Ego Check with The Id DM – Teos Abadia on Designing Acquisitions Incorporated

teos-abadia-bio-pic
Teos Abadia

Teos Abadia joins Ego Check once again to talk about how wonderfully diverse the tabletop roleplaying game hobby has become in recent years. He details how he got involved in the Acquisitions Incorporated book for Dungeons & Dragons, and speaks to the philosophy behind the unique approach to D&D content. He discusses his hand in refining the final segments of the AI adventure within the book, and how delightful it was to work with the other members of the team on the project.

Enjoy the 51st episode of Ego Check with The Id DM!

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Analyzing the PAX 2014 D&D Live Game

Minding my own business last week, I was passive-aggressively challenged by Mike Shea of Sly Flourish to return to my roots and perform an analysis on the latest installment of Dungeons & Dragons played by the members of Acquisitions Incorporated. My first blog post back in 2011 was an analysis of the Penny Arcade/PvP podcast to track the duration of combat in 4th Edition D&D. I followed this up with another analysis of a later combat encounter in the Penny Arcade/PvP podcast series. In those posts, I was able to add meaningful data to the (then) ongoing discussion about the length of combat in 4th Edition. Mike figured it made sense to task me with using the same technique to investigate combat in 5th Edition.

I had not yet watched the PAX 2014 Live Game of Dungeons & Dragons featuring Jerry Holkins, Mike Krahulik, Scott Kurtz, and Morgan Webb of Acquisitions Incorporated. They were joined by a special guest, Patrick Rothfuss, and dealt with whatever Dungeon Master extraordinaire, Chris Perkins, threw at them. For those that have not yet watched the video, the two-plus hour session is below, and it is wonderfully entertaining!

Below, a description of the method used to code the first combat encounter featured in the PAX 2014 Live Game is given, and then data from that analysis is organized and discussed. Analyzing the session resulted in several intriguing questions including the surprising basic inquiry: Is the group playing Dungeons & Dragons?

Continue reading “Analyzing the PAX 2014 D&D Live Game”

Combat Encounter Analysis: Penny Arcade/PvP Podcast Series Enters “The Dungeon”

Introduction

I recently listened to an episode of the DM Roundtable Podcast and someone – can’t remember who – suggested that if you do not see the type of information you are looking for, don’t complain and go create it. I had not heard the podcast until this past week, but the message therein is what drove me to start this blog. I had been lurking around online reading other blogs and absorbing information, but I felt something was missing. I felt like I had a voice to contribute, and it culminated with my dissatisfaction during the wrangling about combat speed in Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition . . . which continues to this day.

Many opinions had been offered and numerous useful suggestions were outlined to speed up play, but I never saw anything approaching scientific data about how combat encounters transpire. Motivated by the notion that other people might be curious about the same information, I started The Id DM and my first post was an analysis of a combat encounter from Season 2 of the Penny Arcade/PvP Podcast series. The post is – by far – the most successful article I have written in the short life of the site. It was always my intention to continue analyzing the podcast series, and I was finally able to return to the project recently.

I had the pleasure of piloting a new method for tracking combat encounters, and I hope to discuss that system in a separate post in the near future. In the meantime, I picked up where I left off in the last analysis and coded the time in the next encounter, The Dungeon, in Season 2 of the Penny Arcade/PvP Podcast Series.  After a brief review of my methodology, I present the results below.

Continue reading “Combat Encounter Analysis: Penny Arcade/PvP Podcast Series Enters “The Dungeon””

Analyzing Combat Encounters – Returning to the Penny Arcade/PvP Podcast Series

Introduction

Numerous voices are currently discussing the resting mechanics and speed of combat encounters during D&D 4e games. More specifically, the problem addressed is the sometimes agonizing length of combat encounters and how it can drain the momentum from an otherwise good night of gaming.

The most recent addition to the fray is the thoughtful article by Robert J. Schwalb, which presents a possible solution for the slow grind of combat and awkward rest mechanics in 4e. As the speed of combat is discussed on forums and blogs (not to mention blowing up Twitter on some days), one thing seems to be missing from the overall discussion.

Hard data.

Perhaps I’m not looking in the right place, but I haven’t seen anyone analyze a gaming session in terms of how much time is spent on specific tasks before, during and after combat encounters. The thought occurred to me that I could record our next gaming session, but I reailzed that no one reading this article would know if our gaming group is similar to the majority of groups out there or an outlier. The data would be easy for many to dismiss and ignore.

However, I remembered the Dungeons & Dragons Penny Arcade & PvP Podcast Series, which is one of the main reasons I got back into D&D in the first place. The Second Series introduced me to the mechanics of 4e and reminded me how fun it could be to sit around a table with some friends, goof around, roll dice and beat the hell out of monsters.

Also, everyone can still access these podcasts (and if you haven’t, then you’re absolutely cheating yourself) to determine if their home games are in the same ballpark in terms of pace and style. There are other articles that discuss and respond to the series, but I believe a time-analysis will show interesting – and perhaps surprising – information about how time is spent during any given combat encounter in 4e, and how best to alter the experience to improve the game for DMs and PCs.

Method

The first task was to create categories to code the podcasts. I kept the categories simple because it is possible to spend hours listening, rewinding, and listening again to get exact statistics. I settled on the following two categories to analysis the time of the turns during combat:

  1. Roleplaying & Tactical Decisions
  2. Rolling, Calculating & Results

If I had more time, then I would expand upon these categories. But they will do for now.  I split each PCs’ turn into the above categories. The first category counts everything between the DM informing the player it is their turn to when the PC decides on their attack and prepares to roll. The second category begins when the PC rolls, calculates damage (if applicable) and any other discussions before the DM informs the next PC it is their turn. 

I am not including the first episode in the series in the analysis; the group spends approximately 31 minutes on introductions and role-playing to begin the adventure. During those 31 minutes, the party interacts with each other and various NPCs. They ultimately arrive at their destination, and a combat encounter begins just as the episode concludes.

I analyzed the second episode of the series, which begins immediately with the process of assigning initiative. Initiative is established within 30 seconds, and I removed that small fragment from the time analysis. The combat encounter includes no terrain effects except for a large hole in the floor of the tower; the hole never comes into play although it is discussed tactically as an option. The enemies for the encounter are two human crossbowman and four human minions.

First, I recorded how long each turn lasted for the PCs and the DM. Whenever the DM prompted a PC that is was their turn, the timer started. As soon as the PC made their decisions and rolled dice to attack, then I stopped recording time for the Roleplaying & Tactical Decisions portion of the turn, and started timing for the Rolling/Calculating & Results portion of their turn.

For example, Binwin Bronzebottom is the first PC to act in the encounter. The DM notifies Binwin that his turn is ready 30 seconds into play (after initiative was decided). During the next 162 seconds, Binwin asks the DM questions about the environment, consults with his party and debates on movement and action options. Binwin decides on his actions, including an attack, and decides to roll his d20 at the 3:12 mark of the podcast. These actions were placed in the first category described above – Roleplaying & Tactical Decisions.

Binwin rolls and consults with his party to ensure he is adding up his modifiers correctly. He checks with the DM and is informed his attack hits. The DM records the damage and then announces at 4:34 of the podcast that it is the monsters’ turn. The 97 seconds between the 3:12 mark when Binwin rolled and the 4:34 mark when the next turn starts were placed in the second category described above – Rolling/Calculation & Results.

All turns were recorded with this system (yes, it took awhile!).

Results

The results are presented in a few ways below. To begin, let’s simply look at how much time was spent in each round.

  

Continue reading “Analyzing Combat Encounters – Returning to the Penny Arcade/PvP Podcast Series”