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GAME CHANGER

I learned a great deal from playing D&D (as well as numerous other games). And many of those things were even useful.

After-school Game Changer program combines education, dragon-slaying

Dungeons & Dragons game at the Misty Forest Academy


Phil Zoshak, right, leads kids during a Dungeons & Dragons game at the Misty Forest Academy in Orlando on Friday, December 5, 2014. The kids are, from left: Tessa Adamopoulos, 10, Brett Miller, 11, Bobby Melia, 11, and Daniel Hernandez, 10. (Stephen M. Dowell, Orlando Sentinel)
By Tod Caviness Orlando Sentinel contact the reporter

Television Industry

Game Changer program uses Dungeons & Dragons as a teaching tool

Outside of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, you won’t find swords and spellcraft on the curriculum at too many learning institutions.

But Phil Zoshak of Orlando isn’t just any teacher.

Each Friday, children ages 7 to 14 in his after-school Game Changer program are transformed into wizards and warriors as they participate in storytelling sessions loosely based on the popular fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. In Zoshak’s games, kids aren’t just battling dragons, they’re learning math, leadership and social skills.

“We are riding on a wave of nerd right now,” said Zoshak. “Tabletop gaming is coming back, and if that’s the case, let’s get these kids unplugged off the video games and get them having positive gaming experiences.”

Zoshak is a program coordinator for Page 15, a nonprofit organization that provides free creative-writing activities for children in Orange County Public Schools. Game Changer is Page 15’s newest initiative, and students currently take part during weekly sessions at Misty Forest Academy in Orlando, a private education facility that caters to children in both public and home schools.

Dungeons & Dragons has been played by generations of “proud nerds” such as Zoshak since its original release in 1974. In the game, players assume the roles of fantasy characters in an adventure guided by a “dungeon master” who sets the scene. Each player’s character exists only in their imagination and on a sheet that breaks down their abilities and weaknesses into numerical ratings. Success can depend on the roll of a specialized set of dice.

In Zoshak’s version, the dice-rolling is kept to a minimum and the imagination emphasized. In one recent session, his group of seven players came under siege at the hall of the mythological hero Beowulf. Spell-casters in the group were given a word-search game to finish before the clock ran out; the more words they could find, the stronger the spell of protection they placed on the door.

In the end, the spell wasn’t enough. Zoshak described “splinters spraying out from the door” as the hulking monster Grendel finally forced his way in.

“What do you do?” he asked his players. A flurry of replies ensued. Zoshak gently reminded the excitable adventurers to speak one at a time and encouraged them to work together.

“I can do an invisibility spell,” said Brett Miller, 10, of Orlando.

“I’m going to run and hide and be ready to heal some people,” said Tessa Adamopoulos, 11, whose character was an Oracle, game-speak for a magical medic.

The game was the fifth session Zoshak has organized for the youngest age group in the Game Changer program. Each week, Brett and Tessa join their companions on a time-traveling, episodic adventure through various eras out of history and mythology — two subjects that Zoshak is also happy to teach.

“When I think of how Game Changer started, I think of how I grew up, how I learned,” said Zoshak, who has raised more than $4,500 through crowdfunding on indiegogo.com to purchase writing journals, dice and other materials that will support Game Changer during the next two years.

Now 27, Zoshak first discovered D&D as a 14-year-old in Daytona Beach. An avid video-gamer, the teenage Zoshak found that the social, collaborative aspects of role-playing games sparked his creativity more — and jump-started a dormant interest in literacy.

“Yeah, I have to do math and all this,” Zoshak recalled, “but it’s a lot of reading, a lot of storytelling. Suddenly I’m interested in language and stories. By the end of ninth grade, after having failed my first semester in English, I got an A. I really think that mostly attributes to gaming.”

Although the use of D&D may be a novel idea, the presence of other games in the classroom is common, according to Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television & Popular Culture.

Games of any kind can be useful as a “curricular Trojan horse,” said the former professor at Northwestern University in Illinois.

“You’ve got teachers who are competing with kids who are on YouTube and have this constant ability to stimulate themselves whenever they want it and stop it whenever they want it,” Thompson said. “The challenge of sending someone through the long process of teaching them to write, teaching them leadership skills, that is a difficult thing to do. And I think you take any arrow out of your quiver that you possibly can. If Dungeons & Dragons works to do that, I’m all for it.”

A prolific writer, Zoshak hopes that Game Changer inspires the 17 kids in his program. He wants to incorporate other games into the initiative: A chess tournament is scheduled for spring at the Parramore Kidz Zone in Orlando, and Zoshak is hard at work on an educational variant of the fantasy card game Magic: The Gathering.

Tessa had never played a role-playing game before encountering Game Changer, but the Orlando youngster said she “took to it in a snap.”

“Usually, I like to do stuff independently,” she said, “but Game Changer taught me that teamwork can take you anywhere.”

