D&D 5e – Monks are the bomb! Roll20 is the shizz!

I’ve been playing in a (semi)weekly D&D 5e game on Roll20 the past few weeks. It’s great to get to play in the new system and try it out. Like many my age, my D&D experience started back in the times of AD&D. I’ve played RPG’s off & on since then – 1e, a little 2e, GURPS, Traveller, Car War (so much Car Wars), Traveller, Champions, etc. What strikes me about 5e is the return to that older feel. Only now its updated with gorgeously designed materials and fancy new technology.

Play on Roll20 with dual monitors

Play on Roll20 with dual monitors

Roll20 marks a paradigm shift in accessibility for many to participate in tabletop RPGs. I don’t think I ever imagined what an app like this could be, but at the same time its almost everything I would have dreamed up in an app like this. If you have trouble getting people together – either because of geographic or time constraints – this app fits the bill almost perfectly. It certainly isn’t a replacement for face-to-face gaming, but it does allow for gaming to happen – which in this day & age is the biggest challenge. Just getting the sessions off the ground is often the hardest part.

Now, as I said, D&D 5e is new. It’s a great system. They’ve taken all the bits and pieces from previous iterations and bundled them up in a tidy package. I love the advantage/disadvantage system over 4e’s various +/-2’s. And the backgrounds, traits and flaws all serve to broaden the character and give great hooks for role-playing. In just a few sessions, I’ve been able to fold this character into the DM’s world. Having those traits allowed me to create a reason for him being there and motivation for his actions.

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Aseir Malpha (drawn by a friend of mine)

This is also the first time I’ve played a monk character (in any system). Monks are super awesome. In 5e they are really powerful. In this past Sunday’s session, my  human monk, Aseir (pronounced A-shear) kicked butt and took several names. Even at level two, he was able to one-shot several of our enemies. A weapon attack followed by an unarmed attack had him dealing 10-12 points of damage every time he attacked. Now, the dice rolled in his favor on Sunday, but he still felt like a total badass fighting those pirates as they tried to take our hired ship. We took them out and garnered a 200g bounty for capturing the pirate captain as a bonus. Next week we’ll begin to explore the Island of Many Seasons and battle against the evil wizard, Morgoth.

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FATE : Getting started by the seat of your pants…

So my son(14) and daughter(10) have been asking to try creating a game world for Fate since I got the books earlier this Summer. They want to play in their own world rather than someone else’s. I’ve been reading and collecting info on the subject of creating a game from scratch in Fate for a while now. I haven’t read everything, by any means, but I felt I had a sense of how to do it. After sitting down with them to begin creating the game, we got bogged down in some of the early parts and I kind of lost their attention. I’m laying all this out in hopes that I might get some guidance about how to go about this or assurance that I’m on the right path.

They are still interested in playing, but I want to get a handle on what I might be doing wrong before we go much further. We sat down tonight with a Game Creation Worksheet and several Character Creation Worksheets. I thought we could at least get through a little bit of world creation and the very start of creating a few characters. Here is what we’ve created so far:

My daughter had an idea sort of formed already. She wanted the game to be set in a place called The Realm of Fantasy. I wrote up an index card for that. It is a magical place, located in the Bermuda Triangle. It can only be reached by magical creatures who are already denizens of The Realm. Very quickly they fired off the main races that reside in The Realm – Fairies, Dragons, Centaurs, and Dragonborne. I’m not sure if there are other sorts there or not, but I’ve got index cards now for each race. (They rattled off some defining aspects of the races, but it was all so quick I didn’t capture it. We’ll get back to that at some point, I guess.)

She also quickly came up with the seed of the primary adventure: In the middle of The Realm of Fantasy there is a big tree – known as The Great Oak. Index card created for that. She then wove the tale of what I see as the main adventure this game will revolve around: every October 1st, each race sends forth a champion. These will come together as a party and they have a mission. Somewhere in the Mortal World there is a Magical Acorn (golden body with a silver cap). It is the job of the party to retrieve the Magical Acorn and return it by October 31st or The Realm of Fantasy will cease to exist.

They also came up with The Elder Council – the leaders of The Realm of Fantasy. Each race sends a leader to the council.

OK, I see the seed (pun intended) here of our whole game. The Party will go on quest to find the Magical Acorn and save The Realm. Pretty straight-forward. I now had these index cards:

-The Realm of Fantasy – magical realm in Bermuda Triangle
-The Great Oak – giant tree, center of The Realm
-Magical Acorn – golden body, silver cap, must be found
-The Mortal Realm – members of the Party can appear as themselves or as humans with some features that match their Realm appearance
-The Bermuda Triangle
-Race:Dragons
-Race:Fairies
-Race:Centaurs
-Race:Dragonborne
-The Elder Council

Then they set to work on the four characters that would make up The Party. I got 4 Character Creation Worksheets. Here is what they came up with:

Name: Aspen Willowwing
Type: Female Fairie
High Concept Aspect: Golden-throated Diva (aka Entertainer)
Trouble Aspect: Sticky fingers (aka Kleptomaniac)

