Wheat pennies are a common collector’s item because they usually aren’t difficult to find, sometimes still turning up in change today, and they normally don’t cost very much.
As Dungeon Master, you’ve been preparing a week or longer, planning for your Dungeon & Dragons group’s next session, writing out stats for NPCs, trying to think through various story lines, contemplating possible player character actions and responses, etc. It can be a lot of work, and time consuming. It doesn’t necessarily have to be, but sometimes it is. Then there’s the mental exhaustion that can set it.
Finally, the game arrives! You open your rules books, lay out your maps, places the minis, maybe start a Google Hangout, whatever.
Then the game sucks.
Rubies of Eventide, the early days
In June of 2003, a company known as CyberWarrior Inc. released a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) known as Rubies of Eventide. Unfortunately, things did not go well, and soon the company announced the new game would close down by the end of the year. This did not bode well for the future of Rubies of Eventide.
Still, the MMORPG managed to survive when it was leased to the company Mnemosyne. Basic accounts were free, but donations would be accepted for additional content. Never one of the more popular MMORPGs, Rubies of Eventide remained a favorite among a rather small, energetic number of players, yet this was not enough to save the day forever.
In 2009, Rubies of Eventide was finally closed down for good, and since then there has been a relatively minor vacuum within the universe of online games.
An MMORPG with lots to offer
I was one of those players who loved Rubies of Eventide. I don’t remember the names of all the characters I played, but my last character was a loner wielding a heavy two-handed sword who went by the name Belgad the Liar (actually the name of one of my characters from my Kobalos Trilogy novels).
Rubies of Eventide was set in a fairly traditional fantasy world, but it offered plenty for players who enjoy becoming intricate in their character builds. Only seven races were offered, but there were more than 100 classes to choose from as well as 50 skills to build upon. This allowed for unique character creations.
Also, while combat could be a major part of the gaming experience, not all the classes and skills were centered around fighting. If you wanted to create a miner or a tailor, or any number of other non-combat figures, this was easily done.
In combat, actions were turn based, but with a timer to make sure players didn’t spend all day making up their mind. This might seem a bit unusual, and it was for the time, but it did give one a more thoughtful experience in combat than just bashing away constantly.
If your character was killed in combat, two options were available. The easiest was to resurrect (rez) at a nearby temple, though your character would no longer have his or her equipment; do not fear, however, as your gear remained where your character had fallen, so you could go back and get it. The second option for a fallen character was to remain with the body, hoping another character would soon come along, and then the new character could carry your body to a temple where you could rez with your gear intact; this second option actually worked out pretty good as you could use the game’s messaging system to ask someone else to come along and pick you up.
Your character didn’t have to operate alone, either. If you wanted to team up with others, even form a guild, this was an easy task. That way you could adventure with others, traveling around to take on trolls, hunt down bears, tackle demonic enemies, or even just go mining.
Admittedly, the graphics were never all that strong, even for the times, appearing somewhat blocky, but this was never one of the major draws to Rubies of Eventide for most of its players. Camaraderie was important, as was the relatively complex character creation and growth. Also, there were events that took place in the world of Rubies of Eventide, and these could be fun for teaming up with others and taking on a big bad guy. Also, I have to think the rather small number of players gave Rubies of Eventide something of a unique experience, a niche experience, which could appeal to many.
No future for Rubies of Eventide?
Now, nearly a decade later, Rubies of Eventide remains dead with little to no hope of it being resurrected, which is a shame. It was a fun game back in the day, and it could be a fun game now. It’s too bad Rubies of Eventide didn’t garner more of a following. Fans had helped keep the gaming going for six years, but ultimately that was not enough. There is a small contingent who still hope the game can be revived, but that doesn’t seem likely at this point. However, we still have our memories.
Despite all the political outrage, the celebrity deaths, and all the other hoopla that seems to have labeled 2016 as a year of horror, I have to admit I had a pretty good year last year. I lost some weight, landed a girlfriend, went fishing a whole bunch, and I did a lot of tabletop role playing, mostly Dungeons & Dragons. Still, looking back on 2016, I have to wonder if I lived up to the gaming resolutions I set myself for the year.
Mostly, I did. I was Dungeon Master in quite a few games last year. I played with a whole bunch of new people, making some friends. I tried some new character types, at least new to me. I might not have expanded my horizons into other games besides D&D as much as I would have liked, but you can’t have everything.
But it’s a new year again. 2017 has kicked off and I’ve made a number of new resolutions for this new year.
