Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dungeons and Dragons: My Planned Posts Begin to Resemble a Matryoshka- Defender Marks Part 1

Note: This post was originally a response to a PM on Myth-Weavers, but as it grew in length I figured I'd move it here. You know, to up my post count and drive sweet sweet traffic. Plus, the questioner reads the blog, so it's allll net gain.

So I was talking to a longtime associate and applicant player for Tinderbox today about his character concept. I was shocked when he explained that he'd traditionally avoided the Battlemind class because it was almost universally reviled on boards, and had a worthless mark. I didn't doubt his words--I avoid boards of most any sort like a sane man avoids the plague, so I wouldn't know what they do and don't like today. The part about the mark being worthless, though, really caught me off-guard. One of the games I'm currently playing in has a battlemind defender, and I've never noticed any deficiencies. My associate went on to explain that the mark's damaging effect seemed difficult to trigger, particularly in the following two situations: 1) When the marked target chooses to move away from the battlemind, rather than shifting (battleminds have an opportunity at-will that shifts) and 2) When the battlemind has marked 2 (or more) creatures. My associate compared Battlemind's Demand, longingly, to Swordmage Aegis...and I found that even more interesting, since I'm markedly less bullish on the swordmage (though oh how I wish I could be).

I thought the swordmage comment was useful, though, because it highlights what I consider to be the two most important questions when considering relative mark quality: what are you consider the "base" defender, and what do you expect out of a mark? I'm only going to address the first question in this post, however.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dungeons and Dragons: Skill Challenge- Don't Come Knocking

A brief intermission from my thoughts about languages.

Consider the following hypothetical:

The 5-person party is in the Engineering District, fleeing a detachment of 12 Goblin Points (Lightly-armored Despot skirmishers) and two Goblin Scuta (Points with swords instead of spears, specialize in creating openings for other Scuta to slip in and swing). They slip into a warehouse through one of the broad double-doors, which is hanging off of its top hinge. They don't stop to consider whether the massive wooden door was ripped from its hinge during the riots following the bells, or by something inside the warehouse getting out. The party does not care about these things, because the goblins chasing them attacked immediately after a much larger battle with four Savage Elementalists and their flaming-rock minions.

The players are weary, wounded, and out of encounter attack powers and second winds. With mere moments before the goblins arrive, the players manage to hoist the door back up. Two characters hold the door fast in its frame, another player braces the first two so they won't slide once the goblins start slamming into it, and the last player, a swordmage with ritual caster, begins incanting the Arcane Lock ritual...after some clever rules-laywering where he points out that the ritual description does not require a functional door, and causes anyone other than the caster to experience the door in question as "locked." Amused by the creativity, and enjoying the tense scenario, the DM allows this.

The players are now locked in a skill challenge.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dungeons and Dragons: The Problem With Language Part 2- Sunflower Bullets

So. Apparently blogger interprets unordered list bullet points as sunflowers. I'm not sure if I change that through asking the html to display a different type of bullet, or by fiddling with my stylesheet...but now that I've titled this entry as I have, I can never change them without it no longer making sense.

This is part two of my discussion of language in DnD and how I plan to change it; specifically how I plan to change it within the 4e rules. In part one I described my goals for this project...and I say project but I put it together over about an hour, most of which was typing. So perhaps we'll call it "this whim," but then it hardly sounds well-considered. So we'll call it...this ish.

My goals for this ish, nicely bordered by little sunflowers, boil down to making language both sensible and significant in the kind of realized fantasy world that has actual, different cultures who might not see the merit in bowing before the needs of Man and learning common.

Lockout: The Problem With Language Part 1- Suntory Time

There's a great scene in Lost in Translation (albeit an apparently difficult one to find on Youtube) where Bill Murray's character finishes delivering a line in a commercial, only to be subjected to a rapid-fire, very intense stream of commentary (in Japanese) from the director.

Which is translated as "He wants you to turn, look in camera. Ok?"

And Bill, wonderful, unflappable Bill (Who did such an amazing job of portraying a weary actor in that movie I was convinced it would be his last role ever, and the comedic idol was going to die...this movie came out in '03) asks "Is that all he said?"

The concept of language in Dungeons and Dragons suffers from the same translational problems. Specifically, DMs and players tend to skim over questions of communication and assume that everyone understands everyone else all of the time. While this is certainly convenient for gameplay purposes, and avoids some of the problems that not handwaving linguistic differences away creates, I find it deeply dissatisfying.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lockout: Game Teaser

Here's the vignette I posted at the head of my Game Announcement for the new Lockout game, which I called Tinderbox- Aftermath of the Tran.

