Friday, October 31, 2014

Class Showcase: Fighters

It’s week five of my Class Showcase series, where I take a class from D&D and give three examples from popular culture. This week: Fighters.

#3 Inigo Montoya (The Princess Bride)

It’s important to note that there are many different kinds of fighters in the D&D world, just as there are in pop-culture. In D&D, Inigo would be classified as a finesse fighter. He’s a fencer and has dedicated his life to the study of swordplay all in an effort to avenge his murdered father. Also, near the end of the movie after he is horribly wounded and then he gets back to his feet and continues to fight, that is the best example of a ‘second wind’ I’ve ever witnessed. His sword and his vengeance are his life and I’m sure that he has been the template for many characters (both PC and NPC) over the years. “You killed my father, prepare to die!”  

#2 Brienne of Tarth (Game of Thrones)

A second example of a fighter is the Knight and while there are many male examples available in pop culture, only one female promptly pops into my head: Brienne. In the books, as with the HBO series, Brienne is a highborn lady who has forsaken her feminine heritage and has re-forged herself into a knight of the highest caliber, male or female. Even though she is repeatedly forced into difficult choices and situations, she always manages to escape them with her honor and morals intact. She even manages to fight toe-to-toe with some of the most dangerous male fighters in the Game of Thrones series and, in most cases, she proves that she is the better.     

#1 Bruce Lee (Enter the Dragon, etc.)

Bruce Lee is an excellent example of both a martial artist and a street fighter. And I humbly submit that no one has yet to impress me in either of these areas like him. While I could site his speed, or strength from such a small frame, or his accuracy, for me personally it is his passion for his skills that impress me the most. It is a real treat to watch Mr. Lee at work and it is exactly his level of skill I expect from a high level D&D hero.    

Monday, October 27, 2014

5 PC/Console Games That Inspire My D&D

As a DM and a writer of many original campaigns, I draw inspiration from a multitude of sources. I have taken adventure ideas from books, events in world history, theatre, movies, anime, and even other games. In this week’s article, I want to drill down a bit deeper into one of these sources and I have decided to share with you my top five games that have inspired me and have influenced the way I play D&D. This is not to say that all of my D&D sessions look or feel like any of these games; however, they have played large roles in how I shape my plots and how many of my campaigns unfold.

Here they are in no particular order:

1.       World of Warcraft (PC)
I, like many people, got sucked into Warcraft when it was still a strategy/building game. However, when it was released as an MMORPG in 2004, not only did the game change itself but it powered a revolution in the whole gaming industry that is still happening more than ten years later. As far as D&D goes, I think most of us would agree that this game, along with many others that followed it, is mostly responsible for the changes we saw in 4th Edition. The 4th Edition designers saw huge potential in tapping into a new generation of gamers who were eating up WoW. Unfortunately, in their enthusiasm for change, they also managed to alienate many of their long-term customers who found the new system too combative and unfriendly to roleplaying. However, with all of this being said, I still find WoW a great resource for my D&D games. It has an epic feel to it, especially inside of the dungeons and upper level instances, that I like to emulate; it has an enormous wealth of interesting characters and NPCs to draw inspiration from; and it also demonstrates a great deal of humor and inside jokes that I feel is important to include in my D&D adventures as these break up the tension and remind players that having fun is still one of the main reasons why we play.       

2.       Dragon Warrior/Quest IV (NES)
WAY back in 1992, the Cold War officially came to an end, LA experienced the Rodney King riots, Bill Clinton was voted into office, and one of my favorite games of all time was released: Dragon Warrior IV (Dragon Quest IV in Japan and many other countries). What made this game different from the previous three Dragon Warrior/Quest games was the ability to play multiple characters in their own individual quests and eventually link them all together as one group for the epic quest to end of the game. It was, in my opinion, the very first time any console game had even come close to achieving a D&D like atmosphere and it still influences me in many ways today. Although I don’t feel like it is necessary in every campaign that I DM, it is very nice to often give each individual PC in my games personal goals that they can achieve to coincide with the larger goals that the party is working toward. Intertwining all of these story lines and aspirations is simultaneously one of the most difficult and most rewarding challenges a DM can face.   

