Back From The Dead

So its been four years since last we talked.  So much has happened.

I went with Pathfinder, got so involved in it that I was an officer in their Organized Play.  Then things got political, and I quit my position.  I really enjoyed my time with Pathfinder Society, but I’m not fond of the new season’s theme (hate all things Lovecraftian) and since I’m not feeling obligated to play it anyway as I’m no longer an officer, I’m taking at least this year off.

The game stores I mentioned in the last blog entry: the game store that never had games on their shelf unsurprisingly closed their doors.  The other one, inexplicably, remains open.  Some guys I used to play with opened a store in the area, and over time they evolved to where they forsake all other games in favor of minis and card gaming – they’ll disagree with that assessment if you ask them, but that’s how I see it.

Well, with no ties to any organized gaming, its time to pursue things I’ve kept on the back burner.  I’ve had an idea for a campaign setting for a while, with a story I’ve wanted to tell.  So, let’s see if we can do that.  What system?

Well, Pathfinder won Edition War I – but clearly 5th edition is the popular kid in the playground now.  I avoided it as long as I could, but I held my nose and sent WotC some money and picked up the core books.  I’m forcing myself to learn the system.  So, not that you care – but here’s my look at 5e after running one entire session.

There are things I missed in Pathfinder that are copyrighted under WotC, like Beholders and Yuan-Ti, because “eye tyrants” and “serpentfolk” just aren’t the same.  I missed kobolds, too – Pathfinder has them, sure, but they’re underused in adventures because goblins are the go-to first-level bad guys.  Mind you, I love what Paizo did to goblins – but it meant we didn’t see kobolds or orcs as much.

I also miss some of the monster flavor from 4e: like kobold’s being shifty.  I know, they have pack tactics for advantage – but an extra d20 seems very broken to me.

Rules-wise, I don’t know that I care too much for 5e.  I miss Pathfinder’s Combat Maneuver system.  But maybe I’m the only one.  The encounter building seems unnecessarily complicated, and the Unearthed Arcana article to streamline things just seems to complicated things further for me.

I still think Pathfinder rules > 5e rules, but 5e’s the new kid that everybody loves.  Shockingly, it flew off the shelves – as though gamers checked out 4e and said “meh, I’ll wait til next edition”, and gleefully opened their wallets when it came out.  Given that problem #1 with RPG gaming is finding players, there’s great value in playing what’s popular.

Getting back in the swing of things was nice.  I had a week to prepare (one of my players had a surprise birthday party, and my job was to keep him busy for the day while wifey set up the house) – and I got very little notice on it.  It was nice being creative and telling my story instead of someone else’s – not that the players were interested.  They conspired to have their own agenda.

…which was awesome.  Threw me for a loop, but yeah – we can weave their story into the overall campaign.  Like old times, friends got together, ate snacks and played games.  Told stupid jokes, told more stupid jokes, trolled the DM, and had a good time.  I’m happy to report that everyone’s coming back for round two.

(which isn’t entirely a good thing – I want to keep the table size down to five players.  Bae didn’t play in the first game, as she was helping my buddy’s wife set up the aforementioned party.  I told her she can come in as soon as someone can’t make it.  I need a player to succumb to the typical player flakiness so I don’t get in trouble.)

Oh! Bae!  Yeah, I’m getting married in June.  Fun fact: before we met, she was a commenter on this blog.  Cool, right?

Anyway, the best part… I got to introduce people from separate play groups to each other.  People I knew would get along great.  And Jason’s playing!

So now that I’m in, I’m in… looking for podcasts that aren’t the official podcast.  There’s a lot of things that I didn’t realize I missed – writing stories, building encounters, sitting on the can and flipping through rulebooks while pushing one out, and I really missed geeking out with Jason (yes homo).

Maybe I’ll talk more about the campaign, maybe not.  I dunno.  I’m not sure if I’m going to blog here again, do my own blog, or nothing.  It just felt like this page didn’t have a conclusion, so I figured I’d post an update.  Thanks for checking in.

