Tag Archives: D&D

Return to the Five Shires

The Five ShiresYears ago, when I was first playing D&D, I went with a friend of mine over to play with a group that he played with. It was a large group, where it seemed that everyone had multiple characters they were playing at once. In retrospect, the whole situation was ridiculous. I was playing my second ever character in what would be, for me, a one-shot – and I was overwhelmed.

My character was a halfling paladin, a prince of a land known as the Five Shires. It was about to be invaded by orcs, so as all good adventurers do, we abandoned the kingdom to go adventuring for something long lost that would save our kingdom. Huzzah! Unfortunately, I had to call the night short and never saw the finale.

Something about that night stuck with me. The name of The Five Shires haunted me. Obviously, it was an homage to The Hobbit, which I read around the same time. After years of searching, I eventually found the module, and have now found it on DNDClassics.com.

I recently saw The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, and my thoughts wandered once again to The Five Shires. Much has changed since I first began playing in 2nd edition. It’s 5th edition now, and there are new tools to use and new ideas to explore.

For example, I’m toying with the idea of creating a halfling warlock with an infernal pact, then tying that concept in with blackflame. Blackflame, in short, is an odd sort of energy. It’s fire that deals cold damage, and burns ashes. I haven’t worked out the details yet.

Likewise, I’m just jazzed about halflings in general right now. And not the genericized halflings of D&D. I’m talking about hobbits, their pastoral lifestyles, and hobbit holes.

As I was looking at the history section of The Five Shires on DNDClassics.com, this section caught my eye.

Expanding the Forgotten Realms. Greenwood also uses the word “hin” to describe the halflings of the Forgotten Realms. When asked whether “The Five Shires” could generally be used for Forgotten Realms play, Greenwood said:

“Sure. Superimpose the Luiren cities and government structure, shift places ‘just a little’ to make room for them, and, yes, it works admirably for that. Almost as if someone designed it that way.”

Needless to say my purchase of The Five Shires led to me getting the 2e and 3e versions of The Shining South so that way I could learn more about the halfling lands of Luiren.

Where is this leading? I’m not quite sure yet. There are so many possibilities, and I want to explore them all!

What I can tell you is that there is a lesson here worth learning. Even a product that is 27 years old can still inspire the imagination today. So take a look around and see what products from yesteryear might spark the old imagination today.

Dragonhelm’s D&D Next Game Day Report

scourge of the sword coastYesterday, I played the first week of Dreams of the Red Wizards: Scourge of the Sword Coast, the current Encounters adventure.  I have a particular interest in this adventure, as the first D&D game I ran was set in the town of Daggerford. It’s weird being a player in this setting. Still, I am grateful for all the attention Daggerford has had of late.

I played the pregenerated halfling rogue. He had the sailor background. I figured I should base him somewhat on one of my favorite pirates, so I named him Saxton (Musical Blades reference). He wore a bowler and everything. He was a two-weapon fighter, having two short swords. He even got to kill a wolf by slamming those swords through its back, and adding the sneak attack ability. Sneak attack, btw, is SO much better in this edition. It’s a lot easier to understand and pull off.

The adventure itself (thus far, as this is Encounters) was pretty standard fare. Fight some goblins and wolves, then address a group of refugees trying to enter Daggerford with the guards forbidding entry. Nothing too complicated, but I was impressed that one of the encounters was more of a role-playing encounter. MUCH better than I’ve previously seen with Encounters. Up until this point, Encounters felt like a bunch of tactical miniatures fights. Now, it began to feel like D&D. Props to WotC on that one.

What was interesting to me was the group’s reaction to this system. The group was mostly high school kids, with the exception of one guy who appears to be older than me. The kids seem to have only known 4e, although I will give the DM props for studying up on prior editions. I thought the kids wouldn’t like this system, but I was wrong! In fact, they seemed to love it. They loved the quicker combats, and the simplicity of the rules. They were sold.

For me, it feels like I’m finally coming home. This is the iteration of D&D I have been waiting for. It feels like AD&D. I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed that feeling. And yet, it has the basic d20 mechanics that I have come to love. It’s a nice blend. It even incorporated some elements from 4e that I liked (backgrounds!). I think I’m coming to like the proficiency bonus. It’s used to represent skill training (kind of like 4e), and has some of the feel of Castles & Crusades to it. The proficiency bonus can be used in attacks, as a skill bonus, or for certain class abilities (amongst other things). Reminds me a little of Castles & Crusades.

