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DM’s MBA: Commerce and Trade in Roleplaying Games

dungeonmastering.com - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 00:57
This column proposes some new ideas regarding trade and commerce in fantasy roleplaying games. Admittedly, I play Pathfinder almost exclusively so I’m using that ruleset but you’ll be able to...

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A tale of two fund drives

dungeonmastering.com - Wed, 02/18/2015 - 23:58
Crowdfunding whether from Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or GoFundMe is the new way to make dreams happen.  But its not just passing the digital hat, it’s involving people in the process.  Believers...

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Playing D&D with football fans

dungeonmastering.com - Sat, 02/07/2015 - 01:43
At DungeonMastering we CRAVE comments.  It’s the best way to give feedback & let us know how we’re doing.  We need you to tell us what you don’t like and what you don’t....

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Cheating, unsportsmanlike conduct, & bad play calling: lessons for D&D from Super Bowl XLIX

dungeonmastering.com - Tue, 02/03/2015 - 01:18
Now that the 49th Super Bowl has become the most watched show in television history (you lose yet again, M*A*S*H series finale from 1983) it’s time to look back at it from the vantage point of...

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How to have a Super Bowl for your D&D games

dungeonmastering.com - Sat, 01/31/2015 - 23:54
On the first Sunday in February, Americans will order 12.5 million pizzas, guzzle 325.5 million gallons of beer , and eat 1.25 billion- that’s billion with a ‘B’, chicken wings.  No...

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Rethinking Initiative

Newbie DM - Wed, 01/28/2015 - 01:04

“You enter a room, the smell in here’s musky.  The ground is covered in a fine dust, and you can see footprints, along with a few drops of fresh blood.”

“The creatures must have come through here. I want to roll perception, maybe to see if I hear something… 15… Anything?”

“You do, you hear soft breathing noises from the shadows in the far northwest corner.”

“I tell my companions.”

“When you do, the creatures step out from the darkness, revealing themselves. Roll for initiative.”

Another player looks up from his phone… “Wait, what??”

A twitter conversation caught my eye the other day:

@skinnyghost I hate it and wanted to pull it from D&D. Such a drag. A dragon swoops in and… Let's do a bunch of bookkeeping.

— Mike Mearls (@mikemearls) January 26, 2015

“A disruptive smash cut”, to use an film editing term, is a great way to describe the effect of calling for initiative. Usually, in my home game, the call for initiative wakes up one or two players from their cell phone induced trance. That’s a topic for another day, sure, but it ties into this. The initiative roll tells my players that story time is over, now we get into a fight. It’s attention grabbing, it makes people pick up their dice, it’s part of D&D, it’s a call to action. But I think i might get rid of it entirely. Precisely for those very same reasons. I want flow, I want focus, and I want smooth transitions, not smash cuts.

Here’s a thing… I thought about writing this article without having read the section on initiative variants in the DMG (which I picked up to read 5 minutes before writing this post at 1 AM).

I threw this on twitter today:

Wonder if dex score alone, favoring PCs, are a good enough way to determine init and getting rid if roll altogether….

— NewbieDM (@newbiedm) January 27, 2015

And I got a ton of responses. How would that play? Here’s what I’m hoping to get. I’ll use the same example from the top there…

“You enter a room, the smell in here’s musky.  The ground is covered in a fine dust, and you can see footprints, along with a few drops of fresh blood.”

“The creatures must have come through here. I want to roll perception, maybe to see if I hear something… 15… Anything?”

“You do, you hear soft breathing noises from the shadows in the far northwest corner.”

“I tell my companions.”

“When you do, the creatures step out from the darkness, revealing themselves. They are walking towards you, their claws pointed in your direction. They are coming closer, 15 feet, 10 feet, if you’re going to act, now would be a good time.”

“I’m rushing towards them, and slashing the leader with my sword. 15″

“Good, the sword strikes its side, the creature coils in pain, it’s going to attack you. The other two are going to move toward Larry…”

Not the most evocative description, fine, but you get the idea. Everything just kind of flowed. Page 270 of the 5e DMG has a section on initiative variants, and one calls for Passive Dexterity as the way to determine initiative order (10 + Dex Modifier). I was thinking more of Dexterity score as the way to determine initiative order, with ties with NPCs going to the PC’s, and allowing the PCs to determine who acts when in case of ties amongst themselves.

So if Jack, Jill and Larry are fighting a trio of Orcs (12 Dexterity). Their dexterities are Jack 16, Larry 15, Orcs 12, Jill 10, I can already have an order of how things should progress during the encounter, and I’ll give Jack a verbal cue that he can act first.

And how about adding the alternate plot point mechanic found in page 269 of the DMG to this? So Jack goes, but the DM wants to have his orcs jump ahead of Larry for tactical reasons… he rewards Larry with a plot point in exchange for taking over his initiative slot. Now Larry can alter the game a bit on his turn, maybe finding a weak spot on the orcs, or a vial of poison in his belt pouch…

I know for many of you I’m probably trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, but that smash cut analogy really resonated with me. Marvel Heroic and Dungeon World both have non-traditional initiative systems, with the former having a great system where players themselves pick who goes next. Read about it here.

