Understanding Self and Other

In recent weeks, I have been asked for input from others in the online community about certain topics. It has been fun to communicate with other bloggers on their ideas and contribute in any way possible. I wanted to direct readers to two recent articles, which feature some commentary by yours truly.

The first is a post at Dice Monkey, which discusses how children learn to assume roles in games such as Cops And Robbers. The author, Mark Meredith, asked me how I thought a specific theory, The Generalized Other, applies to roleplaying games. I provided my perspective, which he incorporated into the article.

Is this person pushing people away or welcoming them?

The second is a post at Sly Flourish, which details how functioning as a DM can grow frustrating over time. Mike Shea asked me several questions related to how DMs can cope with the frustration of running a roleplaying game. I responded to his questions with specific strategies to first identify and then manage stress caused (or exaggerated) by running games. I believe the information can be helpful to any DM (or player) who may wish to increase their level of patience.

A common theme in many of my articles is understanding behavior and communication patterns before, during and after roleplaying game sessions. Readers who have enjoyed those articles should find the two posts above interesting. And outside of the specific articles I contributed to, both sites feature a plethora of wonderful content to delve into and consume. Thanks to Mark Meredith from Dice Monkey and Mike Shea from Sly Flourish for reaching out to me for their articles!

Game Night Blog Carnival: Kingdom Rush

In the past, my entries in Roving Band of Misfits’ Game Night Blog Carnival series have featured multiplayer games. However, this month I wanted to focus on a single-play experience that recently rocked my world. During my trip to New Zealand last month, I had a 13-hour plan ride to fill with various activities. I received several suggestions to download Kingdom Rush for my iPad. I decided to give the game a try for a mere 99 cents, and it was a fantastic decision!

Since I could not sleep well on the plane, I played the game on and off for the better portion of eight hours. The game is incredibly addictive, and I cannot recommend it enough for those looking for a fun game to eat up minutes and hours of their time. Below, I describe the allure and charm of Kingdom Rush.

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Disposable Heroes: What Does Save Or Die Really Kill?

Earlier this month, a spotlight was shone on the save or die game mechanic by members of the development team for Dungeons & Dragons Next. The vast majority of my experience with D&D is through 4th Edition, which is built with less lethality as the default option compared to earlier editions. For example, our group played a BASIC D&D game last year and the character I played died while I was away from the table during a 90-second roundtrip to use the bathroom. I left the table while the character had full health only to return to a corpse riddled by zombie teeth and claw marks. The lethality of the game has certainly shifted over time, and the developers of D&D Next are now seeking input about the utility of the most lethal aspect of D&D – save or die effects.

As a relative newcomer to D&D and tabletop roleplaying games, I find the save or die mechanic fascinating for all that it means for the game and those playing it. I have been playing computer- and console-based RPGs and other videogames since Atari and I cannot think of an equivalent mechanic to save or die. I have never played World of Warcraft or similar games, but I have learned if a character dies, his or her progress is not lost forever. The player – and character – continue to adventure another day. Even thinking about punishing games like the original Ninja Gaiden on the Nintendo Entertainment System, which resulted in a multitude of deaths, they still featured the same protagonist after the character died. No matter how many times the player was punctured by throwing stars or knocked out of the sky by birds, the player still continued Ryu’s journey set forth by his father.

Ignoring Raise Dead and other options, D&D is one of the few games I’ve played where character death is FINAL. Save or die effects add an element of chance to the finality; saving throws in 4th Edition, not factoring in any relevant modifiers, will fail 45% of the time. In earlier editions, the fail rate was less favorable to the player. Fail a save, and the adventure was immediately over for that character forever. This strikes me as an odd way to manage a roleplaying game in terms of fostering a level of attachment and emotional investment from a player.

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Ego Check: Jennifer Steen of Jennisodes

There are an amazing array of available podcasts devoted to roleplaying games. One of the podcasts you should have in your rotation is Jennisodes, which is the creation of Jennifer Steen. With almost 100 episodes, Jennisodes offers a fantastic collection of interviews with a variety of movers and shakers in the RPG universe. I was able to turn the tables a bit on the creator of Jennisodes as she spoke with me about working on the podcast, developing her own game and whether or not she’s planning to take over the world.

Thank you for agreeing to spend some time with me. You’ve been recording the Jennisodes podcast for over two years now with 90 episodes and counting. Before we begin, congratulations on that accomplishment! How did you get started with the podcast in the first place, and how did you decide on the interview-style format for each episode?

