I’m sure that magic items in D&D have been talked about for countless hours, but with Wizards of the Coast finally releasing Mordenkainen’s Magical Emporium for 4th Edition in September and my home campaign nearing the middle of the epic tier I’ve been wanting to talk about them here. The handful of times that I ran 3rd Edition D&D I was guilty of handing out items of a much higher level than the party, but I would try to balance it out with concepts like staves only having a small number of charges. The players/characters always loved it, but I would hear from other D&D players outside of the game that they didn’t like what I was doing and that they had the impression it was “contrary to the rules of the game” or something like that. I didn’t mind them much, but was very intrigued by what they were saying.
It’s good to be back! The first week of August saw us at GenCon and very happily winning a Gold ENnie award, and then in the weeks after I’ve been catching up on things post-convention and getting back into the swing of things. Lately I’ve been discussing and toying with the concept that the best world building happens through playing a campaign, and so I suggest the world building DMs out there spend less time before play and just jump into things with a published or a bare bones adventure and then let the world build from there. This also opens your game up to the possibilities for players to contribute to the world building which for me has always turned out better than I could imagine.
I’m going to clue you guys in to a nifty little secret that I’ve been using for a while now in my RPG encounters – adding height to a tabletop RPG can be one of the best ways to invigorate your encounters. You must be careful, because using something like height in your game can become something of a gimmick or a trick and if overused could become predictable or boring to your players. However, when applied correctly and in the right amount height and depth can create some of the most memorable moments of your game and can also help enforce or dissuade certain styles of play.
Last week in my first post tackling the subject of creating histories for an RPG world I discussed relatively “meta” and experimental concepts. This week I’d like to get down to some specifics and hopefully address the concept a bit more directly. The exact question/suggestion that inspired this topic was worded as, “In my homebrew, creating histories in specific territories is a challenge – particularly linking them to the whole world.”
World building can be one of the most intimidating tasks for DMs and GMs when it comes to running their own RPG campaign. No matter how much advice you read or receive from your friends, creating a world of your own or modifying someone else’s world can still feel incredibly daunting even for people who are experienced at running their own games. In my last solicitation for questions and suggestions to discuss in this series on twitter, clampclontoller said this, “In my homebrew, creating histories in specific territories is a challenge – particularly linking them to the whole world.” Since this is an issue that I’ve struggled with many times myself, it feels like a good topic worth exploring here!
Once again I solicited on my twitter account (@Bartoneus) asking what aspects of location design in RPGs people have problems with, and I’d like to thank everyone that responded this afternoon. I will be addressing many of the topics you guys asked about in the future, but for today’s post I chose DigitalDraco’s comment: “I always want to include more interesting terrain effects, hazards & the like but they tend to seem added-on.” This topic immediately struck me as one that I’ve struggled with in the past and one that I believe many other people have had issues with as well.
As with nearly every topic I cover in this series, I’ve touched on the idea of adding character to settlements and cities before but now I’d like to put it in the spotlight. Let’s face it, your players will only remember select portions of the adventures you run even on the best of days. The elements that players seem to remember the most are specifically striking elements of a few NPCs, villains, encounters, and social interactions. Generally speaking, they will not remember a location very much unless a specific element of that location ties directly to one of those elements. They may not remember a location featuring a really sweet bridge if you describe it to them, but set a dramatic encounter on that bridge and they’re much more likely to remember the details of that location.
The book Player’s Option: Heroes of Shadow is the first real print product we have seen for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons since the Essentials line and also marks what I hope is the end in what I perceived as a lag in print products for the game. Heroes of Shadow was delayed from March until April so that it could be printed as a hard cover book instead of a smaller format paperback, and I am very pleased with having a larger sized hardcover in my hands with 4E content in it after months without one. What this book contains is exactly what you would expect from a book focusing on player characters that tap into the shadow power source and draw their inspiration from the darker corners of your D&D universes. Its contents range from entirely new classes to new builds for existing classes to new races and more than a handful of new options for characters of all types that want to have a bit darker tilt to their abilities.
In an ongoing effort to help new and experienced tabletop RPG storytellers improvise and design locations, I started by talking about urban open spaces and provided what I called a design toolbox for that purpose. In this post (and most likely several future posts) I will attempt to provide an extensive and easy to use design toolbox for “Fantasy Buildings”. What types of buildings fall into that category is not set in stone, so I invite you to comment on this post or suggest on twitter (tag me with @Bartoneus) any types of fantasy buildings that I don’t cover int his post that you think should be included in future posts on the subject.
A very important design concept used in Architecture that I would like to discuss today is the concept of negative space. This topic flows naturally from the discussion in last week’s post about the open spaces in an urban setting being defined by the buildings that are placed around it. In addition I have been thinking quite a lot about the topic since seeing the post on Boing Boing about classic style D&D hand-drawn dungeon maps. If you haven’t seen those maps yet, they are indeed very classic but they are also, unfortunately not examples of good dungeon design.