This is a DMing advice blog, not a personal journal. As such, I don’t talk a lot about my daily life. I don’t think it’s very interesting to see me talk about how I feel about the news or how my cats are doing unless I can tie it into some tabletop role-playing topic. There’s nothing wrong with any of that, it’s just not what this particular blog is about. But I have been inspired by some soul-baring I’ve read lately, and I realized it might be worth putting a little something out there in case I have any readers who have been dealing with some of the same struggles. If that’s not your bowl of tea, feel free to skip this post. It’s not especially fun. My normal combination of commentary, insight, and irreverence will continue next time. Continue reading
Last post, I briefly mentioned Leaf’s session write-ups. For the A-Team, one player did all of our session recaps as MS Paint scribbles, and they’re delightful. For the B-Team, that player bowed out and session write-up responsibilities rotated among everyone else. Leaf had a journal where he documented his failures, Litli made a panel comic with cut-and-paste art and speech bubbles, and Steingeirr wrote a perfectly valid digest considering he only knew thirty words. They were all as formal and excellent as the party warranted, which is to say not at all.
But Eyvindr has a special place in my heart because I played him, and because I am a bard his write-ups were songs. Each time my turn came up, I picked a popular song without a chorus and made new lyrics for it that described what the party had done that week. So while I’m on holiday, in lieu of content please enjoy this rousing tale of the first adventure of the B-Team. Continue reading
Some characters just aren’t as good as others. Whether due to rules that don’t work out as intended, abilities that clash with each other, underpowered choices, or simple dumb luck, these characters have to acknowledge that they’re just not keeping up with the rest of their party or the expectations of the game. Sometimes they retire and make way for somebody more useful. Sometimes they reorient themselves, via retraining or changes to their build, so they can excel in a new area. Sometimes they stick around for their narrow competencies or their table entertainment value. Rarely do they double down on their failures just because they can. And even more rarely does a character appear who is so inviable, mechanically or otherwise, that their very presence changes the tone of the game.
And if an entire party is made of characters like this? Oh boy. Oooooh, boy.
Let me tell you about the B-Team. Continue reading
For November I had a series of short posts about weird mechanics I’ve used or played in games. Before I posted anything I asked my players about any mechanics they thought would a good fit for one of those posts, and I did get some good ideas. But I also got some ideas that didn’t really fit what I wanted. I was looking for mechanics contradictory to the game’s stated intentions, ones that subvert or ignore core assumptions about how the rules should function and as such should only exist for set pieces. Several of the ideas my players proposed were, instead, just house rules we use in our games. They’re good house rules, but they weren’t part of the stated topic.
Now that there is no stated topic, it’s a good time to talk about those house rules. These don’t break the game wide open—again, they’re nothing on the level of “abolish classes”—but they do change it to something we think is more fun than the rules as written.
Concept: Mitigated save-or-die spells
Tested in: The Worldwound campaign
This comment came in recently on the article In Defense of D&D Stats in Simple Language: The Definition of Charisma:
I think the use of the word “empathy” was the one mistake in your article. Psychopaths by definition don’t have empathy, but are often incredibly charismatic because of (as you do say here) their *understanding* of other people. They know what people expect and what they’ll find charming.
I don’t think this is true. I think psychopathy generally correlates with a decreased ability to feel empathy, but it’s not the definition of psychopathy because there is no common definition. But I am not an expert in psychiatry, and I could have it all wrong. I know enough about it to know I don’t know enough to meaningfully debate it.
Instead I want to take this in another direction. There’s an assumption here that I’ve seen in several books, sources of online commentary, and even blog comments, an assumption so understood that I think many of the people making it don’t even know they are. The assumption is that a person with high Charisma is good at influencing others because they have high Charisma, or more generally that a character’s ability score is the most important factor in their skill and the ability score is indicative of who the character is more than the character’s actions. This isn’t true in 3E or 4E, it’s only true in certain parts of 5E, and I think it violates one of D&D’s core concepts so subtly we don’t even realize we’re buying into it. Continue reading