There were a few questions on the rules and pre-gens at the table. What I found is that the other players were looking more at a mechanical side of things, rather than roleplaying. One person asked why the warlord wasn’t incorporated with the bard. I’ve heard that same thing before, as they both have the inspiring thing going, but I quickly reminded them that the warlord is more of a front-line fighter who yells things like “shake it off!” to boost his comrades. The players also seemed a bit baffled by the concept of subraces. Most have never known subraces. I have known nothing but. There was also some talk about how feats were optional. I told them this was a good thing, as it addressed different play styles. So, for example, I could have an old-school AD&D era friend play with a new-school d20 era friend in the same game, and both would be happy.

The guy playing the paladin pre-gen was dumbfounded when he saw the minstrel background. Music and performance are the domains of the bard, right? And yet, here his paladin could do those things. It seemed so counter-intuitive to him. And yet, by game’s end, it became part of the plot, as he used that to affect the crowd at the entrance to Daggerford. I hope a light bulb went off with him on what could be done.

Overall, I was very happy with the game and the system. It was kind of a back-to-basics feel. No, we didn’t have all the options of other game systems, like Pathfinder. But that was okay. Sometimes, those options can be a bit distracting. More options will undoubtedly come down the road. What we have before us is the foundation for a very good system.

I hope my schedule allows me to play again.

Who says that role-playing stops when the dice drop?

In some recent episodes of Fear the Boot, Chad has made the statement that role-playing stops when combat begins. He ascertains that the world somehow is put on pause while the dice are brought out, to-hit and damage calculations are made, and monsters are wiped from the field. Chad makes a very convincing argument, which you should check recent episodes for.

I will state up front that I think Chad is fan-tastic! He has a lot of good thoughts, and I truly enjoy him on the show.

However, I have to call shenanigans on this one. I have been in too many games where we role-played in combat to think that it doesn’t exist when the dice are brought out. Are we not role-playing when we make a skill check? Now, if you say that role-playing changes a bit, I won’t argue there. There is always a different vibe role-playing out of combat and role-playing in combat. But the role-playing doesn’t have to go away.

Need an example? In my current online game, I have a three-way battle going on. There are no real good guys and bad guys, just folks on different sides of the fence. Had I just rolled dice, we would all be pretty bored right now. However, I didn’t. We have a lot of banter going back and forth. One character is goading another, who is obsessed about his cause. Meanwhile a third is trying to stop the combat from escalating. It’s all very tense. It’s the type of epic role-playing that really helps to shape and mold the characters.

So how do you keep the role-playing going while in combat?

Imagine what your character is going through in combat, and then act it out. Is he afraid? Maybe he stutters a bit when combat begins. Maybe he begs the bad guys not to hit him.

Does he use witty banter? Think of Spider-Man here. Spider-Man often uses witty banter in combat, whether it’s to calm his own fears or to lure the bad guys into dropping their guard and making a mistake. This is particularly good for your roguish scoundrels.

Or perhaps your character is more on the serious side. Does he like to intimidate his foes? Personally, I’d be a bit scared if a dwarf yelled at me before going into a rage. Or maybe your character is very devout and swears an oath to his god before going into combat.

Also, be sure to play off of the other characters. When your character is surrounded by three ogres and the other player just dispatched his foe, feel free to say, “Hey, could I get a little help over here?” Or you may just say, “Not bad, for an elf.”

I will admit that there are some limitations to watch out for. You don’t want to be so busy bantering that you forget to let everyone have their fair turn. Many game systems allow you to have a free action during combat. Banter during that time. Sometimes, the banter may come up naturally in a combat, so go with the flow. Just remember that when the turn is over, let the next person join in.

I submit to you that role-playing and combat are not independent. With a little practice, role-playing can take your combat from being a matter of rolling dice to a scene straight out of Hollywood.

Evil Characters

It is said amongst gamers that you should never allow evil characters in the party. There is a good reason for this. As a Dragonlance fan, I’m reminded of the Law of the Dark Queen, which states that evil feeds on itself. This is a truth that surpasses the Dragonlance setting. When you have an evil character in the party, they often cause untold havoc. They don’t work as part of the team, as their motives are self-serving. In other words, they don’t play well with others.

I experienced this phenomenon a couple of times myself. I will say upfront that I, as (a much younger) game master, was as much at fault as anyone else, if not more so. I knew that evil campaigns ended badly, but I didn’t heed the warnings.