I’m still formulating my thoughts about this, and perhaps this post isn’t very clear, but I think I want to move in this direction. Maybe just taking Marvel’s approach completely, (although it may may things wonky) or simply going with the one I describe above.

How about you guys? Anyone using alternate initiative systems in their 5e games? What? Is it working well? Let me know in the comments… and check out Ameron’s article about it over at Dungeon’s Master too. He was one of the people I was talking with this about on twitter…


The Best Damn Dungeonmastering.com of 2014

dungeonmastering.com - Mon, 01/26/2015 - 21:45
“That’s a spicy meatball!” said aloud by yours truly, after going back through all the articles published on DungeonMastering.com last year. Gaming is all about flavor. Tasting the atmosphere....

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How to keep your Players even MORE focused

dungeonmastering.com - Fri, 01/23/2015 - 22:43
Last time we talked about a seemingly common- if admittedly annoying- issue that inevitably comes up at game tables: maintaining player attention.  Those 5 strategies were largely out-of-game...

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How to keep your Players focused

dungeonmastering.com - Sun, 01/18/2015 - 04:40
Last Thursday my weekly D&D group for the first time in almost a month.  The holidays, some illness, and Murphy’s Law had combined to put Darkwarren’s ongoing Runelords Adventure Path...

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Apps that make your D&D games better

dungeonmastering.com - Fri, 01/09/2015 - 22:21
We’ve previously shared a number of great deals on books, maps, miniatures, and terrain that we thought you guys would like as gift ideas for the holidays.  There were definitely a lot of cool...

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Clandenstone: The City Of Stairs

dungeonmastering.com - Fri, 01/02/2015 - 11:21
Archways of stone describe undulating pathways across the jungle floor. A deep sinkhole captures sunlight and a river’s fall to fill its bowl with towering trees and sprawling greenery....

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Behind the Gear-spun Curtain: A Purely Steampunk Look at Game Design

dungeonmastering.com - Tue, 12/30/2014 - 14:54
Designing a campaign setting isn’t all about world lore and locations populated by classes, races, and monsters. You need to have things for those classes, races, and monsters who populate your...

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Get a bunch of RPG’s, help a bunch of kids

dungeonmastering.com - Mon, 12/29/2014 - 01:53
Consider this yet another Attack On Your Wallet, but this time it’s for a good cause.  Actually, for a whole variety of good-to-the-point-of-being-Lawful Good causes.  Here’s just a few...

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Digital to Tabletop – Pokémon

dungeonmastering.com - Tue, 12/09/2014 - 01:49
For anyone who knows me – you know that one of my favorite things to do in my spare time is to convert a video game to a tabletop game.  Despite what you may think, this can be done.  In fact,...

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Digital to Tabletop – Pokémon (Part 2)

dungeonmastering.com - Tue, 12/09/2014 - 01:49
This is a continuation of a previous article about converting Pokémon to a tabletop game.  If you haven’t read Part 1, yet, then I suggest that you do that first. And, as always, thanks for...

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Attack on your wallet Part Deux

dungeonmastering.com - Mon, 12/01/2014 - 01:29
Well folks, another Black Friday has come & gone.  This time without even any major trampling happening.  But the 9th anniversary of Cyber Monday is almost upon us.  And a few more pretty good...

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Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sales

dungeonmastering.com - Thu, 11/27/2014 - 20:55
Here at DungeonMastering, we get a lot of messages from various companies telling us about their various gaming-related products and services.  This being the busiest part of the year our inbox was...

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How I Play D&D – and Why It’s Fun (Part Two)

dungeonmastering.com - Mon, 11/17/2014 - 23:39
Part Two: The Butt Kicking Begins – So, Too, Does the Fun I haaaaated (loathed) the DM and he wasn’t much of a fan of mine, either. He was boring, lackluster, couldn’t out act Tommy Wiseau, and never...

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How a Newbie Played D&D- and Why It’s Fun (Part One)

dungeonmastering.com - Sat, 11/15/2014 - 01:53
  Whenever I play Dungeons & Dragons, I always take it seriously, but that doesn’t mean that I never have fun. After all, F-U-N is precisely the whole point of playing this old school game,...

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NewbieDM Minicast Episode 14

Newbie DM - Wed, 11/12/2014 - 22:48
https://newbiedm.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/newbiedm-com-minicast-ep-14.mp3

As I prepare to relaunch the NewbieDM Minicast, this time focused on 5e, I am making the 14 original 4e episodes available as originally produced.

In this, the final episode of the original run of  the Minicast, released in February of 2011, I was joined by Dave “The Game” Chalker, Editor-in-Chief of the Critical Hits website. Together we attempted to help a DM with a question about a problem player at the table. You can reach the minicast via voicemail at 305-349-3026, or by email at newbiedm@newbiedm.com


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