3.       Sid Meier’s Pirates! (PC)
Originally released for PC in 1987, I didn’t stumble upon this gem until the 1994 re-release on CD. Essentially, you begin the game as a humble sailor who finds himself (sorry, no female characters ladies) elected to be captain of small sloop after a mutiny. Once you are in control of the ship and crew, what you do, where you go, and who you fight for/against are completely in your hands. The game is very open ended and only comes to a conclusion once your character reaches an age considered to be too old to go on swashing buckles (often around the late forties if you've taken good care of yourself). From a D&D perspective, this game inspired me with the idea that while sword fighting, gaining wealth, and taking down other pirates (i.e. bosses) can be fun, it’s just as important to keep your eyes on the side quests and back stories of characters. In Pirates!, the main character can engage in several side-missions that increase his rank and fame/infamy, grant him titles and lands, help him discover hidden treasure hordes, and allow him to track down a few lost family members. All of which can change how he “feels” about his retirement at the end of play which is displayed as an epilogue. As a DM, the epilogue is something I try to include at the end of all my campaigns and I try to give each character a little story about where they end up and how their lives turn out based on what they accomplished, or didn’t accomplish, during the campaign.            

4.       The Legend of Zelda Series (Various Nintendo)
Excluding Mario, there is no other Nintendo game franchise in history that has been so influential and so popular. Rather you experienced the original and the sequel in the 80’s, A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time in the 90’s, or countless other renditions since, roleplaying Link has become a rite of passage for many console gamers. And, in comparison to D&D, The Legend of Zelda has a lot of carry-over. You live and die on hit points (a.k.a. hearts); you can collect items, learn spells, and wear armor; dungeons abound and are filled with beasts, traps, and treasure; and you fight a myriad of monsters and bosses in a grand effort to save the world. Also, many of the conventions that drive D&D are present in the Zelda games such as gaining new fighting techniques, solving riddles/puzzles, looking for hidden doors/passages, and exploring exotic locations. In retrospect, one of the big lessons I’ve learned from the Zelda games that carry over into my D&D games is the idea that dungeons should be unique from one another and having a theme for each dungeon is an excellent way to get players interested in them.

5.       Dragon Age Series (PC)
I love the Dragon Age games for two main reasons: 1) They are produced here in Canada; and 2) They are relentlessly brutal. Since Dragon Age: Origins was released in 2009, this series has won several awards including PC Game of the Year 2009 and has sold more than five million units. A third major installment, Dragon Age: Inquisition, is due to arrive roughly a month from the time of this writing. As previously mentioned, these games are known for their bloody, gore-filled battle scenes and I’ve noticed that my own battle scenes in D&D have changed to emulate them over the past few years. I think anyone who spends a few hours hacking away at monsters in Dragon Age will rapidly develop a greater appreciation for combat in D&D.

What other games have I missed? What games have inspired you? Please feel free to comment.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Class Showcase: Druids

It’s week four of my Class Showcase series, where I take a class from D&D and give three examples from popular culture. This week: Druids.

#3 Beorn (The Hobbit)

For those people who have read the book, as opposed to watching the Peter Jackson movies, the character of Beorn provides the heroes with much needed help and shelter during their perilous journey to the Lonely Mountain. He is described by Tolkien as a shape-shifter and is descended from a race of men who all had the ability. He also raises animals at his homestead but it is specifically written that they are not for the purposes of food. Within the book itself, his encounter with the heroes of the story convince him that he must shake off his hermit lifestyle and join the fight against the growing evil.

#2 E.T. (E.T. The Extra Terrestrial)

I realize that some of you might be saying, “E.T. can’t be a Druid!”, well hear me out. According to extra material written for the movie and the “E.T. Adventure” ride, Stephen Spielberg describes E.T. and his fellow aliens as botanists from a distant solar system looking for help in healing their planet from a deadly disease. During the course of their experiments on earth, E.T. gets accidentally left behind and is eventually taken in by a young boy named Elliott. While he makes attempts to contact his race and be rescued, we discover that he has access to several abilities including: empathic-link, levitation, plant regeneration, and animal regeneration. He even displays the ability to create deep connections with animals, which unfortunately from his perspective would be with us humans. All of that sounds a lot like a Druid to me.     