In one case, I ran a Realms game where the player characters were determined to kill, rape, and plunder everyone in sight – often in that order. It didn’t last more than two game sessions. By the time it was all done, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth. A gamer should never leave a game with that sensation.

In another case, I thought that a couple of bounty hunters in a Star Wars game could still work within the mold of a heroic game. As it turns out, heroism doesn’t pay well. The players abandoned the whole premise of the campaign in one fell swoop. Before I knew it, the party was somewhere else in the galaxy other than where my game was, and I sat there staring. I was a game master defeated.

Mercenary games, in general, are not to my liking. I like some of the concepts of games like Shadowrun, but the idea that all you’re doing is adventuring to get more money so you can buy more stuff is just not something that interests me personally. Plus, mercenaries can be jerks at times. I like heroic games, where you fight for some greater cause and some better purpose.

Yet can’t evil fight for a greater cause? Many evil organizations do just that. Look at the Empire in Star Wars, or the Knights of Takhisis in Dragonlance. Both entities seek to bring order to their respective settings. It’s when evil puts aside its own ambitions for something greater than itself, whether misguided or not, that it becomes palatable to play.

If you are dead-set on playing an evil character, then my recommendation would be to assign characteristics to the player character that makes him more than some murderer. If you want him to gel with the party, give him a reason to. Maybe he’s working under orders, or has a code of honor he cannot break. In these cases, I would recommend using a character with a Lawful Evil alignment. They seem to be more likely to work well with others, whereas Chaotic Evil would just kill and maim everything indiscriminately.

Maybe the character has something he cares about more than being evil. If his wife has come down with the plague and the party is questing to get the antidote, he might decide to play nice. Or, maybe the character was once good, but was misled, and so now he lives a life of evil. I would recommend placing some chances at redemption if you go this route.

While I still do not recommend evil characters, I think they can work so long as the players are experienced and willing to put aside any issues that would disrupt game play. Use the group template, and talk to the other players and GM about how you can make this work.

Reinventing Characters

One of the tricks I use to learn a new edition of the Dungeons & Dragons game is to re-envision an old character in a new edition. Often times, I pick some NPC who got little “air time” to make it easier. He has no mega-history to worry about, and only a very basic amount of rules and story development. With the new 4th edition rules, and in particular the Player’s Handbook 2, I decided to toy around with the character builder (available through a D&D Insider subscription) to see how I can make the old new again.

I should mention that the 4th edition D&D character builder is addictive. It’s relatively quick, it presents choices and suggestions. I love it. Combine that with a love for all the options 4th edition has to offer, and I’m like a kid in a candy store.

I decided to go hard-core. I pulled out my old half-giant gladiator from Dark Sun. He was an NPC I had who followed around one of the player characters. In Dark Sun, every character gets a psionic wild talent. My character, Kalador, had this power from the Dragon Kings sourcebook titled Strength of the Land. It had two prerequisite powers that he gained automatically as well – Lend Health and Share Strength. Something about a half-giant who could give of his strength and HP to fellow adventurers seemed great. The fact that he could draw power from the very earth beneath him was just awesome.

Imagine my surprise when I got the PHB2, cracked it open, and saw the warden class. Here was a class that seemed to be based around the Strength of the Land theme! I was so excited. I also had my eyes on the goliath race, which had awesome written all over it. I knew what I had to do.

Using the character builder (Did I mention that I dearly love this program?), I transformed my old half-giant gladiator into a goliath warden. I won’t bore you with all the details, but I found a few tricks that may help you if you decide to re-invent your character.

1. It’s okay to change the race. If a new race works out better, or if the race is thematically similar to your old one, give it a shot. Sometimes you will find some new gem, whether rules-based or fluff-based, for your character.

2. Ditto with classes and powers. In my case, I went from an arena gladiator to a primal warden. Yet they share certain similarities. I went from one defender type to another, and I maintained the Strength of the Land theme. In fact, I built upon the theme. I’m not certain yet about the other powers, but maybe PHB3’s psionic power source will have something to offer.

3. Backstory can be modified, but you can also keep it as-is and provide an in-game explanation for the change. I had a 3.5 wizard recently that just wasn’t cutting it for me. An in-game change made him into a favored soul. The cool part about this change was that it added some fantastic story to the game.