Playing the games I want in the new year
One big goal this year for me is to only play games I want with people I want. That doesn’t mean every gaming session was awful for me in 2016, but I did find myself more than once suffering through one boring game or another. To be fair, if you game as much as I do, at least a couple of times every week, it’s not likely every single game is going to be fantastic, but one can always strive. So, I’m hoping to have better games, both those I DM and those in which I play a character. Basically, I want to make sure I’m having fun.
Getting to know you
Maybe not you, specifically, but why not? I want to reach more gamers, to play with them, to get to know them. Besides being fun and interesting, such can also help me keep abreast of what affects and interests the tabletop gaming community. Other than Facebook, I’m not real active socially online, but maybe that will change in 2017. Maybe I need to be more active on not only the Nerdarchy Facebook page, but also in the Nerdarchy forum. Also, I’d like to point out that in my articles when I suggest readers leave comments, I truly mean it. I want to hear what you’ve got to say. Just because you might not agree with something I’ve written, that doesn’t mean I can’t learn from you.
Okay, this isn’t strictly a gaming resolution, but it is related. Not only do I write for the Nerdarchy site, but I’m also a fiction writer by trade, and in 2016 I slacked off quite a bit. Oh, I finished a novel and some short stories, plus all my articles for Nerdarchy and a few other odd jobs here and there, but I really need to get in gear, not only for financial reasons but also for my own mental health. I don’t like being a slacker. It’s time to get to work. For you, the Nerdarchy reader, this means not only more articles from myself (and I hope you like at least some of my articles), but it also means I’ll be taking more of a hand behind the scenes here at Nerdarchy. Recently I took on some extra duties here to allow the Nerdarchy crew more time doing Nerdarchy stuff (like videos and contests, etc.). I suppose my title, if I have one, would be something like “content manager” or maybe “article editor,” but either way, I hope to bring my 20 years of experience as a journalist to the site as both a writer and as an editor.
Trying new character types
This is something of a repeat of a resolution I made last year. In the past, I’ve been known to play mostly human rogues with some fighting ability, but in 2016 I expanded on that somewhat. In 2017, I’d like to continue this trend. For instance, I don’t think I’ve every played a gnome. Maybe it’s time. I also don’t think I’ve ever played a paladin. Maybe I should try a gnome paladin? Other ideas will come to mind, I’m sure.
Attending events in 2017
I’m no millionaire, so it’s not like I can travel all over the globe, but I would like to attend more gaming and gaming-oriented events in the new year. Even if I only stuck to my own region, there are plenty of conventions and other events which would fit the bill, so I need to look into more of them, and it’s not impossible I could do a little travel. Again, this could help me do a better job here at Nerdarchy, but also it would likely be a lot of fun.
So, there are my gaming resolutions for 2017. I’m sure I could come up with more if I put my mind to it, but for now, that’s enough. If something comes to mind in the future, maybe I can write about it. Otherwise, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.
Besides, I could always stand to lose a few more pounds.
2016 has become known to many as something of a tragic year for celebrities and public personalities. The entertainment industry seems to have had more than its share of deaths this past year, with the world suffering losses of the likes of Prince, David Bowie, Muhammad Ali, George Michael and many others.
Back in October, I posted the following to Facebook:
Me: Yeah, I have some nerd and geek tendencies, but I don't let it rule my life. Friend: Don't you write fantasy for a living? Me: Yeah, but ... Friend: And don't you go to longsword classes? Me: True, but ... Friend: And you play D&D at least twice a week, right? Me: Oh, shut up. (and this was while at a Renaissance fest)
If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead television show and you pay attention to entertainment news, it will come as no surprise the program’s ratings have been dropping like zombies beneath a hail of machine-gun fire. In all fairness, the show is still pulling in more than 10 million viewers, most of whom are from the 18 to 49 demographic, but still, its numbers are dropping.
The big question is whether or not this decline will continue or if it’s just a temporary bump in the road. With the show recently having completed its Season 7 mid-season finale, only time will tell.
Again, if you read entertainment news, it seems a lot of people have opinions on why The Walking Dead isn’t going along as strong as it has in the past. Having watched the show since its beginning, and before that having been a fan of the original graphic novels, I have my own ideas, and I thought I’d outline them below.
The Walking Dead — The Past
First of all, the show always has suffered from mixed writing. Some episodes, and seasons, are excellent, giving viewers possibly the best TV has to offer, but other episodes and seasons, not so much. The Walking Dead has tended to drag some seasons, especially during the early years, with characters doing little more than walking through the woods while bemoaning their fates for episode after episode. Thankfully the show has mostly gotten beyond that, but still there’s the occasional episode where not a whole lot happens to push the plot forward, though there might be some character growth.