Thanks! It has been a busy but very rewarding two years. I started recording Jennisodes after the Trapcast podcast ended in late 2009. Once the show ended I found myself wanting to get back on the airwaves and podcasting again. The Trapcast was a co-hosted show with 4 members and we always had issues scheduling the recording sessions. I decided on doing an interview-style show because it worked with my schedule and I could line up guests weeks in advance. Over the past four years I have learned so much about gaming and the community and I wanted to give something back. I noticed that there wasn’t a podcast that strictly did interviews and this was a way to get more voices heard, from game designers to players and editors.

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No Assembly Required – Weta Swarm

The March edition of my monthly monster-building column, No Assembly Required, is now posted at This Is My Game.

The column, No Assembly Required, features a monster that can be inserted into a Dungeon & Dragons 4th Edition campaign. Each monster in the series includes comprehensive information including Origin, Lore, Combat Tactics, Power Descriptions and Stat Block. Visit This Is My Game to review this month’s monster, Weta Swarm. The Weta Swarm is an Heroic-Tier monster who can serve as a pesky creature and hopefully adds more “swarming” flavor than other monster options.

The Weta Swarm was inspired by my recent travels to New Zealand. I have thought about creating a swarm monster in the past because I often find that the current swarm options do not feel all that “swarmish.” Other than taking half damage from melee and ranged attacks, many swarms simply feel too much like other monsters. It was my intention to make the Weta Swarm feel like a significant threat just by sheer numbers alone. As always, I’m open to feedback so please post any questions or comments about the monster here or at This Is My Game, and come back next month for another ready-to-use monster.

The fantastic artwork is provided by Grant Gould. Visit This is My Game for the full description of Weta Swarm.

First Steps Into a Larger World

Exactly one year ago today, I published the first post on my blog with a brief introduction about me and my plans for the site. For those that are new to The Id DM, the following post serves as a brief historical overview of the site and highlights columns you might have missed during the year. Looking back from that first day of the blog and processing all that has happened since then is a strange thing. By all possible measures, the blog has been a success beyond my wildest expectations. I have many people to thank, and will certainly do that below. The Id DM is a creative outlet for me. I don’t receive any income from the site and I have at times found running the site to be more stressful than anything else going on in my life. I can only guess on the total number of hours, days and weeks during the past year devoted to planning, writing, editing and posting articles.

Iddy the Lich. Born March 10, 2011.

I enjoy writing and have considered starting a website in the past, but never found a concept that truly motivated me to execute the plan. Before inspiration struck me to write about my roleplaying game experiences, I had consumed a great deal of information about running combat in 4th Edition and the propensity for the game to slow down and grind to a halt. Many opinions were offered to solve the problem, but there was no data to be found to support arguments one way or the other. I found myself with something unique to add to the discussion. I knew I could analyze encounters and present data on statistics such as turn length by player and length of combat by round. I spent the better portion of a week coding episodes of the Penny Arcade podcast series and organizing the results.

I posted the results on my blog and hoped that a few people would read about it. I did allow myself pie-in-the-sky hopes that the guys who actually played in the game would read the column and respond – so perhaps I lied earlier when I said all of my wildest expectations have been achieved! Who doesn’t want their efforts rewarded with Wil Wheaton’s blessing on Twitter? That’s frame worthy! But I digress . . .

The feedback I received to the analysis of combat speed was fantastic; it motivated me to continue writing. Without that early interaction with others in the online D&D community, my desire to create new content for the blog may have fizzled. However, it seemed that at least a few people were interested in what I had to say and I continued to write and write. During the past year, The Id DM has featured 80 posts comprised of 173,726 words including 11 interviews.

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Drink It!

I have the good fortune of playing with a gaming group that has a great deal of terrain and miniatures for combat encounters. The host of our game has been collecting such items for many years, and members of our group continue to add to the collection; most notably, we have numerous sets of Dwarven Forge terrain, which is simply spectacular. I realize such tools are a luxury for me as a DM and player, and I try not to rely on the terrain too much in order to have a memorable session. I continue to search for simple and low-cost props to enhance the enjoyment of a game or emphasis a specific dynamic on an encounter.

Can you name this movie? Hint, he's saying the title of this post.

Last session, the party finally got to meet an important NPC in the campaign world – the leader of a religious/military order, High Priest Adamar (name blatantly stolen from A Knight’s Tale). Adamar was slowly built up over the course of two years in my campaign. The players have assumed the NPC was corrupt, mostly because of the name I choose to give him. Other documentation provided to the players asserted that he was a villain. However, they players did not have an opportunity to meet with him face-to-face before the session. With such a high-profile meeting, I wanted the non-combat encounter to be memorable. Below, I discuss how I attempted to accomplish that outcome with a rather simple request, “Take this and drink it.”

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