4. You will always lose something, but you will always gain something. It’s the trade-off of making a change.

5. Did I mention themes? You won’t ever get a direct translation, but you can use the themes to re-build characters from the ground up. Just remember to build them within the game system you’re using, keep your foundations, and be open to change. My goliath’s tattoo pattern, for example, is eerily similar to his old slave tattoos.

6. Above all, have fun with it. This isn’t too serious of stuff here. If the changes fit, great. If not, don’t convert!

So give it a try and see what becomes of your old characters. You may find new life to old characters, and the desire to play them once more.

Balanced? Yeah, but is it fun?

When 3rd edition D&D came about, one of its promises was to have a balanced game system. In fact, game balance had become so prevalent that it seemed that every other topic on some forums was about whether some element of gaming was balanced. Is the new prestige class balanced? What about X spell from Y sourcebook? It would go on and on and on.

I have to admit that it reached such levels that I wondered if this is what new players thought gaming was about. Were they assigning numerical values to every class ability and weighing them against one another? Was there a mystical set of scales by which all things were weighed upon? Were those scales provided by Hiddukel, the evil god of tricks and lies in Dragonlance known for his symbol of the broken scales?

I wondered how all this talk of the almighty Balance entered our vernacular. I remember the occasional talk of something being “overpowered,” but we never used the term “balance.” That isn’t to say the term wasn’t used, just that my own experience never saw the use of the word. I would say that it was the internet that saw the term gain prominence. Despite the mass-communication medium, it also takes a force to drive the new terminology. Enter the game designers, perhaps most notably Monte Cook. They used the term “balance” quite frequently.

Needless to say, the almighty Balance began to annoy me to no end. Why was it that people were asking if every little rule was balanced? Why this obsession? Did nobody ever have fun before the almighty Balance? I sure remember having fun playing AD&D with some off-balanced rules.

That’s when it clicked with me. Why do we ask left and right if something is balanced? Why do we not ask instead if something is fun? I mean, that’s why we came to game, right? To have fun?

Don’t get me wrong. As a game designer, I fully understand that game balance is an important factor in the game. You don’t want your wizard doing nothing while your fighter is having all the fun. Everybody should be able to take part in the gaming experience.

However, we should not forsake the fun in the name of game balance. Keep balance in the background, but focus on the fun. You will find your gaming experience to be so much more enjoyable because of it.

Revised Editions – Good or Bad?

Lately, as I scour around for new RPG’s to buy, I’ve been bombarded by a ton of products that have either been revised (typically for the 3.5 rules) or have had a new edition put out. Just off the top of my head, I can think of Mutants and Masterminds 2nd Edition, Shadowrun 4th Edition, Everquest II, Spycraft 2.0, World of Warcraft 2nd Edition, and the Tome of Horrors Revised book (only released as a PDF, no less!). I’m sure I missed several in there.

If you’re big into role-playing games, this is a serious blow. At $30 – 40 a book (if not more), that puts a big dent in the pocketbook. The general feeling that I’ve seen among RPG fans, and I tend to agree with this sentiment, is that they don’t like paying for the same thing twice. I’m sure that the die-hard fans of each of these books are more willing to shell out a few extra dollars for the improvements made in the new editions and revisions, but casual fans get hit a little harder.

Revisions and new editions have been around since RPG’s began, but the intensity of them seems to have increased in recent years. Wizards of the Coast’s 3.5 revision to the D&D rules is largely to blame for this. By changing the core rules to the 3.5 version, they caused a backlash wave. Many publishers put out revised editions of old products to match the new rules, which again disenfranchised the public by “forcing them to buy the same product twice.”

I know, I know. Nobody is holding a gun to your head. You’re still capable of running a game with the outdated version. Yet we, as RPG fans, are an obsessive lot who want the most current materials so that they work with the most current materials without having to do conversions. Many fans, self included, don’t like to make the conversions, and they want something in print (rather than the SRD).

At this point, we come to another major point in the whole mix from the other end of the spectrum – relevance. If an RPG company’s product is not relevant (i.e. compatible with the 3.5 rules), then it simply won’t sell. Many publishers revised their products to keep their products relevant so that they can continue to bring in revenue from them.

The 3.5 revision, like any edition change, has its good and bad points. While it improved the rules dramatically, it also had an adverse effect on publishers (who had to revise their own products to remain relevant) and fans (both in terms of cash flow and trust).

New editions allow for companies to take already good products, and make them better. The new World of Warcraft RPG stands as a means to appeal to the core Warcraft computer game audience, rather than a D&D audience. Mutants and Masterminds, an already great game, is reportedly even better now.