Posted in Matt Being a Douche | Leave a comment


If you don’t have a lot of time, here are the bullet points I’m hoping to cover here:

  1. The FLGSs around here are wonderful, but do things that aggravate me.  Am I just being too bitchy?  Should I just feel lucky to have a FLGS?  Does your FLGS do little things to annoy you too, or is every FLGS outside of Houston as wonderful as the ones I read about online?
  2. If a game store doesn’t have something in stock, they inevitably offer to order it.  Why would a patron do that, and not just order it online?  I get the idea of supporting brick & mortar stores – and I do, more often than not – but then one runs the risk of the item being forgotten.  Why is it better for a gamer at that point to order from a store, and not the web?  What am I missing?
  3. In today’s day and age – do we really need game stores?  Or are they an anachronism?

I live in a suburb of Houston, and I’m fortunate enough to have two Friendly Local Gaming Stores close to me.  As in “roughly 10 minutes away, and on my way home from work” close.  I guess I should point out that Houston’s a spread-out monstrosity of a town.  No real city planning – things just sprang up where ever oil was found, and sprawl connected everything, so its too large for any effective public transportation.  You have to drive to get pretty much anywhere – our average commute is 30 minutes.  So I realize how fortunate I am to have two game stores next to me.  The next-closest one is about 45 minutes away.

Here’s the thing, though: I’m not comfortable with either one of the stores close to me.

One store sells stuff over MSRP.  Not everything, mind you – and I understand the reasoning: it depends on which distributor they get stuff from.  But this angers me greatly – and I’ll admit, irrationally.  If I notice something’s over MSRP, I just shouldn’t buy it – and I haven’t when I catch it…  but the very idea just rubs me the wrong way, as though “hope the customers don’t notice” is part of the sales plan.  They’re a very well-stocked store, but I’m just not cool with the overcharging..  Even when factoring in gas to go to another store 45-minutes away, or shipping costs from ordering online, its cheaper to go local… yet, I’m bothered enough to not do that.  I think.  This is a new discovery for me.  We’ll see if I hold to this principle.

UPDATE on this… between the time I started this draft and the time I hit publish, one of the employees there expressed my concern to the owner.  I’ve been asked to come in and TELL THEM WHAT I’VE NOTICED THAT’S OVER MSRP.  Isn’t that ridiculous?  Why am I expected to keep up the charade that overcharging is an accident?  I’ve been sitting on this blog for about five days before hitting publish.  I’ve given it enough time, I’m not being rash.  That’s bullshit.

Okay, so go to the other store, right?  Well, I would – but they have very little on their shelves that I want to buy.  They’re nice guys, but they’re a hardcore war-minis and Magic: The Gathering Store.  When I’ve tried to plan or participate in RP gaming over there, its… not welcoming.   To their credit, there is a 2nd ed D&D game that’s going on there, and they did purchase the Free RPG Day package, but they don’t have the Pathfinder Core Rulebook on their shelves (and haven’t for many months) and to my knowledge, they’ve never had either of the Heroes of books necessary for D&D 4.5 – so running those games, only to get players interested in a product they can’t purchase at that store – seems a bit silly, doesn’t it?  Jason tried running the Dungeon Command event there, and they didn’t want him doing it that Saturday because they had wargaming “tournaments” on Saturdays.  PROTIP: If you do it every week, its not a tournament – its a Saturday.  I’ll let Jason talk about that if he wants.

Their board game supply is quite low, and even those are placed way-up high where they’re difficult to see.  Attempts to do board gaming there are met with mixed results.  In fact, they just published their monthly “tabletop” calendar, and nowhere on there is a single RPG or board game – its all magic and war-minis.  RPGs and board games aren’t even an afterthought.  To be fair, the guys have been nothing but nice to me, but as a RPG/board gamer, I don’t feel welcome there… and I’d really really like to.  I’d love to frequent the bigger, better-lit store that doesn’t try to nickle-and-dime its customers – but I keep looking, and there ain’t nothing there for me.  When I try to play stuff I want to play there, it feels forced.  I’ll admit that this is my perception, and to others that place feels like home – and I’m very happy for them.