#1 Groot (Guardians of the Galaxy 2014 Film)

I know, I know, two aliens in the same week. But maybe pop culture is trying to tell us earthlings that we need to smarten up where caring for nature and the environment is concerned because it obviously means something to the other more “mature” races of the galaxy. Anyhow, Groot himself exhibits more Druid-like powers than any other film character I have ever witnessed. He has the ability to shape-shift, he can regenerate, he can create “magical” effects (such as the light spores), and he is also quite adept at befriending animals (sorry if that insults you Rocket). In fact, it wouldn't be all that difficult to recreate Groot as a D&D character as long as your DM would be willing to allow Trents as a playable race. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

4 Topics I Avoid in D&D

As a DM, there has been more than a few times in my career when I’ve thought to myself, maybe I shouldn’t go there. Often, these times involve topics or story arcs that are controversial in real life and the idea of turning D&D into my own personal soapbox for whatever moral or political views I may have is very distasteful. Further, I feel that using D&D for the purposes of allegory or metaphor is a very poor distraction from what should otherwise be a fun, exciting story. On some level, I’d like to think that Tolkien and I share the same philosophy on this subject. (See Here)

With that in mind, what follows are four examples of topics that may rear their ugly heads in D&D and why I personally think they should be avoided if possible.

1.       Rape
In my mind, rape is a bit too much for a D&D story. I know it happens in real life more often than many of us would like to admit and I also know that it has been a powerful story point for writers, playwrights, and screenwriters for generations. But somehow, as someone who has known and been friends with more than one rape/sexual abuse victim, I have a hard time imagining a D&D storyline where it becomes justified or is depicted in an acceptable way. Practically, the DM can only introduce a rape situation to the story in one of three ways: #1) A PC or PCs are the rapists; #2) A PC or PCs are raped; or #3) A PC or PCs witness a rape. As for #1, if your DM allows you or one of the other players in your group to rape someone or something in your game, I seriously want you to get up and leave. This is unacceptable. It serves no purpose other than a sick kind of self-indulgence. Do yourself and the other people involved a favor and walk out. As for #2, even though this could be done with careful planning and the prior consent of the player, it still seems unnecessary to me in a D&D setting. I want to you think about what you’re doing and saying for a moment and then think about whether you would feel so confident about it if a rape victim was present in the room listening in. It’s the same kind of thing when guys make sexist comments about women when they’re not around but then shut their mouths when the women show up. As for #3, this seems like the only acceptable scenario, in my opinion, where the idea of rape can be introduced to the game. And even in this case, only just long enough for the PC or PCs to do something to stop it. Long story short, rape is a horrible reality for some people and giving it life in D&D can be terribly disrespectful.
2.       Torture
Let’s be honest, torture is one of those things that has slowly found its way into mainstream culture over the past few years. We see it on television and in movies; we read about it in books; it gets made into jokes; and many of our governments have even endorsed it from time to time as an acceptable intelligence gathering option. In fact, I’ll wager that if you watch any news program in the world three nights in a row, torture will get mentioned at least once. We don’t even bat an eyelash anymore. So why, if this topic is so common, should it not come up in D&D? Because, in my opinion, we should be setting a better example. Just like the rape topic, it is very disrespectful to play with pretend torture when real people are enduring it every day. PCs should not be engaged in it, DMs should not be subjecting their players to it, and any references to torture should be done with care and by necessity only.        