ADVENTURER’S HANDBOOK

Covers Preview for Elemental Evil Adventurer’s Handbook and Princes of the Apocalypse!

With the New Year, we finally get a glimpse at the covers of the upcoming Elemental Evil storyline for D&D 5E – Princes of the Apocalypse and the accompanying player sourcebook, Adventurer’s Handbook.

For more D&D 5E schedule information, click here.

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Not hi res at all, but it’s something!

THAT USUALLY DOES THE TRICK

SAMARKAND: THE CITY OF SAMARL

Continuing on with the myth of Terra-Ghanae (or Earth-Iÿarlðma).

Below is described the Capital (political, military, and spiritual) City of the Realm of Kitharia, and one of the main cities of the Sidh. In addition it is the home of the Samarls, the de-facto rulers of the Sidh and a major influence upon the other Eldeven races.

Samarkand (The City of Samarl): The city of Samarkand sits in exactly the same geographic point as the city of Samarkand on our world, but resides in Ghanae (properly called Iÿarlðma by the Eldevens). Both cities also share the same name. However all similarities end there. Samarkand was designed by the Sidelh but was built by the Adharma. Both races share a similar view of architecture in that they encapsulate information in material objects. Books or written materials are rare among the Sidelh and completely absent among the Adharma. The giants instead are excellent masters of mnemonics, and therefore pass history thousands of years old down orally with very little variation or embellishment between transmissions. They also weave information into every building, statue, column, piece of furniture and art, and physical device they create. The entire city then is one huge library of historical, arcane, and mythological information if one knows how to read the text.

Samarkand is the capital city of Kitharia, the most populous and powerful nation known among the Eldeven peoples. Since the Sidelh are slow to reproduce they have invited many other races of Eldevens to dwell in their city and the Sidelh are actually often outnumbered by the non-Sidelh living there. Nevertheless the non-Sidelh are often granted citizenship after a time, as are their families, and so often easily integrate into Kitharian society, to become stout defenders and loyal citizens of their adopted homeland.

The ruler of the Samarkand, and by extension Kitharia, is the individual known as the Samareül. He is elected by a secret group of individuals and once elected he takes no public name other than his title of Samareül, which means Priest-King. The Samareül is elected for life, and is rarely deposed. The Samareül is the supreme judge, most influential political leader and chief priest of Kitharia, being considered the living representative of Samarl, or God. Strangely enough however the Kitharians and most Eldevens for that matter have no formal religion or religious beliefs, and most seek no relationship with God at all. Instead the relationship between Samarl and the Eldevens is considered the de-facto representative relationship and chief obligation of the Samareül.

(The current Samareül is looking to change this state of affairs wishing to make a religious and spiritual relationship among the Kitharians and eventually all Eldevens to be a matter of personal relation between the individual and Samarl. This has led to strained cultural, societal, political, and in some cases racial [such as between the Sidelh and the Lorahn] relationships among some parties, and to the establishment of a strange interlinked alliance between the courts of Samarkand and Constantinople on religious and spiritual matters. I’ll discuss this in more detail in a later posting.)

The city is dominated by an acropolis into which is carved (in the fashion of the Adharma who carve their homes into mountainsides) the Palace and administrative houses of the Samareül. The acropolis is also said to contain numerous secret passages into which the Samareül and his officials keep stored many ancient and secret artifacts and devices, including weird machines which are said to be able to peer into other worlds and through time. This acropolis is called the Jlæthÿlîrel. There is also a rumor that the passages themselves have created a sort of scrying channel and that the channels may be decorated with glyphs of unknown design. This acropolis is sometimes called the onŵl-Samarkando, or, Helm of Samarkand.

The city also has numerous districts in which various Eldeven races mix rather freely, but it also has segregated districts. These are most evident between the Sidelh, and the small enclave of Adharma (who rarely take citizenship) who prefer to live there for periods of time as trusted resident aliens. Politically the situation is stable at most times, except during periods of war. There is a large public gathering area called the Msýthariørl where public elections, entertainments, athletic events, public rites, demonstrations of arcane force and skill, and debated counsels are held. It can hold nearly one-half of the entire population of the city at any given time.

There are also a number of industrial and manufacturing districts to produce and market goods, the Eldarik Houses, the Armories and Internal Towers, the Plarshoel (or, Walking Houses – the giants built the city so that certain buildings can move around the city on tracks, allowing the city to be reconfigured for both ease of trade and transport, and for periods of war and self-defense – unknown to most the city walls can likewise move allowing them to be “interlocked” in various defensive configurations as needed), the sa-Elturaere (the Temple for the study and practice of Elturgy and Elturael – Arcane magic), various markets and domestic areas, the Jmyatŗ Skella (the Crafting District), the Tĕna (Quarters of the Peace Officers), the Nhil (the Warband Quarterings), and the newly created Praşklyřt (the Hall of Investigation – to study and counteract the creation of monsters, discussed later).