"The peals of the bells marked the first moment most of us knew that there was something wrong. It's not as though we ever saw any of the Tran, unless some second son felt like slumming at the market rather than sending his servants. A massive city in a massive empire, all dedicated to the glory of a clan of dwarves who never left their walled sanctuary. An empire of the empire whose army was almost entirely comprised of races they'd made slaves. I sometimes think the dwarves took the surface just to see if they could; most of the cities, and most of the empire, are still down in those tunnels and we're just living in a tumor. An abscess swimming with puss and desperation, surrounded by furry, clawed parasites who sold themselves to monsters thousands of years ago.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Lockout: Cultural Overview 1- The Silken Kingdoms

Kingdom of Silks is a well-ordered society on the whole, where etiquette and poise are paramount. Many different schools of philosophical thought contend for commercial and mystic authority, but overall the society has advanced beyond inter-faction violence. Arcane and psionic pursuits are what define the Kingdom, and the advances and conveniences these studies have produced allow most citizens to live in relative leisure despite the tremendous ecological devastation surrounding them. Though it is uncommon for most citizens of the Kingdom to pursue a purely martial path, those who do are extremely well-trained and dangerous. Much of the warfare is relegated to ranks of constructs, from the numerous terracotta soldiers cast from living earth before great battles to the sentient warforged and mysterious, musical shardminds.

The Position of the Races Within the Kingdom of Silks

Eladrin: The majority of Kingdom citizens are Eladrin, and thus form the peasant caste. Most can read and write, and as farming is handled magically, most focus on jobs as scribes, carpenters, and artisans. Many Eladrin join the military, of course, though usually as martial characters. Eladrin also comprises a large percentage of the ancestor-worshipping clergy in the Kingdoms, using their powers to cast out malevolent entities unleashed by the other Bloodlines.


"Bloodlines" are specific magical philosophies, genetic qualities, and cultural similarities that bind particular citizens of the Kingdom of Silks. Most bloodlines are not actually related to the circumstances of a creature's birth, but rather represent conscious choices available to most qualified Eladrin of the Kingdom willing to undergo the necessary changes and sacrifices. However, many bloodlines also breed true, or simply raise their children in such a way that the possibility of rejecting the covenant associated with the bloodline is never presented; this is especially true of Tieflings and Genasi.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lockout: Faction Overview 3- Loyalist Goblins

Loyalist Goblins

Midway between the merciless tyranny of the Despots and the unthinking violence of the Savages, the Loyalists are goblinoids whose only desire is to maintain the stability of the Tran Empire until such time as a dwarven authority can be re-established. This attitude is perceived as stagnant and traitorous by both Savages and Despots, and both factions attempt to kill Loyalists on sight.

The Loyalists are thus a small faction, but they are extremely well-ordered, and equipped. There is a higher proportion of hobgoblins amongst the Loyalists than in either other goblinoid faction, due to the superior position hobgoblins tend to occupy in the Tran military. The Loyalists are also completely devoid of Calmblade and Crookcatcher presences, focusing primarily on martial power. Their forces are supplemented by powerful Hobgoblin Certainties, commanders who wield psionic power to inspire their allies; and Hobgoblin Bastions, who twist the minds of their foes until they are perceived as irresistible targets or horrifying foes. The other advantage the Loyalists possess is their experience; the majority of this faction’s membership is comprised of warriors with years of military service, closely bonded with the other members of their unit, and united in awe and respect of the mighty military heroes who’ve maintained their loyalty to the Tran. While the Despots are far more numerous, and the Savages wield horrific Primordial powers, the Loyalists have staunch determination and brilliant tactical minds.

Loyalists also disdain most of the "tainted" warmachines favored by the Tran; they refuse use of the Steelscale drake constructs and the Iron Scorpion self-firing ballista. Instead, Loyalists maintain the ancient art of drake training, nurturing broods of various reptiles which fearlessly defend their goblin masters.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Lockout: Faction Overview 2- Savage Goblins

I couldn't resist the perfect straight-man comment on my Lockout post; to whit, how nice it was to see goblins who weren't "filth-encrusted cave beasties with bone clubs."

The Savage Goblins are filthy monsters who wield crude weapons, often constructed from the corpses of their foes. But...I think they're cool?

Savage Goblins

The Savage Goblins represent those goblins who chafed under dwarfish rule, but have no desire to take control of the civilization while the Tran are out of power. Instead, the Savage Goblins are attempting to tear down as much of the city as possible, and kill any Loyalist or Despot goblins they locate. They murder or enslave citizens, eating most of the slaves eventually. Savage Goblins lack most of the military organization possessed by other members of their race, but their violent rejection of millennia of training grants them two advantages. The first is the sudden resurgence of Throwbacks amongst their ranks; traditionally, Throwbacks were exterminated in Tran society. The goblin military was so assiduous about killing potential throwbacks that their manifestation itself became unusual. Throwbacks are elite warriors, commanders, and trackers (bugbear/hobgoblin/goblin) who have rediscovered their races’ ancestral links with forest predators like wolves and weasels. Another advantage the Savage Goblins have is a specialization in negation; rather than relying on the sophisticated arcane constructions and protections of the Tran, the Savages excel at unmaking them. Bugbears with a talent for the arcane, already extremely rare, are often trained to physically destroy arcane material, and set to work smashing through buildings and walls as the Savages increase their areas of control. Both of these gifts, along with many of their other unique powers, are a product of the Savages’ alliance with some of the same Primordial forces that empower the Beastmen. Like Beastmen, any Savage with an altered form has the Abomination keyword.