All of these revisions and editions bring to mind a few questions.

How can we trust that the products we buy will be the final version? Quite simply, we can’t. We don’t know what the industry will do, and when a new revision or edition might come down the pike. People have been predicting 4th Edition D&D since 3rd Edition came out. Do not doubt that it will happen eventually. It’s just a matter of when. It might be next year, it may be ten years down the line.

How can RPG companies, who have been forced to make tough decisions, maintain an audience when they’re doing what they need to in order to survive? Some may have solely been motivated by profit, but there are some who truly need to make the revisions in order to be able to sell a product. Do they get too greedy with new editions? Do RPG companies make revisions just for the sake of making a revision and profiting off of it?

All of this being said, this is an editorial, so let me editorialize.

Though I can see all sides to this, and sometimes people make the hard choices that don’t necessarily make them popular, I think it gets to be too much after a while. RPG fans could use a sense of security. I’d like to know that, if I bought a product, it won’t become irrelevant in two years’ time. I’d like to know that I won’t have to relearn the rules.

Though substantial profits are made, the market does suffer for it. How many RPG companies didn’t last through the 3.5 revision? How many companies find that their revisions split the fan base?

Don’t get me wrong. I think RPG companies have the right to make their products better and to make a profit. At the same time, they should consider all the effects that a revision or new edition might make, including on their fan base. For fans, I recommend voting with your dollar. If you feel the product is worth getting, then by all means buy it! If you’re a little strapped for cash or don’t feel you should “have to buy it again,” then don’t worry about it and spend your money elsewhere. Be sure to communicate with your RPG company (on boards, through e-mail or snail mail, etc.) and let them know what you think.

Also, ask yourself if you would even use such a product. For example, I played Shadowrun in college with the 1st edition rules (right when 2nd edition was released). Most of my Shadowrun products are 2nd edition. I haven’t played in probably 10 years, so it doesn’t make sense for me to buy the 4th edition book. Yes, we sometimes get attached to those worlds and our instincts tell us to get the latest and greatest.

It’s a tough road to walk down, for fans and RPG companies alike. The choice of making a new edition will always cause some sort of backlash in the fan base. Companies should look to make sure that the revised editions are necessary, and that they’re not making a revision for revision’s sake. Know when to say when, and look towards the internet as a way to accomplish some of the same goals. Fans should vote with their dollar, using their head to temper their heart. Don’t buy a revised edition just because it is there. Buy it because you want it. Or don’t, if you don’t feel it is worth it to buy a new edition. Above all, though, it should be fun. If a new edition isn’t fun, don’t buy it. If it is, more power to you.

Happy gaming!

Mad Ramblings From a Gaming Nostalgist

What do you think of when you hear the term ‘grognard’? Is it someone who is bitter about new gaming books? Does this person hate new things? Or is it a badge of honor? I’m certain that each one of us could offer a slightly different take on what it means, but the fact remains that the word can come with a certain amount of baggage.

Lately, I’ve been referring to myself as a ‘gaming nostalgist.’ For those of you who would remind me that ‘nostalgist’ isn’t a word, I will simply remind you that I am an American and we Americans have been bastardizing language for far longer than anyone. So nyah!

So what does being a gaming nostalgist mean? Well, a nostalgist is a grognard minus the negative connotations. We nostalgists are proud of our origins and seek to keep a bit of that with us. We make no apologies, yet we also aren’t going to poo-poo over everyone else’s fun. We’re the folks who play Star Wars Saga Edition, yet still love our old West End Games d6 Star Wars books – and use them. We’re the folks who play Castles & Crusades, and use both AD&D and d20 versions of D&D in our games. We are not ashamed of our origins, nor do we condemn them. We celebrate those origins.

We’re an odd breed of gamer, having the ability to love the new and the old all at the same time. It also means that we sometimes have a hard time in fandom. We’ve got one advantage in that we can work with a diverse group of gamers, but it can also be difficult working with gamers who are adamant about their own point of view. I have a hard time dealing with fans that have to rain on AD&D’s parade, yet I also have a hard time dealing with folks who have to be down on d20. Despite AD&D’s flaws, did you not enjoy the game at the time? It’s a perfectly workable system and people still play it, so why spoil their fun? For that matter, why rain on anyone’s parade for having fun in a different way than you? Maybe I’m more of a story-driven gamer, but if Joe Gamer prefers a tactical minis-based game, why should I spoil his fun?