3.       Slavery
In the past, I have used this topic as a story arc for many of my PCs. Starting an adventure as a slave is a very common beginning for many DMs. It’s also not uncommon for the PCs to be sold or abducted into slavery at critical points in a story. Slavery seems to be a universally accepted low point in which heroes can rise. I’ve also never heard a PC object to the idea of being a slave. Fair enough. However, my issue occurs when a PC decides that they want to purchase/own a slave. Thankfully, this has only happened once in my personal experience and I quickly made the price range unacceptable to the PC and they lost interest. I’m sure that the PC in question had no idea how despicable their request really was. They had asked about it on a whim and I believe that if they had put just five minutes of thought into it they would have been quite embarrassed. Even if I had been inclined to allow such a transaction to take place, what would have been the point? Someone to shine your armor and cook your meals or maybe someone to boss around and degrade? If you really want that, you can always go the henchman or underling route. You don’t need to bring all of the baggage of slavery into the game. Again, it’s about respect and it’s about setting a higher standard.     

4.       Sexuality   
This would be the whole issue of including lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgendered characters into the adventure, whether they be PCs or NPCs. I believe that many DMs, myself included, haven’t delved intothis content in their games simply because they don’t feel qualified to do so accurately. But I am, and every DM should be, very aware that including these characters into the game can also make them easy targets for jokes and ridicule, which is something no one should abide. Overall, my instincts tell me that unless you have a mature and understanding group of people around your table, this is another topic best left to the sidelines. Forcing players to confront sexuality (whether it be their own or someone else’s) when they are not expecting it or unable to deal with it in a controlled manner, is asking for trouble. Firstly, you don’t want to offend anyone taking the time to play your game; and secondly, you don’t want your D&D night to degrade into a “bashing” session where people may say things they can’t take back.

The most important thing I can say is this: D&D is a game designed to be fantasy entertainment. Yes, it can handle “the big issues” if necessary; however, if you feel the need to get a point across or make your argument on any of these or other socially-charged issues, you might want to consider a different avenue. Talking to others and having discussions about these issues is a good thing and should be encouraged; however, roleplaying is considered by many to be a venue where one can go for a little mental escape from the real world. Therefore, dragging the real world into your D&D game with these polarizing issues might be a false step.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Class Showcase: Clerics

It’s week three of my Class Showcase series, where I take a class from D&D and give three examples from popular culture. This week: Clerics.

#3 Leo Wyatt (Charmed)

Once upon a time, there was a show called Charmed. It centered around three sisters, and eventually a half-sister, who all discover that they are descended from a long-line of witches and can manifest various powers.  Although it was very popular at the time, it seems to have taken a back seat in recent years to more “mature shows”. Regardless, one of the supporting characters in Charmed was Leo Wyatt. During his mortal life he was a medic in WWII. Unfortunately, that is also where he died. However, he was eventually brought back in a kind of angelic form to be a Whitelighter, which is a guardian that protects the innocent and heals those in need. He saves countless lives over the eight year run of the show and eventually fathers the boy who will one day grow up to be the “chosen one”. Not too shabby.    

#2 Melisandre, a.k.a The Red Woman (Game of Thrones)

Here’s a bit of information you should already know: Not all clerics are of good alignment! Such is most definitely the case with The Red Woman. In the books, as with the television series, Melisandre is a bit of a mystery. She has confidence, intelligence, cunning, and an undisputable power to command the supernatural. All of this while also proclaiming unshakable faith to her “Lord of Light” and encouraging others to do the same. However, her true motives and end goals are anyone’s guess.     

#1 Sheppard Book (Firefly)

There is not a single character on the show Firefly that is not interesting on multiple levels. In the case of Sheppard Book, he is not only a man of faith, but also a man with a very mysterious past. He begins the series as a simple Sheppard (similar to a reverend or priest) joining the crew of Serenity as a kind of moral compass for the others to cling to and bounce ideas off. However, as the show progresses, we begin to learn that Book had some kind of military training in his youth and is able to call in a favor or two from the highest levels of government when the need is great. Want to learn more? So do a lot of us.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What kind of Dungeon Master are you?

So have you ever been told in the past that you’re a hard DM? Have you ever been told that when you DM you’re a soft-touch or don’t lay down the law enough? Never heard either of these critiques? Well here’s a little quiz you can take to find out just where you fall on the DM scale. Write down your answers for the calculator at the end and please do your best to answer honestly. After all, lying to yourself is the first step towards total insanity.  