As mentioned above the entire city is also a sort of architectural library. However many believe that actual Elturgy was used by the Sidelh to recast the work of the giants so that a secret code now also lies hidden within the structure of the city foundations. To what purpose no-one is really sure.

The River Qira runs through the city (including partially underground) and the river Qala now runs completely around the city in a near perfect circular moat, and then runs away through artificial channels so that the river approaches the city from the East and leaves by routes facing due West, South, and North.

The city is composed of seven plateaus, or levels, the highest being the Jlæthÿlîrel, and the lowest section being an underground area of hot springs and baths called the Myņil.

 

INDEED

Indeed. I hate this crap too.

This is, in my opinion, nothing more than bad design left over as tactical battle unit attack initiative from D&D’s origins as a wargame.

It should either be drastically improved or eliminated altogether in D&D. I favor total elimination.

DEED-IN-DEED

How D&D swallowed another innocent clandestine female nerd… is there no end to this effrontery?

That Time I Started Playing Dungeons & Dragons for a Blog Post…

I recently went on a deep undercover writing assignment. My goal was to infiltrate a local Dungeons & Dragons group and make them believe I could be one of them, just for one night, so that I could write about the shenanigans that are role playing games.

I wanted to try something new, and my boyfriend kept going on and on about Pathfinder (which is an off shoot of Dungeons & Dragons, basically) so I figured hey, I could go for 4 hours and give it a shot, blog about it, and then move on. That was six months ago. The reason I didn’t write the blog post was because I’m still playing it and you know what? It’s really cool.

dice

Image: James Bowe via FlickrUntil I started dating my boyfriend I always thought Pathfinder was just someone mispronouncing “Pathfinders,” and that they were referring to that later version of Girl Guides where teenagers learn how to braid and roast s’mores over a bonfire while singing Kumbaya. Which is why I found it really confusing when my boyfriend told me he was going to join a Pathfinder group. It became less confusing when he explained to me that Pathfinder is an RPG (role playing game) much like Dungeons and Dragons. I mean, I still found the whole Dungeons and Dragons thing confusing, but at least I wasn’t picturing my boyfriend learning how to braid his beard while wearing a green vest full of badges anymore.

So I began to learn bits and pieces of what playing an RPG is like because I like taking interest in my boyfriend’s interests. He would come home from game night and regale me with tales of his journey through what I assumed was Middle Earth. He went on and on about slaying all sorts of monsters and finding treasures, and he talked about the jokes that were made during the night and it seemed like fun. It basically sounded like Game of Thrones if Game of Thrones were a comedy on FX. He explained to me that Pathfinder was like the younger sibling of Dungeons and Dragons. Basically if Dungeons and Dragons were Disney, Pathfinder would be Pixar.

Part of me wanted to try Pathfinder as soon as my boyfriend began explaining it to me, but there was still part of me that grew up being told “Dungeons and Dragons just isn’t cool.” This was long before Community did an episode on it, of course. I hate to admit it but I heard whispers about the people playing Dungeons and Dragons in high school, and it always seemed frowned upon. It was just Darwinism coming into play when I found myself never wanting to associate with Dungeons and Dragons. I didn’t want to get pummeled to death in the school yard. I didn’t want to be turned upside down and have my lunch money stolen.

So I continued on through my life associating RPGs with wedgies and swirlies, and I probably even snickered negatively on occasion when people talked about their Dungeons and Dragons days. And then something wonderful happened: I woke up one day and realized that I didn’t want to be at all associated with the people who bullied other people for playing games in their basement. I realized that it’s cool to do whatever the heck you want to do if it makes you happy. Trust me, that’s a hard thing to realize when you come from the small town I come from. If you replace dancing with Dungeons and Dragons then my hometown is essentially the town from Footloose.

It’s no real secret that my boyfriend is a “nerd,” as some people would say. He reads comic books, he watches sci-fi shows and movies, he plays board games and role playing games. For years now I have been toeing the “nerd” line myself. I grew up watching shows like Buffy and Dark Angel. I always loved sci-fi movies more than any other genre. But that was where it ended. I didn’t play games. I didn’t read comics or fantasy novels. If you asked me what “the TARDIS” was, I would assume it was some sort of French dessert. And I certainly didn’t have a sweet clue what a D20 was.

Obviously when you spend a lot of time with another human being, you tend to take on some of their interests as your own. It was only natural that I would sit down and watch all of Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who with my boyfriend. Of course I would go to Comic Con in Montreal with him next. Then came the board games like Munchkin and Carcassone. I enjoyed everything he introduced me to. So naturally when he started talking about Pathfinder I began to wonder if it was something I could enjoy with him.