From a more subjective point of view, I personally feel The Walking Dead has suffered in decisions about how certain characters are portrayed. I do not know if these choices were made by the writers, the directors, producers, or by the actors involved, but I believe there have been more than a few mistakes made in this area.
For instance, since day one I have had some problems with how Andrew Lincoln portrays Rick Grimes, seemingly the main character of the series. Please don’t misunderstand as I think Andrew is a fine actor and is generally doing an excellent job with his character, but his version of Rick Grimes keeps going back and forth between being some apocalyptic tough guy and a broken man who seems ready to break into tears at any moment. There’s nothing wrong with this type of character arc, and I can appreciate it, but it’s one we have seen far too many times with Rick. It’s way past time Lincoln’s Rick made up his mind what kind of person he is going to be so we, as the viewers, can move on with the larger story and Grimes can grow more as a character and in different ways.
Related to this issue is my perception that the Rick Grimes character from the graphic novels would chew up and spit out Lincoln’s Grimes without a second thought or look back. I don’t want the television show to be the same as the graphic novels, for then there would be no surprises and not much reason to watch, but it is difficult to see continual growth in one version of a character while the more watched version appears to flounder far too often.
Maybe it’s just me. This is only my opinion, after all, and the show remains popular. However, I would like to point out that some of the common complaints I’ve seen, most notably that The Walking Dead is too gruesome or relies too much on gore or violence, that doesn’t bother me. Sure, The Walking Dead is pretty gory compared to many television shows, but TV today is generally more gory and the show still pales in comparison to what we can find at the movie theaters. Also, when I hear complaints that the show kills off too many of its characters, I have to wonder what the complainers think they’re watching; there’s a zombie apocalypse going on in the show, and I would find it more unbelievable if characters weren’t being killed fairly often.
Also, though Season 7 kicked off with the murders of two of the better-known characters, I don’t feel this in and of itself drove viewers away. Some viewers, yes, especially considering the viciousness of the deaths, but looking at the larger picture, I think the bigger sins here were slowness and boredom. A couple of beloved characters were killed, but so what? The Walking Dead has done that time and time again. The season began with the characters massively failing to reach their goal of taking a pregnant Maggie (played by Lauren Cohan) to a safe place, then once the worst of the atrocities were over, Maggie continued on to safety. In other words, our heroes failed but not a whole lot really changed, at least not immediately, and then the final outcome wasn’t that different than if they hadn’t failed. This isn’t exactly great storytelling. Admittedly as the season wore on, more and more changed as Negan made things worse and worse for our heroes, but still, the plot inched forward slowly, oh so slowly.
The Walking Dead — The Present
Okay, I’ve talked about what I consider to be past concerns with The Walking Dead. Now I’ll take a look at what I believe are some current issues, though I’ll also dip back into the past a little.
Here let me say I feel The Walking Dead on TV has always suffered from good, strong villains, which is a shame because awesome villains can make a story even when other characters might be rather lackluster. I was never a big fan of David Morrissey’s The Governor nor do I care much for Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan.
Once more, this isn’t necessarily me having a preference for the graphic novels over the show, as I wasn’t much of a fan of The Governor nor of Negan in the comics.
That being said, much like Andrew Lincoln’s version of Rick Grimes, the Negan of the comic books would dominate Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan without batting an eyelash.
Morgan has portrayed Negan almost as some Joker wannabe, constantly cracking jokes and smiles. While there is some element of this in Negan from the graphic novels, the character there is much more. The comics version of Negan knows when to tone down or turn off his jocular side, while Morgan doesn’t seem to do this, almost constantly relying on a fake, forced humor, making Negan look more like some wild-eyed psychopath than a truly deadly rival to Rick and threat to those in Alexandria and elsewhere.
To some extent, this is a matter of believability to me. Admittedly we’re talking a fictional world and fictional characters, but there is more than a little truth to the old saying that “truth is stranger than fiction.” Those who write fiction generally know they have to make their worlds and characters and plots somewhat believable or their readers or viewers will balk and walk. Here, I feel the TV version of Negan fails.
What I mean is, I watch the Negan character on television and I don’t feel any fear of him, nor do I feel revulsion or anger. I can only sit and watch and ask myself, “Okay, why hasn’t someone blown this clown away yet?” And I don’t mean Rick or another of the Alexandrians. No, I’m talking about Negan’s own people. Morgan’s Negan doesn’t come off as especially strong or threatening to me, but more of a buffoon with a psychopathic streak. He should have been shot dead long ago by Dwight or another associate in either a bid to seize power or just to do away with this lunatic. To anyone paying attention, it should be obvious Negan is bad news while not offering any true potential for the future.