Q1 -  When making a character a player comes to you and asks if they can re-roll their ability scores after rolling really poorly the first time. What do you do?

A)     I say no. The rules are the rules.
B)      I say yes. I want a happy player.
C)      I say no but give them one or two extra points in key abilities.
D)     I say yes but make them keep a couple of low scores.

Q2 – When making a character a player comes to you and asks if they can create their own original weapon/armor/item. What do you do?

A)     I say no. If it’s not in the book, I don’t want it in my game.
B)      I say yes. I want a happy player.
C)      I say no but allow them to modify something in game that’s similar.
D)     I say yes but keep them on a very short leash.

Q3 – You discover on the first session of a campaign that one of your players has legally min/maxed their character to be very over-powered. What do you do?

A)     I mulligan the character and tell them to start over.
B)      I let them run with it.
C)      I tell them to make a new character but give them some bonuses for the trouble.
D)     I let them keep the character but tweak a few things.

Q4 – After a few sessions you notice that one of your players is cheating on their rolls. What do you do?

A)     I immediately ask them to leave the game. No place for cheaters at my table.
B)      I ignore it. Why rock the boat?
C)      I announce it to the whole group and let them deal with it.
D)     I pass the player a note telling them to stop.

Q5 – After a few sessions you notice that one of your players seems to dislike the campaign. What do you do?

A)     I ignore it. If they got a problem, they can leave.
B)      I stop the campaign until I find out what they want me to change.
C)      I keep going but I have a chat with them about what they dislike and try to make little changes.
D)     I keep going but I try to make a few changes that I think will help.

Q6 – One of your players is constantly arguing with you about the rules. What do you do?

A)     I tell them to stop or I’ll kick them out of the game.
B)      I keep trying to show them the errors of their ways.
C)      I ask them to tone it down a bit.
D)     I patiently listen, but make my own decisions since it’s my game.

Q7- One of your players is often rude or insulting to another player. What do you do?

A)     I ask them to leave the game. No time for that at my table.
B)      I smile and go along with it.
C)      I bring it up in front of the group and ask them to cut it out.
D)     I bring it up in private and ask them to cut it out.

Q8- During a must-win fight you notice that your players are losing badly. What do you do?

A)     If they can’t hack it, they die.
B)      I immediately drop all of the foes to 1 hit point.
C)      I ease up after one or two PCs go down.
D)     I bring in an NPC to help turn the tide.

Q9- You notice that one of your players has been deliberately sucking up to you. What do you do?

A)     I tell them to stop. I don’t play favorites.
B)      I compliment them on their fine work and throw them a few extras in game.
C)      I politely tell them that flattery will get them nowhere.
D)     I tell them to cut it out but I give them something extra anyhow.  

Q10- Near the end of a campaign one of your players decides to stab the rest of the party in the back causing a crisis. What do you do?

A)     I do nothing. It is what it is.
B)      I step in with the wrath of god and make everything better.
C)      I let it happen but I make a few changes to fix things after the fact.
D)     I step in and prevent the crisis from going too far.

Alright, now it’s time to see how tough you really are.
Add up your answers using the following method:

All “A” answers = +2 points
All “B” answers = -2 points
All “C” answers = +1 point
All “D” answers = -1 point

This will give you a total between +20 and -20. Please total up your score and see the chart below for your result!

Between +16 and +20
When it comes to being a DM you are a stone. The rules are the rules and compromise is a dirty word. If your players don’t like how you do things, they can go elsewhere as far as you are concerned.
Between +6 and +15
You are a bit more tough than fair. You like to uphold the rules most of the time but will concede on a few points when you feel it is necessary. Your players have confidence that you will run a straight game.
Between +5 and -5
You are moderate in almost all of your decisions. You believe in the rules but you also feel like they can be bent and occasionally broken. Your players respect your ability to compromise and keep the game going.
Between -6 and -15
The will of your players influence you greatly. You view the rules as no more than guidelines to keep the game organized. Your players have fun but can sometimes run rampant.
Between -16 and -20
You feel that the game exists for everyone to have fun and conflict is overrated. The rules mean nothing compared to the needs of your players. Your players love you as a DM but they may find your games a bit unruly.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Class Showcase: Bards

It’s week two of my Class Showcase series, where I take a class from D&D and give three examples from popular culture. This week: Bards.