Point being: there’s all kinds of little issues, from both stores.  I’m trying to keep the whining to a minimum (and failing, I realize).  I’m just wondering: how much of this is “familiarity breeds contempt”?  I was going to post this to reddit or /tg/, but I figured I’d ask anybody that happens by here instead:

“What does your FLGS do to irritate you?”

I’m not going to bother asking one of the questions up top – “Am I Being Too Whiny?” because I’m reading/editing as I’m going here and … just ugh.  This post belongs on a “Gamer Girls” blog (ducks).  But I have a point here.  This has been brewing for a while, and Jason heard me repeat this rant AGAIN after our game night tonight.  So fine, I’m posting it and getting it off my chest so I can instead bitch about D&D Next instead (btw, how pissed off do you suppose the developers of the Neverwinter video game are that they’re about to release a video game for an abandoned ruleset?).

Anyway, question 2: Both stores have dropped the ball on ordering stuff.  I’ll ask the owner of one store if they have something and he’ll tell me he can’t get it from his distributor.  So I get it elsewhere.  Then next time I’m in, he’s like “hey, I got that thing you ordered.” – as if I’ve done something wrong by going elsewhere when he told me he can’t get the item I’ve asked for.  This is a constant.  That, and I’ll tell him I need something by X date for a con or game day… he doesn’t get it in (or doesn’t get enough in), I get it elsewhere, then after I needed it I hear “hey, I got that thing you ordered.”  I’ve learned not to ask about products for that very reason – but sometimes I’ll forget that self-imposed rule.

And the other store… I wanted to get the Beginner Box when it came out.  This was well-communicated.  Release comes, and its not on the shelves.  Okay, wait a few days… still not on the shelves.  Fine, I’ll get it elsewhere.  Come to find out, they got it in – it was just in the storeroom and not on the shelves.  Wtf?

So okay – there’s apparently a risk to ordering stuff from a store – when you add another person into the equation, you run a risk of an issue… which I suppose is true of anything.  So why then order from a store, and not online?  I know, I know – support the local brick and mortar store – until you plan a game day based on a new product and its not in your hands.  What am I missing here?

…and I already know the answer to question #3 – Game stores are good.  I’ve been sitting on this blog post for a while – I don’t want to upset/hurt either of the stores.  They’re good people.  I don’t believe “the customer is always right” – nor does anybody that’s ever worked in retail, ever.  Sometimes the customer is a whiny douche.  However, there’s a reason I pose the question in the first place:

I’m pretty happy with my playgroup.  Its grown – not from the game stores – but from  Meetup’s great, because players seek you out – instead of posting a flyer in a store and hoping for the best.  We play in our homes – ever try to play at a game store on a Friday night?  Isn’t it fun trying trying to hear the GM amongst the Friday Night Magic crowd?  We also have weekly board gaming at a local restaurant… because dinner and gaming is pretty sweet.

Doing a cursory analysis of my gaming habits – the game store itself isn’t a big part of that anymore.  If I were to switch my buying to online, it would be even less.  I would miss either of the local stores if they were to go away – just like I miss the record stores of not-that-long-ago-because-I-don’t-want-to-admit-I’m-that-old… but its not like I stopped listening to music.

I probably give too much of a shit about this.  A simpleton would look at this and say “well, if you don’t like it – just don’t go” but that overlooks wanting to build a strong gaming community – and by that, I mean “RP and board gaming community” – the magic and war-gaming communities are evidently just fine.  That, and I’m generally curious to what over people’s game store experiences are like worldwide.

Also: and this hasn’t been communicated very well up to this point – I have genuine love for both stores.  I want to find reasons to either A) spend more time at either place or B) not avoid either place.

So, let me hear it.  What’s your FLGS like?  If you don’t have a FLGS, what do you do?

