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Author: Joshua Brickley

Nerdarchy > Articles posted by Joshua Brickley
Star Trek Adventures Modiphius

Creating a Person in Star Trek Adventures vs. a Character in D&D

I’ve been playing Star Trek Adventures with GM Drew Murray, Doug Vehovec, and Asa Kinney. One week Doug couldn’t make it, so Drew, Asa, and I decided to have a frank discussion about the good and the bad things about Star Trek Adventures.

One of the things we talked about was how Star Trek Adventures helps you create a person, and not just a character. Dungeons & Dragons is great for creating cool characters and concepts, but it’s limited in its ability to define a person. There are still races in Star Trek Adventures, and your position on the ship acts ostensibly like a class, so it’s not like there’s no comparison between the two games. The difference really is the approach, and that all starts with the character creation system.

Session Zero? 3 Reasons Why It is Great | Game Master Tips

The Evils of Exposition Ex Machina in D&D and Other Roleplaying Games

It would be be completely understandable if you don’t understand what I mean by Exposition ex Machina. It’s a derivative phrase I’ve personally been using for a very long time, but it’s by no means commonly used. It’s derived by the very old ancient Greek theater term, Deus ex Machina, which is translated as “god from the machine.” (Critical Role fans might be interested to note that Vox Machina is literally “voice machine.”)

In modern usage, a deus ex machina is a narrative device where an outside force abruptly saves the day, which is mostly used when the protagonists are bound by an impossible to escape scenario. To me, it’s one of the most abhorrent plot devices, and easily the laziest. That’s generally the implication when I use a term followed with “ex machina.” It’s a mechanical, forced plot device.

Dissecting the X-Card Controversy

Very recently, the controversy over the X-Card was brought up again. For those not in the know, and I was one of those up until it was recently brought up in our writer’s chat, the basic premise is a system where roleplaying or simulation game players can silently signal the subject at hand is making them uncomfortable, usually in the form of index cards with an X prominently marked on it, that they can tap or raise. While the subject was recently rebroadcast in a vlog, a very cursory Google search has brought up a debate about it that existed at least two years ago.

Product Overview: Star Trek Adventures Copy

Star Trek Adventures Modiphius

Star Trek Adventures, by Modiphius Entertainment

The reason why I’m calling this a product overview, as oppossed to a preview or review, is because my intent isn’t really to do either. I haven’t had a chance to play a single session of it so far, although Nerdarchy Staff Editor Doug Vehovec, and Staff Writers Asa Kinney (who recently wrote an excellent article on paid GMs), Drew Murray, and I had an excellent Session 0, and we’re going to run a test game on September 24 (absolutely coincidentally the same day as the premier of Star Trek: Discovery).

Product Overview: Star Trek Adventures

Star Trek Adventures Modiphius

Star Trek Adventures, by Modiphius Entertainment

The reason why I’m calling this a product overview, as opposed to a preview or review, is because my intent isn’t really to do either. I haven’t had a chance to play a single session of it so far, although Nerdarchy Staff Editor Doug Vehovec, and Staff Writers Asa Kinney (who recently wrote an excellent article on paid GMs), Drew Murray, and I had an excellent Session 0, and we’re going to run a test game on September 24 (absolutely coincidentally the same day as the premier of Star Trek: Discovery).

D&D Dragonborn Illustrate Why the Reason Why Matters

The inclusion of breasts on dragonborn in Dungeons & Dragons is a subject that I’ve noticed come up on occasion. I’m aware that it’s a thing that was included in fourth edition D&D dragonborn, but they’ve since been removed from fifth edition D&D. This is official canon, coming straight from the mouth of the developers themselves:

Theatrical Roleplaying in Modern RPGs

Beowulf graphic novel, translated by Santiago Garcia and art by David Rubin

In the past, I’ve talked a lot from my perspective as a writer, and from what I’ve learned from my college education in literary theory and rhetorical criticism as an English major. There are other aspects of my life, though, that I haven’t really touched on much.

In my article about utilizing critical success and failures, I mentioned some tenants of improv, which I’m tangentially familiar with from my 15 years of acting on stage. While it was mostly school and community theater work, and I haven’t been on stage in 15 years (although, lately I’ve been thinking of trying to break back in), it’s not a thing that ever leaves you.

However, I didn’t come here to talk about my past exploits.