THE MASTER’S ART

This artwork is absolutely fantastic! I’m really looking forward to getting my copy of this book.

 

THE MASTER’S ART

 

In today’s preview, we continue our look at one of the best parts of being the Dungeon Master—the distribution of treasure!

It’s good to be the dungeon master! Not only do you get to tell fantastic stories about heroes, villains, monsters, and magic, but you also get to create the world in which these stories live. Whether you’re running a D&D game already or you think it’s something you want to try, the Dungeon Master’s Guide is the book for you.

In our last excerpt, we looked at one of the sample treasure hoard tables. Today, we look at art from the treasure section itself. Here are the potion descriptions we provided the artist (Cyril Van Der Haegen) — who then added quite a few more! Can you find them all in the illustration? Click to enlarge (and look for further notes on dndwizards.tumblr.com).

•Oil of Etherealness: The exterior of any container of this cloudy gray oil is always damp with droplets of the oil that evaporate away before pooling.
•Potion of Climbing: This potion is separated into brown, silver, and gray layers resembling bands of stone.
•Potion of Diminution: This potion cycles between clear and dark red. One moment the whole liquid seems red, and then the redness is drawn to the center, replaced by clear liquid. When the last drop of red vanishes, all the liquid becomes red and the process begins again. Shaking the bottle doesn’t mix the liquids.
•Potion of Flying: This clear liquid has cloudy white impurities drifting in it and floats at the top of the bottle in defiance of gravity.
•Potion of Healing: This liquid is a bright red that glimmers with light as it is swirled.
•Potion of Heroism: This bright blue potion bubbles and steams as if boiling even when stoppered.
•Potion of Invisibility: A bottle with this potion in it looks empty but still feels as though it carries liquid.
•Potion of Longevity: This bottle of amber liquid also contains a scorpion’s tail, an adder’s fang, a dead spider, and the heart of some tiny creature that against all reason is still beating.
•Potion of Mind Reading: This opaque purple liquid has an ovoid cloud of pink that floats about at random within it.
•Potion of Speed: This yellow fluid is streaked with black. The liquid races around the interior of any vessel with enough room for it to run.
•Potion of Water Breathing: This cloudy green fluid has a tiny glowing jellyfish swimming through it and smells of the sea.

The Dungeon Master’s Guide

The Dungeon Master’s Guide provides the inspiration and the guidance you need to spark your imagination and create worlds of adventure for your players to explore and enjoy. Inside you’ll find world-building tools, tips and tricks for creating memorable dungeons and adventures, optional game rules, hundreds of classic D&D magic items, and much more!

This art preview is from the upcoming Dungeon Master’s Guide. It’s one of our favorite pieces, not just because it looks so cool but because of it’s backstory. Art Director, Kate Irwin explains: “The art on page 215 has a funny story. It was supposed to be just a few potions on an alchemist’s shelf but the artist (Cyril Van Der Haegen) made this magical full page image with EVERYTHING included. The description was simple: “Alchemist’s shelf with line-up of iconic magical potions. We’d like each potion to look distinct. Here’s a list of how they are described in the DMG. Pick some that seem fun.” The description went on to list 12 potions he could choose from, each with a short description. Obviously Cyril added to those 12 potions with tons of items, giving us one of those images that you can pour over and still find something new each time you open to the page. This was originally a half page illustration, but once we saw the amount of work he had put into it and knew we would want to show it as a full page. Finally, there were no sketches or concept art for this piece. Cyril turned it in basically completed.” Below are the dozen potions we gave him. Can you find them all in the illustration? Oil of Etherealness: The exterior of any container of this cloudy gray oil is always damp with droplets of the oil that evaporate away before pooling. Potion of Climbing: This potion is separated into brown, silver, and gray layers resembling bands of stone. Potion of Diminution: This potion cycles between clear and dark red. One moment the whole liquid seems red, and then the redness is drawn to the center, replaced by clear liquid. When the last drop of red vanishes, all the liquid becomes red and the process begins again. Shaking the bottle doesn’t mix the liquids. Potion of Flying: This clear liquid has cloudy white impurities drifting in it and floats at the top of the bottle in defiance of gravity. Potion of Healing: This liquid is a bright red that glimmers with light as it is swirled. Potion of Heroism: This bright blue potion bubbles and steams as if boiling even when stoppered. Potion of Invisibility: A bottle with this potion in it looks empty but still feels as though it carries liquid. Potion of Longevity: This bottle of amber liquid also contains a scorpion’s tail, an adder’s fang, a dead spider, and the heart of some tiny creature that against all reason is still beating. Potion of Mind Reading: This opaque purple liquid has an ovoid cloud of pink that floats about at random within it. Potion of Poison: This potion appears to be another sort of potion, and it tastes and smells just like that potion. Potion of Speed: This yellow fluid is streaked with black. The liquid races around the interior of any vessel with enough room for it to run. Potion of Water Breathing: This cloudy green fluid has a tiny glowing jellyfish swimming through it and smells of the sea.”