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons, Game Stores, Magic: The Gathering, Matt Being a Douche, Minis & Wargames, Pathfinder | 4 Comments

“What is Dungeons & Dragons?”

See that?  That’s one of my ex-students.  He wants to be cool like Mr. Savage – and who can blame him?  So this is for him, in his efforts to Get On My Level.  Feel free to link to it yourself when someone asks you about D&D (or preferably, Pathfinder).  Yes, I’m going to completely ignore that this blog hasn’t been updated in seven months.

We’re going to speak in general terms here.  “D&D” will represent all tabletop role-playing games, and “WoW” will represent all MMO’s.  You’re familiar with World of Warcraft, right?  Well, WoW got the vast majority of its ideas from D&D.  Leveling up, stats to determine how strong you are, how healthy you are, how good your armor is, and how adept you are with your weapons / spells – all came from D&D.  A random number generator combined with some modifier that you’ve contributed to your character – either with equipment, training, or the choices you made in character creation – dictates how things go during combat and your social interactions.

Okay, well before there was an interbutts – there were polyhedral dice to determine those random numbers.  Before there were vidya screens that were good enough to render what your character looked like, there was imagination.  And those quests, rather than being bestowed by animated characters – were bestowed by people that took the time to either write their own adventures or prepare a published one.

Now, you’re looking at that description and no doubt thinking “we have an interbutts now.  We’ve progressed from imagination games.”

…which is a fair point.  What WoW (and games like it) have that D&D (and games like it) don’t is the ability to log in at-will and begin gaming with people.  There’s no advanced preparation needed.  Whereas with D&D, there needs to be some planning to get the players together, etc. etc.

However, here’s where D&D curb-stomps WoW, and will always curb-stomp WoW:

1) There are A LOT of resources available to play pretty much anything you can think of… and if what you want to play doesn’t exist, something can probably be created without much effort – and most everything’s been created in one form or another.  This game’s been around for 35 years or so.  Even if you do happen to think of something new, software will always have more limits than games that exist in the imagination.

2) Gaming is social.  We do it right at my place.  I’ll fire up the grill, we’ll have people over for gaming and dinner.  A buddy of mine does the same thing.  We’re at a table, looking at each other, creating and experiencing something.  There’s human interaction that’s built over a subculture that’s existed for 35+ years.  I instantly know I have *something* in common with a D&D player.  Sure, there’s douchebags in every group – but I met cool people in this hobby.  When I moved to this part of town from over an hour away, I started running D&D games at the game store for total strangers.  Now, the people I enjoy having at my home the most are the people I met from gaming.  We’ve each created our characters and share storytelling with them.  I’ve gamed with literally all ages, and one of my favorite things to see is a dad that brought his kids to a game convention.

3) You can do things in D&D that you can’t do in WoW.  Take conversation, for example – there’s only a few options to pick from.  In D&D, you can say anything to anyone… though it might not be a good idea.  My alcoholic clown character blew cigar smoke in a Beholder Lord’s face (and I know you don’t know what that is – but the capitalization and the word “Lord” give you some context clues) and told him to go screw.  Find me a vidya game where that’s an option.

One of the reasons I became a history teacher was so I can tell stories all day.  Course, those would be true stories… but I still like telling stories.  I like making up stories too, and that’s what games like D&D do – and I can do that with people I dig hanging out with.

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder | 1 Comment

A 4e DM Question–Random Encounters and the XP Budget

In the grand scheme of things, I haven’t really DM’d that much.  I’ve been playing some kind of D&D since 1984 (27 yrs? wow.)  I used to only play.  I tried DM’ing in 2nd Edition and I didn’t feel that I was that good at it and felt pressure from fear that I would mess up or no one would have any fun.  Fast forward the equivalent of a lifetime for some of the people who are playing today and things changed for me – I only DM.  I took over as DM at our local game store a couple of years ago and DM’d solid for over a year and a half.  I ran all of seasons 3 & 4 of D&D Encounters, some of Season 5, and most of Season 6.  That’s about a year of preparing and running a game every Wednesday to an ever shifting group of people with varying degrees of interest in the game.  I really enjoyed it on the whole.  Politics and drama and other things eventually made me take a step away from the table.  That and fatigue. 

