Friday, May 12, 2023

I'm a D&D Luddite: Digital D&D Woes


Is it just me, or does the sight of virtual tabletops, tablets, and laptops at the table make you cringe. I suppose I'm like the old man yelling "Get off my lawn!!!" 

Or like the stick in the mud shouting you're not having fun right!!!

Perhaps it's just the nostalgia hound in me, but for me it really breaks immersion the more technologized a game becomes. Now, don't get me wrong, I love my cell phone as much as the next guy. Love my laptop and bathe in streaming services. But when it gets into my game, well, something in me dies a little bit. 

Which, of course has got me to thinking ... Clearly this is a personal opinion. There are those who love these gadgets and fusing them into their gamer brain has made them better, not worse gamers. I have GMed and played on Roll 20 and got into all the added little effects one could optimize into your game. I'll still admit to preferring an in person game to a virtual one, but have to agree that virtual gaming has extended gamers abilities to connect and game more than they would otherwise. 

I also have to ponder on whether I'm trying to recreate an experience of 40 years ago, or really making a justified critique. For instance I never really used minis or maps for game play--until that is D&D 4e. Now, as much as I ended up disliking 4e it changed me. I now rarely run combat without maps and minis. 
Very similar to my home map

I've played Roll20 and without a VTT and just by Skype and Zoom. I have not become converted. In fact it is the primary reason why I am not playing now. When I refused to DM 5e anymore, or any other game I'm not really interested in investing time in, I was left with me AD&D books, my Hackmaster Books, Call of Cthulhu and a few others that I simply couldn't find easy play for. 

Here lately I'm rethinking my position. My lawn is so lonely without all those kids playing on it. I think it's time I take down my anti-digital, luddite fence and maybe look for some digital gaming groups. 

Things I noticed in the DMG: Great Advice Hidden in Saving Throws

AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide 1st Edition, page 80

"As has been often pointed out, AD&D is a game wherein participants create personae and operate them in the milieu created and designed, in whole or in part, by the Dungeon Master and shared by all, including the DM, in imagination and enthusiasm. The central theme of this game is the interaction of these personae, whether those of the players or those of the DM, with the milieu, including that part represented by the characters and creatures personified by the DM. This interaction results in adventures and deeds of daring. The heroic fantasy which results is a blend of the dramatic and the comic, the foolish and the brave, stirring excitement and grinding boredom. It is a game in which the continuing epic is the most meaningful portion. It becomes an entity in which at least some of the characters seem to be able to survive for an indefinite time, and characters who have shorter spans of existence are linked one to the other by blood or purpose. These personae put up with the frustrations, the setbacks, and the tragedies because they aim for and can reasonably expect to achieve adventure, challenge, wealth, glory and more. If player characters are not of the same stamp as Conan, they also appreciate that they are in effect writing their own adventures and creating their own legends, not merely reliving those of someone else's creation."

There are a few places where Gary Gygax writes passages which can be said to capture the spirit of the game. This is certainly one. I can't recall the last time I read it, if ever. Most of us who learn to game do so by word of mouth. We may have read the rulebooks at one time, but most of us go deep only later. In our quest to master the game, we re-read the books with a practiced eye. We begin developing our skill and facility with the rules, and also our understanding of what the game is truly meant to be. Can be. The above quoted portion from the DMG is not earthshattering in its revelation. I quote it more because of what it confirms by way of the scale of the game. Cleary the game is heroic, most of us know that--and this has certainly been the focus of more recent iterations of the rules. What is special here is that it also cites the other elements of the game, comedy, drama, foolishness and even boredom. And though the last line doesn't stand true in modern version of the game, it was certainly the case in 1e. But it gets better...

"Yet because the player character is all-important, he or she must always--or nearly always -  have a chance, no matter how small, a chance of somehow escaping what otherwise would be inevitable destruction. Many will not be able to do so, but the escapes of those who do are what the fabric of the game is created upon. These adventures become the twicetold tales and legends of the campaign. The fame (or infamy) of certain characters gives lustre to the campaign and enjoyment to player and DM alike as the parts grow and are entwined to become a fantastic history of a never-was world where all of us would wish to live if we could." 

The very risk of death is what makes a game epic. The unpredictability of escape and victory allows for epic storytelling. It also allows for pathos, humor, and drama. This unique combination of factors really only comes into its own when the game is played as much as a game as it is a storytelling engine. In this small justification of saving throws Gary encapsulates the very heart of D&D.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Things I noticed in the DMG: Dexterity Adjustment

AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide 1st Edition, page 64

"Dexterity Penalty And Bonus Considerations: The Dexterity Attacking Adjustment is for missile firing considerations when initiative is considered. It adjusts the initiative die roll for the concerned individual only. Thus, it may well allow the concerned individual to discharge a missile prior to the opponent‘s attack  even though the opponent has gained the initiative otherwise or vice versa. More important, this  factor also gives the individual a “to hit” penalty or bonus when discharging a missile at an opponent."

This refers to the adjustment for Dexterity found in Dexterity Table I. in the Players Handbook. "Reaction/Attacking Adjustment is the penalty or bonus for both surprise (q.v.) situations and missile combat attacks."

I did not know the following "... for missile firing considerations when initiative is considered. It adjusts the initiative die roll for the concerned individual only." 

I take that to mean that this initiative adjustment applies only to those attacking with missiles on an individual basis. So if the party rolls a 3 for initiative and missile combatants in the party have a Dexterity of 5 and 17 respectively, then for the first his initiative will be a 2 and for the second a 5. And this, only if they are firing missiles of some sort. 

In other words this adjustment would not apply if these same combatants chose to enter melee combat, say with mace and sword. 

As an aside, also remember that this adjustment also applies individually for mitigating surprise. So the previously mentioned player with a Dexterity of 17 will mitigate up to two segments of surprise, if the player is surprised. This adjustment does not create surprise in any case.