So the announcement was made earlier today by Wizards of the Coast that they’ve actively begun development on a new version of Dungeons & Dragons.

I’m not quite sure what I think about this…

On one hand, I have concerns that I’m about to become the very person who has always bugged me in this hobby – the guy who rants about how the latest version sucks compared to his own preferred game of yesteryear. I guess in some respects I’m already at that point – I absolutely hate Essentials because I think it’s over-simplifying and over-powered and adds unnecessary tweaks to an already fragile-from-errata game system. I’m also not much of a fan of the Power Cards that were released sometime last year in a vain attempt to add a Magic: The Gathering, gotta buy new packs of cards every single week!-style element to our weekly sessions. So as much as I don’t want to be the guy who passes judgment, it looks like we’re probably already there anyways! 😉

On the other hand, my concerns about “5th edition” after reading the letter from designer Mike Mearls linked above are that with the direction that it sounds like they want to take, I fear that D&D is going to become needlessly complicated again for the sake of trying to recoup losses of older players who left D&D for Pathfinder and the like because they felt that 4e bastardized older versions of the game that they love. Talk has already been circulating around the ‘net of a modular system where DMs and players could pick and choose the rules that they like and leave the rest behind, thus allowing them to create a rule set that more accurately represents what they want to play, but frankly, I’ll believe it when I see it.

The problem I see is, DMs and players already have the option to take and leave parts of the game that they don’t care for – it’s called house ruling and it’s existed forever to allow DMs to be flexible at their tables. Unfortunately, what’s left from here is allowing the option for a DM to remove core fundamentals of the game (i.e. “I don’t like skills, so instead I have this complex system of abilities grouped by activity that players can buy from with points instead…) and I guess I just fear that without the core of the system really being locked down, more or less, it’s going to make for a really muddy playing field for the rest of us who are completely ok with the core rules as they currently exist in 4e…

I got back into D&D in 2009, so I’ve been playing 4e now for about 3 years. Before that, as a kid growing up we played AD&D (2nd edition) and honestly in retrospect, the thing was so damned complicated that I’m not really sure how we ever got anything done at all! In fact, usually we didn’t, instead opting to spend literally hours on end just creating characters and copying over various statistics from tables in the PHB to our character sheets. I don’t miss Magical Defense % and I don’t miss THAC0 with the current version of D&D … believe it or not, it’s actually refreshing to be able to just sit down and play a game that’s not so ridiculously complex because somebody couldn’t get over the fantasy-reality game barrier that the wizards they were fighting against weren’t frail enough when thumped upside the head with an imaginary broadsword!

Plus, frankly I don’t feel like buying more books and having to learn a new set of rules just because I’m old and crabby like that… 😉

Luckily we’ve still got probably a good 1-2 years before anything is ready for shipping regarding the proposed new version, and I do think that it’s pretty cool that WotC is being so open about playtesting because it gives those who want to participate actively in the development of the product the ability to do so from the very beginning. That’s not really for me, both for time and patience’s sake, but I know people who are interested so I’m sure I’ll still be in the loop on how things are progressing. As for acceptance of whatever the final product of 5e ends up being … well, I’d like to say that I’ll be open to change, but I’ve also seen Essentials so we’re definitely going to have to wait and see if WotC does, in fact, force me into being the curmudgeon that (at least with regards to D&D) I’d prefer not to have to be!

Here’s a fun, little story to kick things off…

Last night the D&D group that I help to run collected over $350 worth of toys and money for our local chapter of Toys for Tots here in the Tampa area.

It was an idea that I just sort of picked up and ran with on a whim, really – one of the other gaming groups at the store where we play had mentioned trying to put together a toy drive in the forums and the thought that immediately came to mind was, “Hey – we should be doing something like that!” and so we did. That was a little over two weeks ago, so we didn’t really have a lot of time to prepare or gauge interest, so frankly I was a little concerned whether anybody was even going to donate! But we pushed ahead anyways – soliciting raffle prizes to give away and spreading the word the best that we could in the short amount of time that we did have.

So fast forward to the night of the event – I stop by Little Caesars to pick up pizzas, and the second I walk in the store … we’ve already got donations – lots of ’em! And so I spend the next 45 minutes before actually starting the game that I was to run that night scrambling to get everything set up – containers to place donations in, displays of all of our swell raffle prizes, the many pizzas for everyone to eat.  The night ended up being one giant whirlwind where I barely had a chance to eat dinner amidst it all, however by the time it had all come to an end, we had collected not only the three mountains of toys seen in the pictures below, but also a fair amount of cash to buy additional toys with as well, and I feel fairly confident that everyone involved had a great time doing it, too.

