As I recently updated on my Patreon page, it has been quite a year for my family and I. Through it all, I have been happy to post new episodes of Ego Check with The Id DM and write a few articles for the blog. I wish to end the year on a high note to celebrate the podcast, and that brings us to the Dungeons & Dragons Holiday Giveaway! At the end of the week, I’ll select a random person from those that enter to win the following fabulous group of prizes (my D&D table is not included!):
One copy of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything
One Dice bag with D&D dice
One Tome of Annihilation dice tin
Four Tomb of Annihilation notebooks
Assorted D&D stickers
The giveaway above supporting ‘Ego Check with The Id DM’ is not administrated, sponsored, or endorsed by Wizards of the Coast.
How to Enter
There are two steps to enter the contest for a chance to win the loot pictured above:
The random drawing from those that enter the contest will take place on Friday, December 15th, and then I can get the prizes in the mailbox so it arrives to the winner before the holiday.
I am hoping 2018 is less tumultuous; however, I am fortunate to have a great deal of support from family, friends, and a wonderful online community of followers and fans. Truly and sincerely, thank you to everyone that continues to support my creative efforts. Have a fantastic holiday season, and good luck scoring the loot!
My guest for Episode 8 of Ego Check with The Id DM is Allison Rossi, Dungeon Master for Adventurer’s League and Social Media Manager for a Competitive Overwatch League. She discusses her entrance into tabletop roleplaying games several years ago and her experiences playing Dungeons & Dragons as a new player. She offers suggestions for helping new players feel comfortable playing D&D, and speaks about the trials of being a young woman running games for organized play. During the second half of the interview, she talks about her involvement in competitive Overwatch and provides useful strategies for find more success in that game. You can watch her play games on Twitch as well.
Enjoy the eighth episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:
One interesting dynamic of games such as Dungeons & Dragons is that only one player at the table is allowed to break rules in ways that are not available to the other players. The Dungeon Master (DM) is allowed, if not downright encouraged, to cheat.
Perhaps cheating is too strong of a word – as I imagine many of you react strongly to reading it. How does a DM cheat during the game? First, the DM can change the details of non-playable characters (NPCs) or entire adventure plot points on-the-fly in service of any number of motivations such as streamlining the story, highlighting the abilities of a specific player character (PC), or pacing as a session nears conclusion. Second, the DM can modify monster abilities, hit points, and statistics to tinker with the level of tension in combat. Third, the DM can fudge rolls to produce desired results. While the first two DM actions may not even qualify as cheating, since making things up is “the very essence of the game,” the third seems to fall more firmly in that category.
For example, two sessions ago in our current campaign, the players were attacked by a number of ghouls while exploring a dungeon. As the DM, I rolled the attacks for the ghouls and missed with three of the four during the first two rounds of combat. When I did hit, the players easily saved against the paralysis effect. Meanwhile, the party was hitting quite well and the combat was not terribly interesting. During the third round, I had to roll the ghoul attacks again, and I had at least two options available to me:
Roll as normal and take the result, regardless of the outcome. A hit is a hit, and a miss is a miss.
Adjust the result of the roll to suit my desires for the flow of the session.
Below I talk about the option I selected, and why. In addition, I discuss my motivations for bending or breaking rules during a session, and what it means for the game that I’m allowed to do this while other players are not. In other words, I address why I sometimes cheat!
Outside a smattering of voyages into a few modules from earlier editions of Dungeons & Dragons when I was still a teenager, my tabletop roleplaying game experience has been shaped by 4th Edition D&D. It was not until this past weekend I realized how much 4th Edition has influenced my view of how games should play and run.
Readers of the blog will note that I have spent some time playtesting a new roleplaying game called Blade Raiders. The game is very different from 4th Edition D&D and it still feels great to play. During the start of a new campaign with the system, I found myself slipping into a “4e” mindset – for better and for worse. Below, I process a few observations about habits learned while playing (almost exclusively) 4th Edition over the past two-plus years and discuss our first session of a Blade Raiders campaign.
Building a Badass
When I created a character for our playtest earlier in the year, I experimented with the Blade Raiders system and chose a combination of non-magical and magical talents. I certainly wanted to create an effective character but I was more interested in learning the system and trying new approaches to character design. But for the campaign, the “4e switch” flipped in my head and I was dissecting the various talent options in a surgical fashion.
How can I get the greatest bonus to hit?
How can I max out my damage per turn?
What talents will be most useful to me in the most circumstances?
Character optimization is not unique to 4th Edition D&D, but it is where I learned that craft! The Character Builder was (and remains to be) a wonderful tool to experiment with character creation; with a few clicks, one can see just how effective his or her character will be in combat and non-combat situations. It teaches the player the importance of statistical bonuses from a combination of skills, feats, traits and powers. And perhaps more importantly, it encourages and rewards that type of optimizing behavior. After all, why wouldn’t a player choose the options that produce the most damaging effects in combat?