Okay, that started out being just an intro to my DM history and turned into some kind of reflection on recent events.  That wasn’t my intent.  Let me ditch that and get on to my question.

How do you 4e DM’s deal with Random Encounters and still keep your XP Budget in check?  Let me elaborate.

One of the standbys in 2e and probably 3e was the idea of Random Encounters. When you were travelling thru the woods or camping for the night, if you didn’t keep watch (and even if you did) you might get stumbled upon by or intentionally jumped by some monsters or other wandering badguys.

In 4e, because of the XP budget, anytime you fight something, your players expect to get some XP for the encounter.

But because of these two facts, your characters could get enough XP to level out of your adventure.

So I was never clear on how you could handle this to make the game feel like other stuff is going on besides the encounters the DM has planned but also keep it so they’re fun little diversions but won’t have a ripple effect thru your campaign.

I guess part of my philosophy on the 4e debate is I don’t want to fight with the Pathfinder people or the people who just have decided to start hating on 4e, I want to make my game just be as fun for the player as possible. One thing I really liked as a player back in the day was that we just adventured and fought whatever came along the way while doing our quest. In 4e today it seems to be 3 Encounters and a Skill Challenge – Game Over.

Did you ever have to deal with this? What did you do?

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons, Encounters | 3 Comments

A Little More about Matt’s Pathfinder Post…

I want to follow up on Matt’s previous post – I had fun playing his game last week. 

Now, since taking a well deserved and longer than expected break from running (I still ‘organize’) D&D Encounters (“DNDENC”) at one of our local stores I have been going without playing any D&D for many months. [Side note: My main group bailed on me during the last half of the Neverwinter DNDENC season and I have no interest in the Feywild season that’s currently going on.  Neither do any players as it turned out.]

So I really wanted to start playing again and as you could tell from Matt’s post (did you read it? I’ll give you a moment if you need some time) his regular game also petered out recently.  So when he put the call out to try the Pathfinder starter set (which I’ll call dnd (lowercase letters)) I figured, “Hey, it’s based off of the D&D 3.5 ruleset- why the hell not?” 

I grew up playing 1st edition and later 2nd edition.  Many years later I returned to D&D for 3rd edition.  I never played any 3.5 so while it’s basically the game I grew up playing I honestly can’t remember any details of a world before 4e.  So, with that said, I still like 4e.  I haven’t played near enough of 4e as Matt has to have experienced the problems at the higher levels.  I understand there are issues with the Epic tier and even some in upper Paragon.  I simply haven’t experienced this so I don’t know.  What I do know is that the lower level stuff is still really fun for me and I have lots of material that I could use someday.  Probably too much.  So when Matt says that I’ll never be able to truly get my return on investment (ROI) I know he’s right.  Back to the dnd game last week.

It was fun.  Playing that Pathfinder game was both familiar and didn’t quite feel right.  I played the rogue and while I didn’t have lots of cool powers to choose from (I was just poking things with my rapier) I did have a couple of moments where the other 4e vets (that term is a stretch but I’ll go with it) were kinda standing around looking for something to do which left me to actually act so we’d get thru this.  I became the de facto leader of the game.  “I’ll walk up and examine that statue.”  “I’ll listen around the corner to hear what’s in the next room.”  “I’ll check the door.”  I eventually got to the point where I just decided “We need to pick this up a bit – I’m just opening the door.”  On the whole, everything I expected to happen did and nothing really struck me as being vastly different or better or worse that what I’d been playing for the past couple of years.