This art preview is from the upcoming Dungeon Master’s Guide. It’s one of our favorite pieces, not just because it looks so cool but because of it’s backstory.

Art Director, Kate Irwin explains:
“The art on page 215 has a funny story. It was supposed to be just a few potions on an alchemist’s shelf but the artist (Cyril Van Der Haegen) made this magical full page image with EVERYTHING included. The description was simple:

“Alchemist’s shelf with line-up of iconic magical potions. We’d like each potion to look distinct. Here’s a list of how they are described in the DMG. Pick some that seem fun.”

The description went on to list 12 potions he could choose from, each with a short description. Obviously Cyril added to those 12 potions with tons of items, giving us one of those images that you can pour over and still find something new each time you open to the page.

This was originally a half page illustration, but once we saw the amount of work he had put into it and knew we would want to show it as a full page.

Finally, there were no sketches or concept art for this piece. Cyril turned it in basically completed.”
Below are the dozen potions we gave him. Can you find them all in the illustration?
•Oil of Etherealness: The exterior of any container of this cloudy gray oil is always damp with droplets of the oil that evaporate away before pooling.
•Potion of Climbing: This potion is separated into brown, silver, and gray layers resembling bands of stone.
•Potion of Diminution: This potion cycles between clear and dark red. One moment the whole liquid seems red, and then the redness is drawn to the center, replaced by clear liquid. When the last drop of red vanishes, all the liquid becomes red and the process begins again. Shaking the bottle doesn’t mix the liquids.
•Potion of Flying: This clear liquid has cloudy white impurities drifting in it and floats at the top of the bottle in defiance of gravity.
•Potion of Healing: This liquid is a bright red that glimmers with light as it is swirled.
•Potion of Heroism: This bright blue potion bubbles and steams as if boiling even when stoppered.
•Potion of Invisibility: A bottle with this potion in it looks empty but still feels as though it carries liquid.
•Potion of Longevity: This bottle of amber liquid also contains a scorpion’s tail, an adder’s fang, a dead spider, and the heart of some tiny creature that against all reason is still beating.
•Potion of Mind Reading: This opaque purple liquid has an ovoid cloud of pink that floats about at random within it.
•Potion of Poison: This potion appears to be another sort of potion, and it tastes and smells just like that potion.
•Potion of Speed: This yellow fluid is streaked with black. The liquid races around the interior of any vessel with enough room for it to run.
•Potion of Water Breathing: This cloudy green fluid has a tiny glowing jellyfish swimming through it and smells of the sea.”

ROLL20

Very interesting indeed…

ROLL20

THE INTERACTIVE ESSAY

ESSAYS ON GAME DESIGN

Essay Fifteen: The Interactive Essay

The Interactive Essay

I intend one day to write a full paper on the Interactive Essay. It is a new form (or perhaps it is better described as a new composite form) of communications that I have invented and will later describe in full detail. However for the moment it is enough to say that the internet permits for the possibility of new forms of communications not previously allowed for by other, older, and more traditional means of writing and communications.

As I have already said I intend to return to this subject later, in far greater detail, and in the figure of a formal paper. So for the moment let me simply describe an interactive essay in this manner:

An Interactive Essay is an essay presented through some internet (or similar communications structure) vehicle that allows for instant interaction between the ideas presented and the consuming (reading, in this case) audience. This is similar to what happens on any message board, or forum, or interactive blog, in the fact that the audience can read and then comment upon the ideas presented. Similar in presentation but with a very different objective and outcome in mind.

In the case of the interactive essay the ideas are presented in the form of a formal essay which can then be interacted with, directly, through a number of different means. These methods of interaction include, but are not limited to, comments, criticisms, and critiques (as is usually the case with messages posted to the internet in some way), but it can also include more varied and wide-ranging types of responses. For instance the original post can trigger a counter-essay, a continuation essay, or even a parallel essay.

As a case in point the original essay can trigger a reader to write his own essay refuting the original essay. Or the original essay can trigger a reader to expound upon or expand upon the original essay in different or even numerous ways, further elucidating the original points and even making new points based upon implications not fully addressed in the original essay. Or it can trigger a reader to write a parallel essay that covers subject matter that the original essay activated within the mind of the reader but which the original essayist never himself considered or never addressed, either directly or indirectly. In the case of the essay on Where Has All of the History Gone it is possible, for instance, that some reader would take up the matter I mentioned in passing but intentionally failed to address,

“I have a personal theory as to why most games approach character background development as they do, as if it is an activity quite divorced from what would actually be entirely natural among most peoples, not to mention what is divorced from historical precedent, and natural to myth, legend, and fiction. And others can discuss this somewhat separate issue among themselves in this post if they choose to do so. However, at this point let me merely say that whatever the reason or reasons, and I suspect more than one, the important point in this post is that with game and character creation it is not so vital a matter as to why so many RPGs tend to so often lack real substance regarding background, as it simply is that they do.”