So I examined he options in Blade Raiders and based my choices on the questions above. I chose talents that gave me bonuses to attack and damage rolls. I basically created a 4th Edition Striker in the Blade Raiders system. And my character, Bryce Brevard, was absolutely death on wheels. While I racked up kills and rejoiced in my ability to slay foes quickly, I experienced a creeping doubt that I was being “that guy.” You know, that guy on a basketball team that takes all the shots and celebrates the win by himself while his teammates look on in annoyance. It dawned on me that other people around the table were playing Blade Raiders – but in many ways, I was still playing 4th Edition D&D.
I found Jimi’s submission to be a fantastic mixed-media representation of Iddy the Lich. The text background was unique and the painting captured the original, slightly whimsical design for Iddy. The image also makes me wonder, “Who’s skeletal hand he is holding?” Perhaps Iddy has a long-lost love interest, which drove him to the dark arts to bring back his true love? Or perhaps it’s just the last person he melted with his vile magic in pursuit of unholy goals? What do you think?
It was a tough decision as each entry was wonderful, but she earned my vote. She was also voted as the readers’ choice and the favorite of the other participating artists. A clean sweep!
Visit Jimi’s website to learn more about her and view galleries of her work and offer your congratulations on Twitter. She provides the following description of herself:
I am an illustrator and animator, with a passion for storytelling. I am a proud geek, and spend much of my spare time playing video games or Dungeons and Dragons. I love to write fiction stories in the first person and nerdy or angsty folk songs.
I learned that these three key words describe me: Purple. Earth. Domestic cat.
Sounds like a wonderful person to game with; once again, congratulations!
I previously considered that the same artist might win the votes of myself, the readers and the artist. To break the tie to award the other two Dragon Chow dice bags, I relied on the voting completed by the readers. The other winners – as voted by the readers – are Jesse Pyne and Melissa Johansson. Congratulations!
Jesse created an image that I immediately thought could be used as a wallpaper for my laptop computer. The design takes the cartoonish look of Iddy and morphs him into a realistic lich with a Spawn-like flowing cape. I have a soft spot in my heart for those early Image Comics and I always thought Spawn was an interesting character, although I lost track of the series around issue #50. It is a very cool side view of Iddy, and the purple background adds to his overall regalness.
Meanwhile, Melissa remained close to the cartoonish Iddy design but created a slightly menacing look for him. His pose also suggests that he is beckoning the viewer to come closer if they dare. The expression on his face is rather taunting, and it adds up to a great image.
Each winner will receive a custom-made Iddy the Lich dice bag created by Dragon Chow. I wish I could give something to the other five entries in the contest. I enjoyed all of them and will certainly feature them in future articles throughout the year (if the artists find that acceptable).
Thank you one final time for each entry and for all of the voters who placed votes over the past week. Let me know if you’d like to see this as a yearly feature.
One of my primary goals at Gen Con was tracking down as many of the people I have gotten to know in some capacity over the last year or two through my blog. As a way to thank the individuals who were kind enough to agree to an interview for my site, I had special The Id DM dice bags created by Dragon Chow Dice Bags. The end result was fantastic, and I was excited to dispense the bags at the convention.
There are still a few individuals I need to reach so I can mail them a bag; not everyone was at Gen Con. But it was a pleasure to finally meet the following people in person after communicating with them online for interviews:
I once again offer my gratitude for their time and willingness to respond to my questions. And if you enjoy the photo of the dice bag above, then this is your lucky day because I am going to run my first-ever contest through this site. Multiple winners will be mailed a The Id DM dice bag created by Dragon Chow Dice Bags. Read below for the details!
I did not plan to buy many things at Gen Con; the cost of flying to Indianapolis and staying at a hotel were expensive enough. I went into the convention center with a mindset to avoid purchasing all the things I would – of course – want to buy. The only other thing I wanted to buy at Gen Con was a set of dice. One can never have enough dice!
My love/hate relationship with my dice has led me to engage in troubling behavior. I have learned though online osmosis about GameScience Dice and figured they would have a booth at Gen Con. I shuffled over to their booth and got lost in the rows of pretty dice. I finally decided on a set of orange and black dice (the colors of my favorite hockey team). I was happy, I bought my first set of GameScience Dice and those would be “My First Gen Con” dice.
@TheIdDM careful de-burring them if they have mold marks. Ruined my GS D6 using wrong kind of sandpaper...
However, a gentleman on Twitter – and who I met at the show a day earlier – commented that he ruined one of his GameScience dice when filing away an imperfection. I opened up the plastic box holding the die and – sure enough – each of them had a rough edge or some other type of flaw that would need to be sanded or filed down. On top of that, I realized he d20 was an old-school model with two sets of numbers that went from 1-0 with no teen numbers. There would be no way to tell if any given number was above or below 10.