I had fun but I didn’t love it.  I didn’t hate it.  It was fun gaming with the guys and if I have a chance to do it again I will.  But I’d rather try and get some ROI out of my recent 4e purchases.  I still have the DM Kit, the Threats of the Nentir Vale, the Madness at Gardmore Abbey, the Gloomwrought, the … oh boy, I’m never getting my ROI…

…map tiles, Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium, Neverwinter campaign setting, Wrath of Ashardalon…. *trails off*

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons, Encounters, Pathfinder | Leave a comment

I dunno, man. I dunno.

This post could go any number of ways… let’s see what happens.

Ran the Pathfinder Beginner Box adventure, and it would seem my players had the same reaction to Pathfinder that I did many months ago. Liked it, didn’t love it. It’s familiar enough to D&D to be enjoyed by D&D fans… and its familiar enough to D&D to not warrant investing in new books.

Jason made a comment that I’ll repeat here, and he can elaborate on if he’d like. He said that he hasn’t gotten enough ROI on D&D to start thinking about a switch.

My response to that is that I don’t think that someone who’s heavily invested – and I’m speaking in terms of time AND money – in 4e as we have could possibly get ROI on it. I’d rather cut bait than lament the loss of my lure.

I don’t know if I’m all-in for Pathfinder yet, but I’m certainly mostly-out for 4e. The pro of Pathfinder is also its con. I was able to run the entirety of the beginner adventure – 10ish encounters in 3 hours. That’s strong. The downside is that while there are combat options, there’s not nearly as many as 4e. The standard "I whack him with my sword" isn’t nearly as cool as those 1st-level 4e powers. Its more the monsters and environment that make the different combat encounters unique and less the individual PC builds. I’m going to miss those 4e powers. I’m not going to miss shelling out money to WotC for … anything, really.

Okay, you caught me. I’ll be paying WotC one more time. My kid will be running some LFR at the next OwlCon, and he asked me to resubscribe to DDI… so, fine. Until the con.

I wasn’t looking to take a side in the edition wars. And really, I guess I haven’t – if you dig 4e, have at it. If you still dig it after paragon, good for you – I hope it continues to be fun for you. It just hasn’t for me. My preliminary OwlCon schedule has no 4e on it, and that just seems weird to me.

My non-con gaming is… well, it doesn’t exist, really. My LFR guys don’t seem to interested in D&D or Pathfinder – having turned to WH40k, Magic, xbox, and having a life (losers). I don’t think I’d be successful in starting Pathfinder Society in my neck of the woods – at least not enough to get ROI on my time and aggravation – and I don’t want to drive over an hour to play (though that’s what I suspect I’ll be doing) with an established PFS group.

4e is a lot of great ideas poorly excuted. Pathfinder is well-executed, but not nearly as sexy. I’ll tell you what, though. I’m just fine giving money to Paizo. They seem like a gamer company, whereas WotC… well, WotC’s the company that hired Sarah Darkmagic, then fired Rich Baker at Christmas.

Oh! We should probably address WotC hiring Monte Cook, for what many are speculating is his writing 5th edition. Never met the guy, but I like him – based on stuff I read. I don’t know the exact quote, but once at a con someone asked him about DMing. He responded that everything he had to say about DMing was written in a book called the Dungeon Master’s Guide. What a great line. Yeah, I know – he elaborated after that. I still dig the line.

And I dig his vision. Have you seen the size of Ptolus? I’ve always wanted to try it.

But one has to acknowledge that 3rd edition needed a .5 update about three years in. For a company that just had the essentials.5 debacle, they need to tread carefully.

WotC has to know that while a 5th edition may be necessary, it cant be expected to fly off the shelves. Between people losing faith in WotC and other people that don’t want to buy a whole new set of books, who’s really looking forward to "DUNGEON5 & DRAGON5" (I’m so going to cybersquat that URL)?

It’ll be interesting to see how WotC tries to sell it. I’m imagining a core rules cardset that’ll be updated and re-released every year, with three new splat card sets to go with it. These splat rules set will periodically phase out, depending on what rule variant you use. As long as the online table’s ready on release day, people will buy it.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments


If you have us on your RSS feed, you’re probably a lil’ surprised. We haven’t updated in a while. (Goes back and looks) August. Wow. Okay then.