Or, perhaps, the essay made the reader think of some seemingly unrelated point that nevertheless within the mind of the reader is tangentially connected to the matter at hand. He or she therefore sets out to write a new essay of their own to compare and contrast their thoughts against the body of the original work.

Whatever the circumstances or methods of response however, some of the more important aspects of the interactive essay include the facts that the internet allows for more or less immediate response and interactivity with the original essay and essayist, that it allows for “branching off” in addressing the ideas originally presented, and that it allows for numerous and varied types of responses and counter-responses.

In this case however (with the interactive essay) I am looking to establish and build up a more formal and useful type of response pattern than is typically the case with the message post and brief response pattern or system, so that the ideas presented in the original essay, and the ideas that develop from that initial basis can be more fully, completely, and formally expanded, expounded upon, and explored. In this way a complex system of group communications can be created that is very likely to have a better chance at fully developing any given set of ideas than would be possible through the efforts of a single individual.

Though I suspect if history is any example and judge then it will always be single individuals who are likely to show the most acute genius on any given subject matter, but they are also unlikely, precisely because they are single individuals and thus limited to individual shortcomings of insight and capability, to be able to express the largest or greatest range of fully developed ideas. That is to say it is the individual who creates, and it is others (sometimes many others) who most fully later develop what was thus created.

My first attempt at an interactive essay was this one, What is Modern Fantasy Anyway? However it failed to work as intended for the obvious reasons that I was still not sure of exactly what it was I was attempting to develop, and had not at that point fully or even really described or defined my true intentions and objectives.

THROUGH THE AGES…

Changes and consistencies through the various incarnations…

A HANDFULL OF CLASS-IC HISTORIES

(article continued at link)

Clerics, fighters, rangers, rogues, and wizards all have long histories in the D&D game.

Throughout the Tyranny of Dragons storyline, we’ve been following the online comic adventures of five heroes—representatives of their factions, but also of five key classes to the game. In today’s D&D Alumni, we take a brief look back at the history of these classes, and how they’ve evolved into their current inception in the Player’s Handbook.

Fighters: 1972-Present

The fighters of D&D can trace their genealogy back to the heroes and super heroes of the Chainmail (1971) miniatures game, who were “well-known knights, leaders of army contingents, and similar men”. However fighters more obviously appeared in their modern form as the “fighting men” of OD&D (1974)—who became heroes at 4th level and super heroes at 8th.

From there, D&D fighters embarked on a long road to balance their power levels with their magical brethren. When they picked up the name “fighters” in AD&D (1977-1979), they also got multiple attacks a round, going as high as two attacks per round at 13th level; while Unearthed Arcana (1985) introduced weapon mastery and specialization for fighters only. Meanwhile new subclasses like the ranger, the paladin, the cavalier, and the barbarian were proliferating—and usually overshadowing the original fighter class. AD&D 2e (1989) was more of the same, except the fighter was temporarily a member of the warrior category.

The 21st century has seen the biggest changes to fighters. With D&D 3e (2000) their damage potential went through the roof, helped in part by the game’s new feats, which made high-level fighters truly dangerous for perhaps the first time. Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords (2006) made fighters even more interesting by giving them evocative special attacks, an idea that also underlay D&D 4e (2008).

In D&D 5e (2014), fighters now lie somewhere between earlier editions. The base class has more class features than early incarnations, while players who want to have more tactical options can play the Battle Master archetype and select different fighting maneuvers each turn.

Wizards: 1972-Present

Like fighters, wizards originated with Chainmail (1971). They appear there in a surprisingly mature form, already possessing well-known spells like fireball, lightning bolt, phantasmal force, protection from evil, cloudkill, and anti-magic shell. Seers, magicians, warlocks, and sorcerers also appear as less powerful wizard variants.

When the wizard returned in OD&D (1974), he was now called the magic-user, but all the wizardly variants from Chainmail appear as level titles: seer at 2nd level, magician at 6th, warlock at 8th, sorcerer at 9th, and wizard at 11th. Magic-users now also had to memorize their spells, then lost them when casting. Those primeval OD&D wizards got just six levels of spells; they’d have to wait for Supplement I: Greyhawk (1975) to learn higher level spells like power word: kill, time stop, and wish.

AD&D (1977-1979) kept magic-users largely the same, though the illusionist subclass from The Strategic Review #4 (Winter 1975) also appeared. 2nd Edition (1989) saw magic-users reclassified as mages, who were a member of the wizard category—which once more became their official name. More importantly, mages could now specialize in specific types of magic, changing the special rules for illusionists into a much more general framework that allowed for eight types of magicians. When Dark Sun (1991) was published a few years later, it introduced even more variety with defilers and preservers who cast magic in connection with the world (parasitically or cooperatively).