#3 Brook (One Piece)

For those of you who don’t know, One Piece is quickly becoming the most popular Anime series of all time. The story is essentially about a group of rag-tag pirates traveling the world in search of a legendary item called the “One-Piece”. As you can imagine, the crew is filled to bursting with interesting characters of which Brook is one. He is, for all intents and purposes, an undead skeleton bard (I know that sounds weird but hey, it’s anime!). Interestingly, just as in D&D, Brook can invoke the power of his music (played by violin, piano, or guitar) to affect the moods of others and even use it to give them hypnotic suggestions. He is also an invaluable asset to the crew for his entertainment value during long voyages. (Yo ho ho ho, yo ho ho ho!)      

#2 Gabrielle (Xena: Warrior Princess)

I know, I know, two characters from the same show in two weeks? But seriously, Gabrielle is the best female bard of all time when it comes to popular culture. Watching her character grow from a clumsy farm girl sidekick to a kick-ass warrior princess was one of the best side stories of the whole show. Over the course of the six year run, Gabrielle was able to talk and sing her way out of countless trouble and she was undeniably the moral support that Xena needed in difficult times.

#1 Star-Lord (Guardians of the Galaxy, 2014 film)

Let’s forget about the comic book character for a moment and focus in on the movie character. Just looking at that one source, I think I have a very strong argument to say that Star-Lord is a bard. He sings, he dances, he is very passionate about the musical connection between himself and his mom, and he seems to embody the old saying “jack of all trades, master of none”. He even gives passionate speeches and arguments that can totally change the minds of others. In fact, I’ll bet that there are more than a few of you out there that ran home after watching this movie to roll up some new bard characters! (Am I right?)   

Monday, October 6, 2014

Character Death: A Quick Guide for DMs and PCs

The very first D&D character I ever played (circa. 1995) was a half-elf bard. He was a smarmy know-it-all with a knack for finding trouble and needing lots of help to get out of it (think Tony Stark). I began his career at level 1 and worked on his development to around level 12 over a real-time period of four or five months. At that point, he suffered a mortal blow whilst also delivering a mortal blow to a Red Dragon. It was the most epic character death I have ever experienced.
However, after the initial satisfaction of defeating the dragon wore off, I found myself instantly mired in the grips of grief. I was genuinely saddened by the fact that this character, one I had fostered and brought to life, was now gone. Looking back it seems a bit silly now, but at the time it felt almost as bad as a real-life death. I think I actually missed a few sessions immediately following this event because I needed time to gather myself. Was this taking the game too far? According to many of the people I've talked to over the years, apparently not.

It seems that the people who take character death (CD) the hardest fall into two categories: A) players who are new to the game and perhaps experiencing CD for the first time; or B) players who have lost characters that they have worked on for extended periods of time (say more than six months). In both of these cases, the DM and the PC needs to be aware that there may be a bit of grieving involved when a character leaves the game and goes into the great beyond. So, what can you do if you’re a player and need help in the healing process? Similarly, what can you do to help that player if you’re the DM?

Firstly, I think the worst thing you or anyone else can say is, “it’s just a game.” This is not only disrespectful to the feelings at hand, it is also completely useless. It’s a cliché phrase that somehow gives us license to ignore the problem and we all know how often ignored problems get solved. Honestly, would you walk up to someone grieving at a funeral and say, “Don’t worry, there are lots of other folks still living!”  Instead, I believe it is much more helpful to remember the “good times” and to share the highlights of your character’s career with the other people in the group. Along the same lines, you might want to ask your DM to have a character funeral and get the other PCs to say a few words. This is not only a great way to remember and heal but it’s also a fantastic roleplaying opportunity and rallying point for the other PCs in the campaign.