Some people gave literally bags of toys, where others maybe just bought a raffle ticket or two, but we all came together and with everyone doing whatever they could do, less than two dozen people managed to raise enough to ensure that many local children have a brighter Christmas and you just never know when something as simple as a favorite stuffed animal or board game unwrapped could mean all the difference in the world for somebody whose parents had more to focus on simply keeping food on the table than toys under the tree for their little ones to play with. I especially enjoy giving toys for the charities that I try to help each year – I’m a big fan of Child’s Play, in particular, and maybe it’s just because I have so many wonderful memories of opening presents myself on Christmas morning growing up, I just can’t imagine the thought of anybody not partaking in that magical experience on one of the happiest days of the year!

As for our little D&D toy drive, it may only be a day behind and technically the toys haven’t even been picked up by the Marines yet, but I’ve already been brainstorming how to make next year’s event even better. Cooler raffle prizes, more notice, maybe even suggesting a longer drive itself that pits us against the guys who play Magic and Warhammer and all of the other gaming factions that call our local game store home! It’s funny how just days ago I was absolutely terrified at the thought of not being able to collect a single dime, and yet now in hindsight I can’t wait for another chance to do even more!

Giving is fun and a little addictive, and yet still only one of the many reasons why I love this time of year…

An Epic Moment of Awesome

November 14, 2011 8:26pm
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Picture it in your mind:

Finding themselves surrounded by a horde of drakes after attempting passage through one of the most treacherous parts of the region, a long combat ensues until the party slowly but surely beats the larger of the drakes nearly into submission.  At that point he nearly makes his getaway as he extends his massive wingspan and takes off into the air … except for the spirited avenger who, upon taking notice that the target he’s sworn to down is attempting to flee, disappears in a flash and moments later is seen plunging his final blow into the beast 25 feet up in the air before riding its unconscious body back down to the ground in victory…

I never could’ve imagined Relentless Stride having such a bad-ass result when I chose it for my level 3 Encounter Power a month or so ago, but needless to say, I was pretty happy with the outcome! 🙂

P.S. If you’re into D&D pictures, don’t forget that you can check out all of the other photos that I’ve taken from the campaign I’m currently playing in over here.

a backstory for Adran … finally!

September 21, 2011 11:53pm
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Adran being my D&D character in the campaign that I’m currently playing in, anyways…

I’m sure more surprised than anybody will be the other guys who I play with – we literally started playing back in July every two weeks, however I guess you could say that I’ve just been a bit busy to have the time for writing up a proper backstory for my new character. I mean, I had a general concept that I was playing him by, but whereas all of the other players already had these rich histories created, mine took a wee bit longer to draft up.

That said, I’m finally done now, so if you’re into that sort of thing, click away to read a bit about Adran, the Elven Avenger…

Oh yeah, and you can also find photo galleries from all of our sessions on that same wiki as well. All in all, I’m pretty pleased with how it’s turned out, and I definitely enjoy having someplace to link to when I want to talk about the campaign here.

Anyways, happy exploring!

Boy, am I soooo glad that this is finally done…

To build a better D&D map…

September 1, 2011 7:18pm
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I don’t DM a lot of LFR games – yesterday was maybe my third or fourth that I’ve ever done total, and I really only started this year, but I have spent some time trying to come up with ways of making the games that I run unique and more enjoyable for everyone involved. I’ve toyed with the idea of incorporating LEGOs, but there are a bunch of logistical issues relating to relative sizes of minis, what to use for maps, and of course, actually coming up with what to use because you’d pretty much be limited to a couple of trolls, horses, maybe a dragon, and people, and honestly, the regular D&D minis just offer a lot more range than that.

All of those other elements aside, however, I was shown a tool yesterday that’s kind of neat for making maps that I think could have a lot of potential if I’m willing to invest some time in it. It’s called BattleMAP’R and it’s basically a tile-based web-app that allows you to construct a relatively large tiled map (8×10 squares, 3×3 pages – or 24×30 / 9 pages total) that you can then save or print via PDFs. It’s very easy to use – I literally created and printed off maps for the entire mod that I was running in about 20 minutes … an hour before leaving to go run the mod!

And although the initial tile set that is available is somewhat limited, the real potential here is in the ability to create and upload your own tiles because at that point you could use it to map out just about anything, given you’re able to craft simple 300x300px tiles … which wouldn’t be that hard to create with an afternoon and some basic guidelines in Photoshop. I was kind of disappointed to see that somebody else hadn’t already done this – you have the ability to share out your custom tiles with other users, but there are only a handful available. Still, could be very cool, and if in the long run it makes creating maps for the games that I do volunteer to run that much easier, then it’s probably time well spent!