More variants appeared in D&D 3e (2000), which introduced new sorts of magic-users who cast their spells in different ways: the core rules brought in sorcerers, who didn’t need to memorize spells; while Complete Arcane (2004) premiered warlocks, who could cast spell-like invocations at will. These ideas created a foundation for D&D 4e (2008), which allowed wizards to cast many of their spells round after round—with more powerful spells limited to fewer uses.

More recently, D&D 5e (2014) brought back the fire-and-forget mage of old with a few compromises: wizards can recover a few spells more quickly through the study of the spellbooks in the middle of day and at high levels can cast a few spells constantly. Meanwhile, fans of other styles of casting can still play the newest versions of the sorcerer and the warlock.

 

HEAD IDIOTS

It was an extremely inventive ploy. For such as this…

Head of Vecna

If you aren’t a role-player, you might not get this …

From Steve Jackson Games website….

Many years ago (back when we all were still playing D & D), I ran a game where I pitted two groups against each other.

Several members of Group One came up with the idea of luring Group Two into a trap. You remember the Hand of Vecna and the Eye of Vecna that were artifacts in the old D&D world where if you cut off your hand (or your eye) and replaced it with the Hand of Vecna (or the Eye) you’d get new awesome powers? Well, Group One thought up The Head of Vecna.

Group One spread rumors all over the countryside (even paying Bards to spread the word about this artifact rumored to exist nearby). They even went so far as to get a real head and place it under some weak traps to help with the illusion. Unfortunately, they forgot to let ALL the members of their group in on the secret plan (I suspect it was because they didn’t want the Druid to get caught and tell the enemy about this trap of theirs, or maybe because they didn’t want him messing with things).

The Druid in group One heard about this new artifact and went off in search of it himself (I believe to help prove himself to the party members…) Well, after much trial and tribulation, he found it; deactivated (or set off) all the traps; and took his “prize” off into the woods for examination. He discovered that it did not radiate magic (a well known trait of artifacts) and smiled gleefully.

I wasn’t really worried since he was alone and I knew that there was no way he could CUT HIS OWN HEAD OFF. Alas I was mistaken as the Druid promptly summoned some carnivorous apes and instructed them to use his own scimitar and cut his head off (and of course quickly replacing it with the Head of Vecna…)

Some time later, Group one decided to find the Druid and to check on the trap. They found the headless body (and the two heads) and realized that they had erred in their plan (besides laughing at the character who had played the Druid)…The Head of Vecna still had BOTH eyes! They corrected this mistake and reset their traps and the Head for it’s real intended victims…

Group Two, by this time, had heard of the powerful artifact and decided that it bore investigating since, if true, they could use it to destroy Group One. After much trial and tribulation, they found the resting place of The Head of Vecna! The were particularly impressed with the cunning traps surrounding the site (one almost missed his save against the weakest poison known to man). They recovered the Head and made off to a safe area…

 

5E AND FUN!

To a large extent I agree. My family’s first 5E D&D game was superb, simple, easy to play and run, and an extreme amount of fun. I’ll write up a complete briefing and recount later, but suffice it to say it was the most fun I’ve had playing D&D since Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and the most fun my family has ever had playing D&D.

This is the best, most exciting kind of D&D we’ve had in twenty years…It’s never been more beginner-friendly.

 

It’s The Perfect Time To Play Dungeons & Dragons

Quintin Smith

It's The Perfect Time To Play Dungeons & Dragons

You might know that the long-awaited new edition of Dungeons & Dragons is upon us. You might be playing it right now, waving an HB pencil around, informing your friends that they’re up to their nips in orcs and should roll for initiative.

Or maybe you’re the other kind of person. Maybe you’ve never played D&D, and news that the new, 5th edition returns to the roots of the game is like me telling you that scientists have discovered a new gender of swan. You’ve got some interest, though. You’re two paragraphs into an article called “It’s The Perfect Time To Play Dungeons & Dragons.” And yes, yes, yes you should. This is the best, most exciting kind of D&D we’ve had in twenty years, and that’s not all. It’s never been more beginner-friendly.

Half of that’s down to the beginner box they’re selling, which contains a quick-start rule booklet (forget any images you might have of stacks of hardback books), a set of dice, a load of pre-filled character sheets and an epic adventure that’ll fill a month of pizza-powered Sundays. You just add pencils and friends…

PLAYING THE BARD

A thread I started on EN World on how to play the Bard.

HOW DO YOU PLAN TO PLAY YOUR BARD?