Name: Firelong
Type: Male Dragon
High Concept Aspect: Dragon for Hire
Trouble Aspect: I’ll do anything for a bit of gold

Name: Lya Fireheart
Type: Female Dragonborne
High Concept Aspect: Lieutenant in Elder Council Guard
Trouble Aspect: Anger Management Issues

Name: Hunter Leafin
Type: Male Centaur
High Concept Aspect: Master Hunter of The Realm of Fantasy
Trouble Aspect: Terrified of Heights

Out of that little part of character creation we got this index card:

-Elder Council Guard

And then we got side-tracked by making a set of foes. They came up with The Pact of Shadows. This would be the force of beings that would try to stop them from recovering the Magical Acorn in the Mortal Realm. We created this index card:

-The Pact of Shadows – trying to stop The Party in Mortal Realm – they appear as shadowy creatures – they can’t change form – they can’t enter the Realm of Fantasy

And then, very quickly, they spouted out this set of foes:

Name: Shadow Claw
Type: foot-solider

Name: Shadow Stalker
Type: Assassins
-always travel in pairs
-if one of a pair is taken out, the other is weakened

Name: Shadow Reaper
Type: Grunts

Name: Shadow Angel
Type: Commanders

Name: Prince of Shadows
Type: Leader of The Pact of Shadows

They even went through my 4E Monster Manual and found pictures of each creature.

I was blown away by their creativity and the power of creating the beginnings of their own game along with the start of these characters. What got me though was that I feel like there is so much to create before we can get started.

Is there? I feel like we might be able to get going with the game, but there would be a lot of making stuff up on the fly. Not just scene aspects, but major world-building stuff.

Those of you who may be more experienced, am I on the right track? Is this how it should work? I guess it’s just a new mode of thinking about playing in these kinds of games. Everything in my game worlds always has a back story. Everything is there for a reason so it can’t just be tossed aside and not cataloged. Everything could come back around and become an essential part of the game. Plus, there’s just so much world to create.

We created all of the above in less than an hour. It seems like we are only about a third of the way to being ready for the first play session where the charactrers come together and we begin the main quest. Does that seem right?

What would you do differently?

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Card Games A Plenty

So where do you learn new card games? If you’re like me, you learn them from friends and family. There are certain card games that I associate with a particular time or place. Peanuts (our version of Nerts or Racing Demon) is & always will be the game of the beach and my cousins. Egyptian Ratscrew will forever be the game of one particular 80’s summer spent playing at the Laurel, MD City Pool. I brought it to my card playing cousins and they took to it as well – “Slap on in!”

Often card games are spur of the moment activities. You don’t get much time to put into exploring options and learning the rules. With the  explosion of Internet connected devices, you can now keep up with the unexpected chance to teach some friends or family a new game. Pull out your tablet or smartphone and bring up the rules from the Web.

You could certainly Google the name of the game you want to learn, but there are some problems with that:

  1. Name of the Game – many card games go by different names so they can be somewhat hard to track down.
  2. Needle in a Haystack – just searching for a good site to learn to play a specific card game can be a daunting proposition. And the variety of non-card game sites that come up when you search for “Knock You Neighbor” or “Sergeant Major” would make you think you had remembered the name incorrectly.

What we need is a site that has card game rules. A site that shows you how many players a given game is good for. A site that shows how many cards are needed to play. Do you think there is a site that provides all that?

That site is Pagat.com. You can learn every kind of card game there – from Abyssinia to Zwickern. It really is a very good resource for learning new card games or even brushing up on games you’ve been playing for years. You will likely discover that the published version of the rules is slightly different than the game you play in your circles.

For instance, in my family’s version of Peanuts, instead of just starting with 4 cards in the Work Pile, we deal out a 5 column Solitaire hand for each player. This summer I am going to introduce the Nerts version and see how it goes. Our Peanuts games are crazy fast already so I think reducing the complexity of play for each person will only make things even more exciting. (We will have a video tutorial of our version of Peanuts later this summer).

Pagat isn’t the only page out there, but it is definitely one of the best and most in-depth. An alternative to Pagat is Wikipedia. If you know the name or one of the common alternate names of a game there is likely a page for it on Wikipedia (See Nerts or Egyptian Ratscrew) . As a bonus, if you have an alternate rule or set of rules, you can submit those and add to the entry for your chosen game.

Happy dealing & get out there and learn a new game!

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Mechanics Over Mastery

This site isn’t about becoming a master player of any game – well not directly.

We don’t deal in tactics, strategy or optimizing your play. We don’t seek to instruct you on the best way to play any game. There is no way we could undertake such a cause. Mastering any game depends on the game.

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How do you learn a new game?

It’s kind of the reason I started this site. How do you go about learning a new game? I guess to answer that, you need to take a look at how and when you play games and with whom. I think its a pretty safe bet that many folks play games on the computer or some device. Many of these games are solo affairs, so the learning comes at your own pace.

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