I was seven kinds of frustrated by these developments! Below, I discuss my (probably too strong) opinions about different brands of dice, my irritation while shopping for dice at Gen Con and my idea for how to fix the GameScience Dice problem.
Because I would really love to say I have empirically validated dice!
Several weeks ago, I was approached by one of my players who wished to write a guest post for the blog. He plays a Ranger in my Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition campaign, and his character has the wonderful genre-breaking trait of hating the outdoors and anything associated with the wilderness. I found my player’s concept for the post interesting, and it built off a conversation regarding uneven leveling that has sprouted up in our games from time to time. Below is his column, which was shaped with a bit of feedback from yours truly and The Hydra DM who shares similar interests in dissecting the building blocks of a game – including Experience Points – and theorizing about what the results mean for those playing each session. During the life of The Id DM, I have hosted one previous guest post on the motivations of a Power Gamer. Enjoy the guest post below . . .
Power (Non-Outdoorsy) Ranger
As an introduction, I have played with The Id DM in a 4th edition game for almost a year. I am almost ashamed to admit that after playing for that long I only recently examined this site. [Iddy’s note: he has not yet been punished for such insolence!] I was impressed with how well put together the site was and how well written the articles were. The reason I visited this site for the first time was because an old discussion was restarted about uneven party member leveling and the associated benefits and consequences of giving some party members varying experience for activities or actions completed, which in turn results in some players leveling before others. The Id DM wrote an article that listed reasons to avoid uneven party leveling while another player in our campaigns, Dungeon Maestro, listed reasons to embrace uneven party leveling.
Frequent readers of The Id DM likely know the site started as a result of my interest in analyzing data related to combat speed in Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition. To satisfy that curiosity, I coded episodes of the Dungeons & Dragons Penny Arcade & PvP Podcast Series and presented the results. One of the more intriguing results was the findings related to the behavior of the DM, Chris Perkins. Here is what I wrote back in March 2011:
I analyzed the behavior of the DM. I was unable to break down the DM’s actions in the same two categories (Roleplaying & Tactical Decisions; Rolling/Calculating & Results) because the DM – quite frankly – moved too fast for me. The DM does not appear to be rolling for his attacks, and may be using an automatic dice roller . . . [and] takes significantly less time to take the monsters’ actions when compared to the PCs. Considering the DM is managing the actions of up to seven monsters, this is impressive.
As much as I like rolling dice to achieve random results, as a DM working behind the screen, I prefer to roll as few dice as possible. In fact, I usually keep only two dice behind my screen. That’s two dice total . . .
Two dice behind the DM screen, you say?
Why the heck not. I know how much damage (on average) a monster’s supposed to deal — I have a spreadsheet that tells me (with numbers derived from a fairly straightforward formula). Should my players care that I’m rolling 1d6 + 25 instead of 4d8 + 10, like the Monster Manual says I should? Why should they care? The only measurable difference is a narrower damage range with results edging closer to the average (26-31 damage instead of 14-42 damage), and my players have more important things to worry about than whether or not a monster’s damage range is wide enough . . .
If I have a choice between rolling 3d10 + 11 damage or 1d6 + 24 damage, I’ll take the single die and the big modifier. It seems like an insignificant thing, but it’s the kind of no-brainer shortcut that keeps overworked DMs like me alive and kickin’.
I have considered alternatives such as pre-rolling attack and damage dice to reduce the number of rolls a DM needs to complete while running an encounter. But one person like myself offering alternative mechanics through an independent blog seems vastly different from theDM of Wizards of the Coast– the company that designed and published D&D 4th Edition – writing on the company’s website that dispensing with the damage-dice mechanic is a “no-brainer shortcut.”
The column by Mr. Perkins – regardless if you agree or disagree with him on the importance of damage dice – is noteworthy. Below, I attempt to explain why I find his column so intriguing and – in some ways – pleasantly shocking.
Last week, I wrote about how I often fall into a variety of traps that limit the amount of roleplaying during combat encounters. One such trap is focusing on poor die-roll results. Combat in Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition is a tactical endeavor, and a DM has to go out of his or her way to include and promote roleplaying during the encounter. It occurred to me that the disconnect between roleplaying throughout the rest of the game and combat encounters begins immediately. Think about the most common way you introduce combat; what is one sentence that cues the players that combat is starting.
Roll for Initiative.
DMs can say this phrase with a certain level of panache and enthusiasm, but the phrase is unrelated to roleplaying in any way, shape or form. There are many factors that remove players from a roleplaying mindset during combat. Roll for Initiative is the first factor, and I believe there are methods a DM can implement to increase the level of roleplaying during the start of combat encounters. Below, I briefly discuss how initiative has changed over the years and why I find the current system problematic.