Leveling the Party

During my last game as everyone’s favorite Dragonborn Rogue, J’hari Wrex, our group played for approximately 10 hours. As the session concluded around 3AM, I asked if we had enough experience to level up. My DM informed me that I just made it to Level 12, which made me quite happy. But then I learned that everyone else in the group during the session was already Level 12. I had no idea I was a level lower throughout the entire marathon session.

Given that it was 3AM and I had to drive home, I didn’t have the time to ponder the implications of not being at the same level as the rest of the party. In the following days, I reached out to our DM (AJ, who is also a player in my campaign and host for both games) and asked why I did not level up at the same time as everyone else. He has decided to link Experience Points (XP) to attendance and he plans to run the rest of the campaign with players within the group possibly being at different levels. I disagree with this approach for several reasons. As we discussed the topic in an email chain, I decided it would make a decent blog post. Since he recently started his own blog (the power of Iddy compels him!), I told him we should answer the following question in our own way:

Should DMs level up all members of the party at the same time in Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition?

I’m firmly on the Yes side, and I will explain why below the fold. Either before or after you read my reasoning, check out my DM’s firm No answer at The Dungeon Maestro.

AJ and I did not read each other’s answer before posting our responses. And check out the rest of his blog for other good D&D commentary and information about his Ultimate Gaming Table.

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Game Night Blog Carnival: Cribbage

Welcome to another Game Night Blog Carnival!  This is a recurring feature Roving Band of Misfits is running once each month with numerous roleplaying-game blogs.  Visit their site for more information about the blog carnival initiative. The previous entry in the series can be found at Going Last, which discusses Mansions of Madness.

This month, I present the classic card game, Cribbage. The game of cribbage was foreign to me before 2003. My wife and her brother introduced me to the game while on a camping trip to Itasca State Park, the Headwaters of the Mississippi River, in Minnesota. I learned to really love the game as we passed many hours playing cribbage, having a few beers, and talking about a wide range of topics. As my wife has told me, “It’s a game best played with good friends and good drink.”

Classic Cribbage Board.

Cribbage is an easy-enough game to pick up but it takes much practice to truly master. It’s a game for two to six players. It can be played 1-on-1 or in teams of two players. To play the game, you only require a standard deck of cards and a cribbage board. Although you could count out the points on a piece of paper if you did not have access to a board and pegs. The most-common cribbage board is a simple piece of wood with sets of 120 holes that represent the points earned during the game.

The pegs are used in a leapfrog fashion to demonstrate the number of points earned during each hand. Points are earned through playing cards, which are dealt each hand. One game of cribbage – a race to 121 points – will take anywhere from 10 to 20 hands to complete. The game moves along at a brisk pace and several rounds of cribbage can be played in less than an hour. I will talk about specific rules below and introduce you to the wonderful world of Cribbage Board Customization.

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Iddy Approved: Dragon Chow Dice Bag

I’m introducing another new segment of the blog, which is titled Iddy Approved. These are products that I’ve either purchased from a vendor, or a free tool that I have used often in my role as a DM or player during a campaign. The first product to be reviewed in this series will be the new dice bag I purchased from Dragon Chow Dice Bags.

Long time readers of this site may remember my interview with the owner of Dragon Chow Dice Bags, Lyndsay Peters. In the interview, Lyndsay discussed how she developed the idea and started the business:

I started making them because I was really tired of going to the gaming store and only finding dice bags that would tip over and had a fabric selection that I just didn’t find appealing. I know gamers like to personalize things, and I knew I could make something to serve that interest. This is why I also do custom orders. I just love it when I get a custom order bang on. There’s nothing better than knowing there’s a happy geek in the world because of you.

When thinking about buying a dice bag from Dragon Chow, I inquired if I could get a bag with Iddy the Lich, my blog’s mascot, on the fabric for the bag. She told me it was certainly possible and she worked up a few options for me. The final product is exactly what I wanted, and it forced my old dice bag to retreat and weep tears of despair.

The Dragon Chow Dice Bag is seven D&D books high.

Below, I review specific details about the bag and why it’s something that you would be proud to own.

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Introducing RPG ATTACK

I started The Id DM after being motivated by a lack of data on combat encounters in Dungeons & Dragons, 4th Edition. There was a great deal of discussion about the length of combat in 4e but no real numbers to analyze. I believed that a deeper analysis would elevate the discussion of combat speed and shed light on important dynamics involved in the pace of combat. I still believe this, and I was quite fortunate to be contacted by another that shared my point of view.

Soon after my first post analyzing combat speed, The Prince of Dusk contacted me and inquired if I was interested in starting a Roleplaying Game Statistics Initiative. The idea certainly had merit, and we continued to discuss how to implement such a strategy. After several weeks, he sent me a link to an application that allows one to easily code combat encounters. I later dubbed this tool the Roleplaying Game Application To Track/Analyze Combat enKounters (RPG ATTACK).

"Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives."

The project is still very much in development, but we wanted to share it was other dungeon/game masters and players to begin receiving feedback. I believe the application can be improved moving forward, but it is already a fabulous tool to analyze the flow of combat in Dungeons & Dragons and other roleplaying games.

Please visit the RPG ATTACK section of the site for more details about the development of the application, screenshots of the program and instructions on how you can begin coding combat sessions today with ease.

Podcast, Podcast! Hear All About It!

A few links that I’d like to share today. Both of them are podcasts, and both of them discuss this site to a certain extent.