The second thing I would suggest for a grieving PC is to take some time to digest the fact that your character is gone before you dive into another avatar. I’ve seen lots of people ignore or brush off their CD and just rush into the next character they've created. This is also an excuse people use to ignore the problem just like a real-life grieving person throws themselves into their profession to “work through the pain”. I’m sure that for some people this helps but many are still hurting on the inside and for a few it makes the feelings worse in the long run. There is no shame in taking a brief break and asking your DM to excuse you for a few sessions. Go clear your head and your heart. I’ll wager your next character will be much better off for it.

As for the DM’s point of view, there are a few things you can suggest to your PCs to help them cope. Again, I would bring up the idea of a funeral or at least a memorial for the character. Another option would be letting the PC(s) play the character or characters one last time as ghosts or spirits, especially if there is something important they need to relay/warn to their party. Something else that can work, after letting the PC take a brief break as suggest above, is allowing their new character to be connected to their old character in some fashion. They could be a brother, sister, cousin, child, spouse, former roommate, former teacher or student, etc. This option seems to take some of the sting out of the CD and it also makes for a smoother integration of that character into the party.

However, on the flip side of this coin, I strongly recommend that you avoid the “clone” character. I’ve argued with many PCs over the years that just replacing “Joe Halfling” with “Joe Halfling 2.0” is really a form of cheating. If their character dies, it should have repercussions; it should have weight; and it should be a lasting memory for the rest of the party. All of that goes out the window if the player just replaces their character with a clone. It also says that it really doesn’t matter what you do as a DM because they’ll just come back and pick up where they left off before dying. Well this isn’t Super Mario folks and if you let them get away with that you’re asking for trouble.

Generally speaking, I guess the point I’m trying to make is CD can be a big deal. It should never be taken lightly or ignored. If you are the player and you feel a kind of grief from the loss of your character, you need to take a break from playing (times will vary from person to person) and allow yourself to reset. If you are the DM and realize that your player is taking the loss hard, you need to offer some helpful and transitional options that will allow them to both heal and get back into the swing of things. Finally, should anyone, either player or DM, feel that a character death has no real meaning, then for some reason you are missing out on one of the most important aspects of D&D and roleplaying in general: passion.   


Friday, October 3, 2014

Class Showcase: Barbarians

Ever wondered what some of the characters you see in movies, television, anime, and popular culture would be classed as? Well each week for the next ten weeks I will be looking at one particular class and three of the best non-D&D examples of the men and women that exemplify what it means to be that class. This week it’s time for the Barbarians!

#3 Khal Drogo

In the early going of A Game of Thrones, Khal Drogo is not only one of the fiercest men in the eastern lands but he is also backed up by one of the largest armies in the whole world of Westeros. It is also no small thing to mention that in Dothraki culture a man’s hair is cut off whenever he loses in combat and Khal Drogo’s hair has never been cut. He is perhaps the best example of a barbarian in the A Song of Ice and Fire series with honorable mention to Ygritte.

#2 Xena

Debatably, Xena is the most popular female barbarian of all time. Although I’m sure that some of you may be thinking, “Um hello! Red Sonia?!”, I assure you that Xena is much more popular by far. Her exploits during a six-season run from 1995-2001 are still fueled by a huge cult following and that’s saying something since her character was originally slated for just a three episode run on Hercules. And why not? She has excellent fighting skills, a deep sense of honor and loyalty, a flaring temper, and (let’s face it) she looks amazing! The show also catered shamelessly to its core audience, both male and female teens. And guess what? Those teens are now in their thirties! (I smell a remake.)

#1 Conan

Alright, I’ll admit this was an easy one. But can anyone really deny the fact that Conan is not only a barbarian but THE Barbarian? The bulging physique, the massive two-handed sword, the corny dialog, punching out camels, the list goes on and on. And, for those players both growing up in and playing D&D in the 80’s, there were few other popular figures one would want to emulate more than Conan, especially when it came time to kick some butt.