Being a nostalgist also means that you have your own style of play. Do your 4th edition games carry with them a 2nd edition feel? This reminds me of Necromancer Games, whose tag-line of “3rd edition rules, 1st edition feel” really set the tone for all their products. It was a formula for success, as evidenced with their highly-successful Tome of Horrors. I know that as I go forward in the world of Dragonlance, I will always keep the feel from the Margaret Weis Productions books with me.

A nice mix of the old and new can lead to a lot of fun in your games. Celebrate your origins, but don’t be afraid to try new things. Respect others. Above all, play the game your way.

Love the Product/Hate the Company

D&D anymore is kind of like how I feel about Michael Jackson. I loved his Thriller album when it came out, so I bought it. His Bad album was pretty good too. But let’s face it – Michael Jackson is freaky in the extreme. I like the music, but not the performer himself. At the time, I didn’t know that Michael Jackson would turn out the way he did; none of us did. Would I buy those two albums now knowing what I do? I may debate it some, but I think I would. I would just look at it as buying a product I enjoy, rather than as supporting Michael Jackson.

Recently, I’ve been confronted with a similar situation in terms of Wizards of the Coast and D&D 4th edition. I’m really digging 4th edition. There’s still a lot I need to learn, but I’m genuinely excited by this version of the D&D game. Yet as I say this, I can’t say I’m as big of a fan of Wizards of the Coast as I used to be.

As of this writing (12/2/2008), several WotC employees, including Dave Noonan and Jonathan Tweet, were laid off. This is the same company that laid off gaming legend Jeff Grubb, one of the original Dragonlance designers, the guy largely responsible for Spelljammer, and an all-around gaming legend. He’s worked on D&D for many years, and they nixed him.

I can’t say I’m a big fan of WotC’s lack of continuity between editions. Or the Forgotten Realms’ time jump. It’s the Realms’ version of Dragonlance’s Fifth Age, in my opinion. Or the discontinuation of Dragon and Dungeon magazines (and no, the online subscription versions are not the same). And so on and so forth. Nor do I feel like paying for online content from WotC’s digital initiative. Partly, I feel that you’re not getting your money’s worth. I also feel that they shouldn’t charge for materials that were once free on their site. But I digress.

Wizards of the Coast is but one example. Any number of other companies may have great products, but lots of background drama going on. You may find that you like their product, but they have poor shipping. Or perhaps their customer service skills are lacking. Maybe you don’t like the people behind the company. So what’s a gamer to do?

I talked with my friend and fellow Dragonlance game designer Cam Banks about this, and he suggests that you buy the products you like. You’re not supporting companies here; they are not charities. I think this is an excellent idea. Separate out the company from the product. When I buy a D&D 4th edition product, I’m not doing so in support of WotC. I do so because I enjoy the product. Voting with the dollar also has the added benefit of sending the message to WotC about what you like and what you don’t.

What happens, then, when a company’s definition of some game element doesn’t match your own, or changes over time? Lately, I have been concerned about the heart and soul of D&D. While I like 4th edition, it is a very different game than its predecessors. It’s definitely a reinterpretation of what D&D is. In this process of transition, we’ve seen some reimagining of some D&D elements. Some of it is good, some not so much. Of course, I also felt a bit this way when 3rd edition came about. Take the halfling, for example. Once, it was a knock-off of the hobbits from Lord of the Rings. Since 3rd edition, they have been more kender-like. Hobbit fans may not like the change. However, that’s easily remedied by changing a little fluff. Likewise, the renaming of dragon types to become “new” chromatic dragons (i.e. deep dragons becoming purple dragons) is annoying.

Rules and flavor are often not one and the same. Sometimes they’re tied together. But in D&D’s case, there is room for adaption. I have so many pre-4e Realms gaming supplies that making the time jump forward doesn’t make much sense. I also prefer the pre-4e Realms flavor-wise. So I’ve got the 4e Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide, but my plan isn’t to use it for playing in the current era. The FRPG gives some good basics for playing in the Realms in the current era, but materials can be adapted for using 4th edition rules in previous eras.

In other words, just because WotC says that dragons act a certain way and halflings look a certain way, that doesn’t mean it is gospel. Use the rules you want, and if the flavor doesn’t match what you want, then grab some flavor elsewhere or make up your own.