I started out laying out an overview of my credentials because I want it to be clear what I have to say comes from a place of experience, even if those experiences were a lifetime ago. That’s because today I wanted to talk about approaching roleplaying your characters, whether you’re a Game Master or a player, from the perspective of an actor.

Nerdarchy Arcana: D&D Rogue Archetype – Jester

D&D arcane trickster

Arcane Trickster

Ever since I picked up my copy of the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook, I’ve been annoyed with the arcane trickster. I’ve always felt it was a waste of an opportunity, like they wanted to have an arcane rogue archetype, but they didn’t know what to do.

So they just slapped a limited stock of wizard spells in there because enchantment and illusion spells are rogue-ish. Perhaps they felt that because D&D rogues rely on Intelligence for investigation for looking for traps or identifying locks, they should just stick with the sole Intelligence spellcaster.

A D&D rogue archetype with chutzpah

However, rogues can also rely on Charisma. Using just the Player’s Handbook, the assassin’s Imposter ability uses Charisma, and that doesn’t even include the mastermind or the swashbuckler, two class archetypes that include Charisma skills, but not Intelligence ones.

Slavery in RPG Campaigns: Making a Case for Inclusion

Slavery.

slavery

A master leading his slave. [“Iron Ring Slaves” art by Jason Engle]

I want to let that hang there for a minute, because this is going to be a pretty serious topic. I want everyone to know this is going to be held with extreme gravity.

Slavery is a thing that’s been a problem throughout human history as much as it is exists in modern a fantasy tabletop RPG campaign like D&D.

It’s not necessarily everywhere, but it’s in there. Slavery is a subject included in these entries in the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual: on page 5 (under towns and cities), and described in the aboleth, azer (the efreeti attempted to enslave them), beholders, bugbears, devils, red dragons, driders, duergar, drow, fomorian, genies, fire giants, gith, grimlock, hags, hobgoblins, jackalweres, kuo-toa, lamia, mind flayers, mummies, salamanders, yuan-ti, and even the commoner.

It’s in there.

Using D&D 5E Unearthed Arcana Class Options for Worldbuilding

D&D Unearthed Arcana class

Limited Edition cover for Xanathar’s Guide to Everything from Wizards of the Coast.

Due to the recent announcement D&D Beyond will fully launch on August 15, my mind has turned back to Xanathar’s Guide to Everything (or perhaps forward, since as of the writing of this article it’s still four months away from its release).

I’m really excited to see the new character options that are going to be available. Obviously we have a strong idea of some of it thanks in so small part to Wizards of the Coast’s Unearthed Arcana. There are some good ones out there. And there are some failures, too.

But no matter how good or bad, I’m not a fan of letting my D&D players use the class archetypes. The reason is very simple. Unearthed Arcana is subject to change because it’s test material.

The designers knew going into it what they had needed work. Partially because a lot of them did some really cool things, and really cool can either be largely ineffective or overpowered.

Product Review: Monopoly Gamer Puts Nintendo Twist on Classic Game

When I first heard about Monopoly Gamer, I rolled my eyes. “Yet another cheap shot at gamers to buy Monopoly for the 50th time with a dumb gimmick,” I thought to myself. It’s not the first time a company slapped “Gamer” onto a product in a cheap attempt to sell a few more products. (Full disclosure: I did end up buying one some time later, with some personal disgust in my heart, but I couldn’t pass up the color scheme.)

At first glance, it’s just Monopoly with plastic Mario figures instead of generic metal ones, and coins instead of money. Plus, they’re adding IRL downloadable content by means of extra figures you can buy. Commence even deeper eye roll. However, as ashamed as I am of myself, that was enough for me to buy it.

Improv is Critical in RPG Storytelling

 

improv

Improvisational theatre in progress. [Image by Aude Vanlathem/www.audevan.com]

Tabletop RPGs are deeply rooted in improvisation. After all, they’re games where people do things by saying they’re going to do them, and everyone else has to react to what’s being done by saying what they’re going to do.

 

This process repeats for two to four hours, or until there’s a good stopping point. Even Game Masters who prefer a more structured style are going to improvise more dialogue than they’ll use their actual prepared material.

This does not even include all the improv for the inevitable unplanned encounters, or how the GM has to improvise describing the outcomes of rolls – especially in combat. Technically you can just say what you’re going to do and exchange numbers across the table to determine success, and not describe what’s being said or done, but what would be the fun in that?

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