Game Night Blog Carnival: Table Topics

It is once again time to present an alternative game for your adventuring group as part of Roving Band of Misfits’ Game Night Blog Carvinal. For this entry, I am branching out to a product that does not fit into the traditional “game” category. However, I’m going to refer to it as a game anyway. This month’s entry is Table Topics.

Table Topics has a very simple tagline – Questions to Start Great Conversations. The game includes 135 cards; each card features a single question that can be asked. There is no right or wrong answer. The questions are engaging and aim to get people talking about interesting things in their life. For example, questions from the Original Edition include:

  • What did you get into trouble for the most when you were young?
  • Which historical sporting event would you like to witness?
  • Which is more important – intelligence or common sense?
  • If you could do something dangerous just once with no risk what would you do?
  • Where would you choose to live if you had to leave this country?

Table Topics now features 135-card sets with a variety of themes, including sets titled Family, Girls Night Out, Road Trip, College, Couples, Decades and Travel. Below, I present some ideas on how to use Table Topics to create a different atmosphere for an intriguing session with your gaming group.

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An Education in First Edition

Edit: Several readers have correctly informed me that the game I played was actually BASIC Dungeons & Dragons. My use of “First Edition” throughout the post is incorrect, but I decided to keep the language because comparing “First” to Fourth felt more logical. I hope the distraction is minimal; the difference in language should not affect the themes in the post.

Before taking up 4th Edition in 2009, it had been over 15 years since I played Dungeons & Dragons. I have vague memories of playing old modules like Horror on the Hill but forgot the specific mechanics of the game. So I was eager to travel back in time when my DM recently suggested that we play a session of First Edition. We played Palace of the Silver Princess, and it was an eye-opening experience for me both as a DM and player who is accustomed to the rules and pacing of 4th Edition.

My Magic User died with his proverbial lone bullet in the chamber.

The surprises began with character generation, and continued throughout the entire day and night of gameplay with my Magic User (who died, and whose capabilities are nicely summarized by d20monkey above) and then Fighter. Our party suffered numerous deaths while exploring a much greater area than we could ever hope to do in a 4th Edition session. Below, I discuss my experience traveling back in time to play First Edition, and how returning to D&D’s roots have updated my view of 4th Edition.

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Dungeon Economics 101

Managing treasure parcels for the my players is always an interesting challenge for me while DMing. It takes zero preparation to dish out monetory rewards to the party, “The lair has been cleared of enemies. In the corner, you find a chest with 200 gp and a brilliant red gem that you estimate is worth 50 gold pieces (gp).” A DM can get creative with describing expensive jewelry and art objects and even tie them in to the plot of the campaign, but the party is simply going to sell the treasure and split the gold equally. Monetary treasure parcels are typically split evenly whereas magic-item treasure parcels create potential balance issues within the party. The DM needs to invest more time in ensuring a good balance of magic items are found so that all in the party benefit equally over time.

Gold, Gold, GOLD!

In addition, I find discovering treasure parcels and splitting them with my fellow party members entertaining as a player. But something about the economics of 4th Edition has always trouble me, and I was never able to put a figure out why. As a player, I’d look at the gp I have saved up from many levels of adventuring and look at the price of items and think, “I could save up forever and never afford a decent magic item. What else can I even do with this gold?” Months ago, I reached the conclusion that treasure parcels and the economics of D&D 4th Edition were “broken,” but I didn’t have anything to substantiate that belief.

I returned to the question last week, and decided to finally add some structure and data to my belief that the economics in 4e are a problem. My primary means of addressing the issue was returning to the suggested Treasure Parcel list that appears in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. I wanted to know how much treasure an adventuring party can expect to earn during a Level 1-30 campaign. The graphs below illustrate the data, and a discussion of potential uses for the data follows. It turns out that my belief that the economy is broken may not be entirely accurate. And serious bonus points to anyone that understands the reference in the picture above!

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Ego Check: Brian Patterson of d20monkey (Volume I)

For this installment of Ego Check, I had the good fortune of communicating with Brian Patterson of d20monkey (www.d20monkey.com) for well over a month. I first came across his site months ago and have thoroughly enjoyed his comic strip. If you have not visited his site before, then you must do yourself a favor and check out his work. The characters in the strip are lovable and the sense of humor should be right up any geek’s alley.

In this extensive interview, Brian discussed his early influences as an artist and how the d20monkey endeavor began. He shares the development of the specific characters in his comic, including how his relationship with certain cast members are dynamic and – at times – quite complicated. He closes the interview by speaking about his comic’s evolution and how he feels welcomed in the online gaming community. It was a pleasure to get to know more about the world of and creator behind d20monkey. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did conducting it.

Thank you for meeting with me! I have laughed quite a bit as a result of visiting the comic strips on your site, d20Monkey. What was the origin of the webcomic?

Like many other cartoonists, I started drawing as soon as I could hold a crayon. It didn’t take long for me to fall into a love of comics and then on my 10th birthday, I played my first game of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. Fast-forward to 2010 when I decided after years of comics, writing, and freelance projects for others to finally strike out on my own with d20monkey. For me the comic is the culmination of experiences combined with my love of comics and gaming.

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Happy Birthday To Me

I have been waiting to announce a new project, which I am quite excited about. For a few reasons, I have held off on the announcement until today. All things have finally come together and today is also my birthday, so the timing works out very well indeed. Over a month ago, I was approached by Thadeous from This is My Game (www.myrpgame.com)

He inquired if I would be interested in writing a regular column for his site. After some discussion about a theme, we decided that I would write a detailed description of a monster that could be used in your Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition game. The monster would feature a detailed background, lore, flavor text and a complete Stat Block. Every month, a new monster will be available on This is My Game for you to lift and set in your campaign world.

The title of the column is No Assembly Required; I know firsthand how challenging creating new content and plotlines can be for DMs, so I have attempted to provide as much information as possible so the monster is easily stealable for use in a campaign. I commissioned Grant Gould (www.grantgould.com), who provided the design for Iddy the Lich, to create the logo above for the column. In addition, he is providing an illustration of each month’s monster, so any DM can use that image in their game. His image for the first monster is below.

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