Thing is, there’s really hasn’t been anything to say. I haven’t played or run D&D since Neverwinter Game Day… and I’d guess Jason’s about in the same boat.

I won’t rehash all my criticisms of 4E or LFR. Many of them you’ve seen elsewhere, anyway.

Rather, I’m going to talk about Pathfinder. For reasons mentioned in past blogs, its time see how green Paizo’s grass truly is. Post-Comicpalooza, the Pathfinder guys invited us LFRers to play with them. Spent a day playing. I really wanted to "fall in love" or "hate it entirely", but rather – it was the old familiar 3.5 with a few tweaks here and there. The main difference was that the adventures themselves (the three I saw anyway) were better than the intro fare for LFR. Story-wise, I mean.

Alright, so I’m not going to invest in a $50 core rulebook for a game I don’t have a strong passion about. I’ll wait til the beginner box comes out.

That being said… Dude. The beginner box is awesome.

Well, I say that without having ran the adventure yet. We’re doing that Friday. But in terms of design, layout, explaining things so you can understand them… This thing groin-stomps the 4e red box starter set. Take note, WotC – you can "simplify for new players" without watering everything down.

Oh sure, its missing a few things to make it more newbie-friendly – but those things (like opportunity attacks) can be woven in seamlessly. It comes with 4 pregens, and my Friday group has 6 players – so I stuck in a monk and barbarian pregen without any problems.

I’m constantly flipping through the books. Its that good a product.

I’m (obviously) not motivated to start / grow / maintain a D&D community in my lil’ suburb anymore.. No more running stuff at stores, no more game days. I’m just done – scroll back if you’re really curious why. I’ve been asked if I want to DM at a con – and I wish the answer was yes, but its not. Not right now, anyway. I think I can fairly say I gave 4E a chance.

That’s not to say I’m done with it, either. I keep getting invited to games with my friends, and I’m hoping I can make one soon… I just haven’t been able to in a while. If my playgroup says Pathfinder sucks, and they want to go back to D&D… fine. But I wouldn’t play 4e if my friends didn’t play it. I like playing with my friends, and I’m cool with whatever.

But when its me, organizing, planning, prepping, and running… I’m not picking 4e anymore. I’m not excited by it anymore.

This box, though… its pretty exciting.

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402 Editorial Reponse

I just replied to the Wizards of the Coast #DDI issue 402 editorial and wanted to share my comments publicly on why I believe Dragon “magazine” content should remain player/general audience specific and Dungeon “magazine” content should remain dungeonmaster focused.

Here you go – please discuss amongst yourselves:

I vote for “Stay the Course”.


Dragon content and Dungeon content belong in separate silos.


When you go into a department store to find a shirt, you go first into the Men’s Department and then you go into the Shirt section.  You might browse the Pants while you’re there but you don’t even want to waste your time with Women’s attire or worse – perfume!


There is true value in keeping these sections separated into logical area – DM Only material (adventures, especially) and Player/General D&D Community features.

Posted in DDI, Dragon Magazine, Dungeon Magazine, Dungeons & Dragons | Leave a comment

Almost had me for a moment…

(and truth be told, I’m kinda susceptible to being had)

But before I get to wtf I’m talking about, let me address the elephant in the room that Jason and I aren’t talking about on here.  There’s a new game store in our area.

And everytime I try to address New Game Store or Old Game Store, I come off like a dick.  Every nice thing I say about New Game Store sounds like a dig at Old Game Store.  Every time I point out something about Old Game Store that I like, it seems like I’m pointing out a shortcoming of New Game Store.  I’ve tried addressing the duality (see, I went to college) a couple of times on here, and wind up wiping the draft.

This weekend, Eudemonist was kind enough to drive for an honor to DM for us at Old Game Store (see, even “old” implies something I’m not trying to imply – I should point out that Old Store will be moving to a bigger location soon).  Had fun, I like the mod we played – and it was a chance to play with Jason which I don’t do often.   You can make your own joke.

