the coolest thing about these digital maps is the ability to show characters’ actual line of sight as they explore. Discussing the setup on Reddit, Silverlight says that this functionality is built into Roll20, and he made the cones of vision possible by manually revealing portions of the map to the players.

This isn’t really a practical setup to replicate. Silverlight used an Epson brand projector to make the digital maps, and a cheap Epson projector should run you about $300 on Amazon. Still, it demonstrates new possibilities for playing tabletop role playing games. Roll20 runs in a Web browser. Maybe someone can figure out how to make this setup work using a much more affordable smartphone projector.

Photo via Silverlight/imgur

CROWNING GLORY

This gave me a lot of good ideas for treasure, but in particular for a magical crown of indeterminate construction, symbols and glyphs, decoration, and powers.

Actually, far more a powerful relic than a mere magical object.


The Nahal Mishmar Treasure

In 1961, a spectacular collection of objects dating from the Chalcolithic period (ca. 4000–3300 B.C.) was excavated in a cave in the Judaean Desert near the Dead Sea. Hidden in a natural crevice and wrapped in a straw mat, the hoard contained 442 different objects: 429 of copper, six of hematite, one of stone, five of hippopotamus ivory, and one of elephant ivory. Many of the copper objects in the hoard were made using the lost-wax process, the earliest known use of this complex technique. For tools, nearly pure copper of the kind found at the mines at Timna in the Sinai Peninsula was used. However, the more elaborate objects were made with a copper containing a high percentage of arsenic (4–12%), which is harder than pure copper and more easily cast.

Hidden in a natural crevice and wrapped in a straw mat, the hoard contained 442 different objects.

Carbon-14 dating of the reed mat in which the objects were wrapped suggests that it dates to at least 3500 B.C. It was in this period that the use of copper became widespread throughout the Levant, attesting to considerable technological developments that parallel major social advances in the region. Farmers in Israel and Jordan began to cultivate olives and dates, and herders began to use milk products from domesticated animals. Specialized artisans, sponsored by an emerging elite, produced exquisite wall paintings, terracotta figurines and ossuaries, finely carved ivories, and basalt bowls and sculpture.
The objects in the Nahal Mishmar hoard appear to have been hurriedly collected. It has been suggested that the hoard was the sacred treasure belonging to a shrine at Ein Gedi, some twelve kilometers away. Set in an isolated region overlooking the Dead Sea, the Ein Gedi shrine consists of a large mudbrick walled enclosure with a gatehouse. Across from the gatehouse is the main structure, a long narrow room entered through a doorway in the long wall. In the center of the room and on either side of the doorway are long narrow benches. Opposite the door is a semicircular structure on which a round stone pedestal stood, perhaps to support a sacred object. The contents of the shrine were hidden in the cave at Nahal Mishmar, perhaps during a time of emergency. The nature and purpose of the hoard remains a mystery, although the objects may have functioned in public ceremonies.

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