THE CRITICAL HITS REVIEW

I thought that this was a fairly good and very well organized review of the new 5th Edition of the Dungeons and Dragons game. It focused primarily upon specific aspects of the Player’s Handbook (in relation to the overall game), and in doing so I thought it gave a very good, and a mostly fair, analysis of the specific points it actually addressed. It is a Geek analysis of the game, and that should be kept in mind when reading it.

I plan to write my own review of the game soon but it will not be similar to this review because I have other aspects of the game (and the Player’s Handbook) that I wish to address in a non-Geek and perhaps a more Nerdish way.

In any case I think you will enjoy this Geekish review of the game, and that coupled with my own more Nerdish look at the game, might give you a more rounded view of what to expect.

First Impressions Review: “Player’s Handbook” for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition

August 11, 2014 by Dave

I’m going to assume that if you’re here on Critical Hits, you know D&D. As such, I’m not going to go into the history of D&D editions, the open playtesting process, anything about nostalgia, etc. I’m just going to dive into my impressions of reading the book, and try to delve into some of the guts as far as I understand them (and I’ll probably get some stuff wrong.) Here we go.

Overall

The Player’s Handbook – and the D&D 5th edition ruleset as a whole- feels very polished. In fact, I’d go as far to say they focused on taking everything they had from previous editions and worlds, ran with it, refined it again, and so on. The downside to this is that there are areas where they aren’t quite as ground-breaking as they could be and leads to a few missed opportunities. At the same time, though, there’s so much that suffuses the book that seems familiar, with a lot of “oh, I see what you did there.” Previous descriptions of this edition pre-launch as attempting to be something of a “Greatest Hits” of D&D seem pretty on the mark, though each table is expected to supply some of what you feel ARE those greatest hits.

The Look

I say it flat out: I love the art in this book. Since it’s a Player’s Handbook, most of the art focuses on characters. This ranges from character representatives for different races and classes, to a small sampling of famous characters (a certain iconic drow ranger appears, for instance), to some characters that I swear are new renderings of existing D&D minis.

Part of what I love is that the book does a much better job of representation than in previous editions. More women characters in a variety of roles, more heroes of color, etc. It’s not perfect by any means, but I appreciate that there’s a much wider range of inspirational art for showing truly what the range of characters should be.

It also relies on a number of art styles, while still mostly fitting together. You’ve got more traditional character portraits, full page battle scenes, and sketches depicting conditions. There’s a few images that have that “computer generated” look to them (my chief complaint about a lot of the early 4e art) but I think the art works here. I was actually expecting to see a wider diversity of different edition-influences throughout the art (and more reused pieces), however, I think the choices they made here in the look was a much stronger choice…

review continued via title page link

 

5th EDITION BASIC RULES SET UPDATE

Another very helpful link for the 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons Basic Rules. Includes an Update for both the Players Handbook and the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

5th EDITION D&D BASIC RULES UPDATE

SNEAK PEEK

The illustration of the Wood Elf City alone is incredibly good, but some of the other artwork is also superb. Definitely worth a look.

 

An exclusive look at the new D&D Player’s Handbook—and The Warlock

Ethan Gilsdorf gets a first-look at some incredible high-res art from the latest edition of the classic pen-and-paper role-playing game.

Will Wizards of the Coast get D&D right this time?

That’s the question on the minds of adventurers young and old ever since the announcement that new rules for Dungeons & Dragons would finally be revealed this year. (At various times, this rebooted D&D has been called “D&D Next,” “5th Edition D&D” and “5.0.” Wizards of the Coast, D&D’s publisher, is now simply calling the game “Dungeons & Dragons.”)

THE NEW CHARACTER CLASSES

I am really, really liking the design and feel of these Old School Dungeons and Dragons Character Classes:

THE BARD

THE BARD 2

THE BARD 3

THE BARBARIAN

THE BARBARIAN 2

THE PALADIN

THE PALADIN 2

TWELVE TREASURES

The Development of Artefact, Relic, and Treasure Design in RPGs is, in my opinion, central and fundamental to the creation of a Great Game:

TROVE

Occasionally I will make posts about other sites that are/provide valuable gaming (as well as historical) resources. Here are links to some of those valuable resources, resources I often find very beneficial and useful to my gaming, research, and writing ventures.

 

WARGAMING AND HISTORY LINKS:

ANCIENT WARFARE

MEDIEVAL WARFARE

 

ROLE PLAYING

DUNGEON’S MASTER

BLACKMOOR

DEATH OR CONSEQUENCES

To boldly go… back to where it all began.

 

I think I included a blaster from Gamma World because it seemed cool. Then we rolled a bunch of dice and everyone was dead. It was probably one of the worst sessions ever DM’d in the history of humanity. At some point my friend said he had to go do homework just to get away…
 

http://www.polygon.com/2014/7/14/5898063/the-dice-can-kill-you-why-first-edition-ad-d-is-king

 
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