I know I’ve singled WotC out quite a bit here. That’s not my intention. It’s just that they are the company I’m most familiar with, and are the most well-known gaming company out there. The same basic principles I mention here can apply to any company.

These principles also apply to fandom. I’m a huge fan of the Castles & Crusades game by Troll Lord Games. The Trolls are great folks. Unfortunately, some of their fans can be quite negative and vocal about d20. It’s enough that some people stay away from the product due to its fans. What I did to circumvent this was to just no longer bother with their forums. Problem solved. I have a nifty RPG I like, and I’ll play it my way, even if that way is ‘incorrect’ by some peoples’ definitions.

So in short, buy the products you like and don’t pay the companies any mind. Getting involved in company politics and drama will just sour you on the gaming experience. If you don’t like the decisions companies make regarding in-game elements, then discard those elements and use the ones you want. And if the fans of said product or company bring down the experience for you, then feel free to ignore them.

It’s your game. Focus on that and ignore the rest, and you’ll have a happier gaming experience.

In with the new, out with the old: the fallacy of game edition garage sales.

The new edition of your favorite game is out. It’s hot off the presses and has that ‘new edition smell.’ The cover is new and shiny, the rules fixed all the problems with the old edition, and you want to take it out for a spin.

Too bad all your old books are ‘useless’ now. Time to package everything up, take it to your local gaming store, and hopefully get enough to buy the new monster book.

Say what?

*insert record scratching sound here*

If there is any pet peeve of mine, it is the idea that, just because a new edition is out, all of your prior edition’s worth of materials is useless. I’ve seen people cash in on their old books just as soon as they get their hands on the new ones, and you know – they often regret it.

Why would anyone sell their old materials in the first place? Didn’t you have fun with them? Even though people did indeed have fun with the previous edition’s materials, they may have reasons for not wanting to keep older edition’s gaming books around. Some of them are legitimate (i.e. game books taking up house space), but I feel that most are based on some basic fallacies.

Most of it seems to fall back on the idea that the books of yesteryear are somehow rendered useless by the new edition. Really? Maybe there’s more that is useful than you think.

For example, take a look at fluff and setting information. Maybe the new edition of your favorite game has all of this. That’s fine and well and good, but sometimes as editions change and timelines progress forward, world events happen that don’t suit your tastes. Your old books are a snapshot back to a time you may have liked more. The Forgotten Realms is a prime example here. Yes, maybe the 4th edition D&D books for the Realms are out now, but then again, maybe you liked the timeline of the pre-4th edition Realms better. Keeping the old books lets you look back towards how things were. This is also good in terms of historical perspective on how a setting evolved. The various editions of Dragonlance are a prime example.

‘But I’m just getting rid of the splatbooks. Those are just rules.’

Shenanigans. They’re more than rules – they’re ideas. Let’s say you have a book called the Completely Quintessential Hobbit. It’s a halfling splatbook, filled with all sorts of alternate or expanded rules for halfling characters. The rules may not jive with the new edition, but those books are also filled with ideas. I may no longer be able to play a Hobbit Ringbearer prestige class, but the idea can be translated to the new edition. Not a game designer? No problem. Online communities are filled with amateur game designers, many of which are quite helpful. Hey, maybe you don’t have those exact rules, but again, we have fluff and background behind your Ringbearer prestige class. Maybe you just don’t need a prestige class in the new edition to represent the same role.

One of my favorite books is the AD&D 2nd edition Arms and Equipment Guide. By far, it is one of my favorite gaming books. The D&D 3rd edition counterpart paled in comparison, and few other sourcebooks out there had all that wonderful info. I could have traded it in years ago, but I kept it, because it continued to be a source of inspiration and knowledge for me. Here I am two editions later (three if you count 3.5), and I still use the book.

Likewise, your favorite adventures can be translated to the new edition. Go ahead and play Temple of Elemental Evil with 4th edition rules. You may find that the new edition mixed with the old module produces some interesting results!

Don’t forget about the collectability factor too. Some of those old books are worth quite a penny. If you can find a first printing Deities & Demigods, you know what I’m talking about.

What happens when you get a new gaming buddy and he plays the old edition only? Now you’re out of books. Oops!

New editions come and go, and often, they produce a knee-jerk reaction to sell all your old stuff, typically out of some fear that your old books are ‘useless.’ While there may be some reasons, such as house space, for trading in books, it may behoove you to look at those books a little closer. You may find that those ancient tomes still hold great ideas.