The first is a recent interview conducted by Flagons & Dragons. You may recall my interview with Carl Bussler of Flagons & Dragons a few months ago; well, he turned the tables on me and asked many great questions over the course of an hour. If you’re curious about how I developed the blog, the artist who created my mascot, Iddy the Lich, or would like to know more about my approach to DMing or writing, then please check it out. He inquired about several of my prior blog posts, including my response to errata, analysis of combat speed, and research to determine if I had an evil d20. Thank you again to Carl for taking the time to conduct the interview!

The second podcast I wanted to acknowledge was The Exemplary DM Podcast. I’ve spent the past few weeks catching up on their first and second seasons of the show, and it’s a goldmine for specific ideas, characters and “fixes” for DMs looking to improve their campaign. While listening to Season 2, Episode 2 (posted on 6/2/11), I was surprised to hear the name of The Id DM mentioned by the hosts. I had sent them a long email about the troubles I was having with extended rests and the flow of combat throughout the story of my campaign. The email to them was so long I turned it into a blog post on solving the extended rest riddle. The hosts read my email during the podcast – with some embellishments here and there – and respond to the ideas I offered. You should be listening to The Exemplary DM Podcast already, but here is another great reason to check it out if you’re not on board yet.

Before I close, if you know of another podcast where my site is mentioned, then please contact me so I can check it out. This way I don’t almost drive off the road when I’m listening to a pod because suddenly they are reading something I wrote!

Hey, that’s me!? *screeching tires*

Speeding Up Combat: Attack & Damage Rolls

While preparing to playtest an upcoming Fourthcore adventure, I searched for methods to quicken the pace of combat and other elements of the game that rested on my shoulders. I knew the party would face a difficult challenge to complete the adventure in the alloted time frame, and I didn’t want to slow them down. I read the adventure two or three times, but in thinking about how else I could speed up play, I experimented with another idea – rolling attack and damage die ahead of time.

My plan was to pre-roll attack and damage dice for all traps and monsters in the module, but I ran out of time and only got to the traps. Since it’s a Fourthcore module, there were many traps, so I figured it would speed things up a bit. I printed out the module and whenever a trap was listed, I rolled the attack and damage dice and wrote the results in the margin. For example, if a trap is a close blast 5 (+5 vs. Reflex, 2d6 + 3 fire damage), then I would take a d20 and roll it several times and jot those “attacks” in the margin of the page. This would result in a list like the one below:

        Attack

Suffering a critical attack from fire trap.
  • 12
  • 14
  • 16
  • 9
  • 23
  • 15
  • 8
  • 8
  • 20* (15)
  • 15

Since the trap is a blast and is likely to hit multiple targets, it seemed better to roll many attacks ahead of time. You will notice the 20 with an asterisk; this indicates a critical hit and the proper damage is listed in parentheses. For the rest of the attacks, I rolled the 2d6 + 3 and listed them in another margin on the adventure.

        Damage

  • 12
  • 11
  • 10
  • 13
  • 8

Since the trap attacks multiple targets but only dishes out one damage per round, I did not roll as many damage results. During the encounter, I would simply check off each attack and damage result as it was used in the game. This approach has potential benefits and consequences, which I plan to discuss after presenting how you could incorporate this method to speed up combat by pre-rolling attack and damage dice for monsters.

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Ego Check: Anna Kreider of Go Make Me A Sandwich

I have been an observer of numerous discussions about sexism in gaming in recent months. My plan was to write a post about the subject, but I could not decide on a specific theme for an article. I did not want to be just another male writing about the topic, but I though it would be interesting to have an in-depth discussion about sexism and the gaming culture with a person quite knowledgeable and passionate about the topic. Thankfully, Anna Kreider of Go Make Me A Sandwich agreed to spend time discussing a variety of topics related to sexism and the greater geek culture.

I first became aware of Go Make Me A Sandwich after listening to a DM Roundtable Podcast. I visited the site and was impressed with the content. Anna has supported her assertions that the gaming culture is sexist with analysis and often hilarious comparisons of how male and female characters are dressed and portrayed in games. During the past month, we had an extended conversation about sexism in the gaming culture. Specifically, I inquired about the individual gamer’s responsibility in changing the culture and how Anna continues to enjoy sexist games and continue with her blog in the face of great resistance from sects of the gaming community. We also discuss sexism in other realms of geek culture and how some games move closer and closer to a form of pornography. I believe the two of us were quite honest throughout the discussion, and encourage readers to pay close attention to the segment on cognitive dissonance, which is a subject I will return to in future posts.

Please enjoy the interview with Anna Kreider; I realize this is a topic people feel strongly about and I encourage you to keep your Comments and questions respectful.

Thank you for agreeing to meet with me. Could you please introduce yourself, and talk about how you first became interested in gaming?

Hi, there. The canned introduction I usually give goes something like: My name is Anna, though online I mostly go by Wundergeek. I write a feminist gaming blog called Go Make Me a Sandwich, in which I explore issues of sexism in gaming. In addition to being a cranky feminist blogger, I am an artist, photographer, and somewhat half-assed writer living in the wilds of Canada with a wonderful spouse and two slightly broken cats.

I’ve been playing video and board games pretty much my entire life, but I didn’t start roleplaying until my then-fiance (now husband) introduced me to gaming and got me started. Sadly, our tabletop group has long since fallen apart, but I still do LARP. So I guess I don’t completely fit the stereotype of the woman who didn’t start gaming until her significant other introduced her to it, but I think it’s fair to say that my husband definitely made me nerdier. (Not a bad thing.)

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