After that, it was over to New Game Store’s Grand Opening.  Partially because I wanted to see who was there, partially for the free food they had at said Grand Opening, partially for the spectacle of it all, partially because the kid wanted to check it out, and partially because I didn’t want to go home.

…and a lot of the gamers in the area were there.  We’re talking, hanging out when the smart one in the group gets the idea that we should be playing something whilst BS’ing.  A friend offers to show us WH40K.  Sure, why not?

…and another friend comes over to help show me how to play (I had a lot of questions) and we fumble through it.  WH40K would never be my main game, for a variety of reasons – primarily, I can’t paint.  But the idea of there being a central place with beautiful terrain tables that people meet up at being close by really appeals to me.  The idea that I have a decent chance of finding players when I show up with an army and not a lot of pre-planning really calls to me.

WH40K wouldn’t be my first choice for a minis game, because of GW’s business practices and I’d prefer something historical like Flames of War – but the Romans seem to be all about these Space Marines.  (When in Rome, get it?)

…and yeah – you want to play with your friends, right?

…and I discovered that I’m the kinda guy that needs a “bar”, only I don’t do bars.  So a game store that I can pop in at and probably find something to play is good.  So I started looking into dipping my toe into WH40K.

The intro box is $100.  If I decide not to go that route, and rather get the book and a few minis and some paints… you get the idea, there’s a lot of cost on top of a lot of cost.  And of course, you’re always upgrading your army (and there’s cost on top of that).  I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.

And I’m still looking at stuff – that never hurt anyone, right?  But the more I do, and the more I start adding things up in my head… the more it feels like Magic: The Gathering.  Only instead of weekly nickles and dimes, they’re wanting monthly paychecks.

Hyperbole added for effect, but you get the idea.  I may/may not pull the trigger on minis gaming one day, but I can honestly say that I now see its appeal when I didn’t before.

Posted in Flames of War, Minis & Wargames, WH40K | 6 Comments

Effective Communication with your Players

This post isn’t just for DMs but also for you game organizers.  Sometimes that’s the same person but in the case of D&D Encounters, it might not be.

I’m going to spoil the end of this post – I am not having a great time communicating with my players.  When someone comes into one of our local stores to play D&D Encounters, I ask them “Do you have a DCI card?”  If not, I give them one so I can report their attendance.  It’s just a part of the system and they’re cool with it.  I’ll even mail the damn thing in to save them a stamp and a trip to a mailbox.  I also ask them for their email address – which they all give me without fail.

So, what I do is add their email addresses to a distribution list and then send out various bits of, what I consider to be useful information- game recaps, reminders of the next session, hints on what they need to bring if they’ve been gone for a while, when to level up their character and various other topics like upcoming big events at the D&D table.

I am very careful not to be excessive in sending my emails and I try and make them fun to read and not a chore.

It really doesn’t matter.  I don’t think anyone reads them.

I ask them at the table – “Did you get my email?”  “Uh, no.  I don’t read my email.” “I don’t have internet right now.” “I only get to read emails when I’m here at the store or the library.” 

Then one wiseacre will chime in, “I read it!”  Really?  Is that why you don’t have any dice and don’t know what level character to bring and also you didn’t bring a character?  Great.

So, I’m looking into leveraging my store’s Facebook page.  It seems there are some pretty active people on there but whenever I go they’re talking about other games and not D&D Encounters.  Which is fine, hey, I’m glad people are shopping at this store.  But I go ahead and dive into the fray and post Encounters updates there. 


I even created an event for Worldwide Game Day and posted “Hey, come RSVP here.”  Apparently, kids these days don’t know what RSVP means. 

So, here’s my advice to you. 

Ask your players how they want to be communicated to and if they’re going to respond.  If they say they won’t, punch them in the nuts.

I hope this helps. 

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons, Encounters | 5 Comments