As promised, here are a couple of new D&D pics from the campaign that I play in, along with more importantly a link to the wiki that we’ve been using to explore this strange, new world that our characters find themselves in! Now granted, you won’t exactly find anything about my character here just yet because I still haven’t gotten around to writing his backstory, but still, I think it’s a pretty neat resource to be able to share and to have a flashy, cool photo gallery to showcase my photos to boot?!

We’re having a lot of fun with in so far, so I hope you enjoy perusing our little world here as well!

campaign photo highlights

July 30, 2011 12:59am
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Our new campaign actually has a public wiki to share info about the world in which we’re playing (whereas the last one used Yahoo! Groups, which is a closed system), so hopefully as soon as I can figure out how to upload these to the wiki I’ll be able to just provide links to the new galleries as I create them, but in the meantime, here are a handful of fun pics from the two sessions that we’ve played in Keedrah thus far…

Recently she’s had the unfortunate habit of standing in the bathroom and barking incessantly at the shower for the duration that someone is in it. We’ve got one of those glass showers so she should be able to see through, but admittedly it gets dirty and fogged up sometimes so I’ll do my best in good faith to wipe the glass clean … often times right in front of her face … to try and hint that it’s ok and I’m just on the other side of the glass.

Still, she barks like there’s no tomorrow, as if her beloved master is somehow trapped within this strange, translucent device.

And then it hit me…

What if Cleo thinks that the shower is a Gelatinous Cube and she’s just trying to protect me?!

To anyone unclear about what a “shower” actually is, from the outside the appearance is pretty darned close! Plus, in her favor whenever I cave in to her barking and open the door, the first thing she does is rush in after me – for all I know, maybe she’s trying to pull me free! I mean, I appreciate the self-less act of valor to the point where I can think of a few games where I wish someone in my own party had shown such bravery, but still, how high of an athletics score can a beagle have, anyways???

Wait – nevermind.

So today’s big project was something that ended up taking a whole lot longer than I had expected, but at least I can say that I’m definitely happy with the results. Up until the latest one, I’ve been using Flickr to host the photos for the write-ups that I occasionally do for our Wednesday night LFR games, however I actually hit the photo cap for free accounts (200 photos) a while ago and in the meantime have just accepted the fact that as I added newer posts, the photo sets from the older ones were disappearing. I wasn’t crazy about the idea, and I almost considered just paying the $18 for a while to side-step the issue, but ultimately I knew that eventually one day I needed to suck it up and migrate all of the galleries back to my own server because a) it’s silly to pay Flickr when I already have a monthly hosting bill anyways, and b) hosting them myself allows me to do a lot of cool things that I simply can’t do via another service.

Anyways, several nights of uploading photos, updating posts, and tweaking code later, everything has been moved over and seems to be running smoothly. I’m using the NextGEN Gallery plugin for WordPress – the same one that I’m using for the other big project I’ve been randomly musing about – and all in all I think I’m really starting to like it as a photo gallery for WordPress sites. My one beef is that it doesn’t handle comments on a photo by photo basis, which is more of an issue for the other site than this one, but in the same vein I’ve already spent years struggling with Gallery2 and even though it’s technically a more robust gallery system, integration with other sites is just atrocious and I don’t think I’ve ever come across a site using it in a way other than the regular, blocky templates that come stock with it.

In fact, I’m currently running Gallery2 for the photos on and I’ll probably end up moving those into NextGEN eventually too because it just seems too clunky for what it does these days…

That said, here’s the final product for the D&D site:

I’ll do a separate post here in a little bit about the technical hurdles that I faced with this one because there is some customization taking place under the NextGEN hood, but overall I really like how it allows me to highlight the photos from my LFR Adventure Logs because there are times when I think I enjoy going back and just flipping through the pictures more than reading the actual posts! Bottom line is, after over 300 photos across 24 separate games, it was time for something a little fancier than Flickr sets and I think NextGEN does the job nicely, if I do say so myself! 🙂

This is a really cute story – a group of guys are playing D&D at one of their houses when suddenly the game is interrupted by the DM’s 7 year-old, who happens to believe that she can help the party with their quest … for a price!,_I_didnt_see_that_coming

I love that the entire thing became a new angle to the role-playing, even to the DM’s surprise, and anything that gets kids using their imagination is fantastic in my book. My favorite comment was a couple of pages later suggesting that she’d eventually become some random ghost/witch in the game who just shows up at odd places and says, “I live here!”

Critically adorable.

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