The Negan in the graphics novels, however, is a different animal. He does make use of humor, but not so much in a constant “I’m unpredictable” kind of way, but more in a buddy-buddy sort of way, as if he’s trying to disarm or fool someone emotionally and mentally. On top of that, the graphics novel Negan is a total hard ass, someone I easily could see stirring up fear in others and loyalty in his own people.
Besides the villain(s), of late The Walking Dead has fallen into a habit of neutering its strongest characters. For instance, since the character’s first appearance, Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) has been one of the most capable figures on the show, but for nearly all of Season 7 so far he has been imprisoned and enslaved by Negan, biding his time for escape. Until partway through Season 6, Carol, played by Melissa McBride, has not only been one of the strongest characters within the series, but she has had perhaps the strongest and most interesting character arc, having gone from a battered wife to a warrior to be reckoned with, using guile and skill to tackle the living and the dead alike; but beginning in Season 6, Carol has unwound, in my opinion becoming lesser than her former self, which has been sad to see, especially considering how slow and frustrating the whole process has been.
How can The Walking Dead win back viewers?
I think the show needs to do several things.
Most importantly, the writers need to recall that this is serialized television. In serials, plot is king. Characterization is fine, as are other aspects of drama, but plot is what keeps the whole thing rolling in serialized fiction. No more episodes, or seasons, where characters do nothing but walk or sit around talking about themselves. Character motivations can be shown through action, not just dialogue.
I also think the Negan character needs to be strengthened. The Walking Dead is in dire need of a Hannibal Lecter or Darth Vader, a major villain who scares everyone simply by presence, though possibly also having some likable or at least understandable qualities. Negan is supposed to be that figure, but so far he is not. Perhaps if we learn more about Negan’s past, but so far, no. We need Negan to be tough, to be wicked, to be frightening, but we don’t need him to be a clown, at least not all the time. Harley Quinn he isn’t.
The recent mid-season ending to Season 7 shows some bright possibilities, what with Daryl finally returning to the fold and Rick and some others finally showing some backbone again, so I can only hope the second half of the season will be better. Maybe if Carol finally gets over herself, she and Morgan (Lennie James) can reunite with their former companions and form an alliance against Negan.
Okay, I’ve rattled on enough. Feel free to disagree, or agree, and let me know what you think in the comments section.
From time to time I hear grumblings about the Champion archetype for Fighters in Fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. Usually such grumblings include something along the lines of the archetype being “plain” or “boring,” that “it doesn’t do anything,” or even that “it’s the most useless archetype in the whole game.”
Really? I have to call foul. To simply dismiss the Champion archetype shows, in my opinion, a lack of imagination.
Sure, the Champion doesn’t offer the fancy moves of the Battle Master nor the magical abilities of the Eldritch Knight, nor does it provide the added skills or talents of other Fighter archetypes as provided in the Unearthed Arcana online publications. But the Champion isn’t supposed to.
To quote the 5e D&D Player’s Handbook, the Champion “focuses on the development of raw physical power honed to deadly perfection.” That’s it. The Champion is meant to be a solid combatant while dealing lots of damage through sheer combat ability, nothing more or less.
For those who still do not appreciate the archetype, that’s fine, but don’t blame it on the archetype. It’s one’s personal opinion, and not a failing of the Champion itself because the Champion archetype does exactly what it’s meant to, creating a solid Fighter without lots of bells and whistles. There is no failing of the rules here, as is sometimes the case with other classes or archetypes (the 5e Ranger class, in particular, is often called out here).
What does the Champion have to offer?
The Champion is all about sheer combat prowess. Quite often that means combat might based upon Strength, but not always. A Champion Fighter could also do well with his or her fighting abilities based upon Dexterity. An archer or finesse combatant could make good use of being a Champion.
Still, some might cry out that the Champion is dull, even lackluster. Again, I fault the individual for a lack of creativity.
First of all, a character of any class or archetype is only boring if the player plays them that way. It is up to us as players, with maybe some help from a Dungeon Master, to bring our characters to life, to make them living, breathing entities. That is part of our job, our mission, when playing a character in a role-playing game.
Secondly, the Champion still has plenty of options available, no small part of which are the number of Ability Score Improvements or Feats available to such a character. The Fighter gets more Ability Score Improvements than any other class, each of which can be used as a Feat if the Dungeon Master allows. Feats allow not only special combat abilities and other possibilities, but they also give a character an opportunity to be a little different, possibly to be unique within one’s party. Even if one opts for the Ability Score Improvements, that gives the Fighter a huge boost over other characters, potentially allowing for higher stats that can make a big difference when it comes to combat.
Now, if you’re shaking your head and thinking, “Yeah, but all Fighters get those Feats or ability increases, even the other archetypes,” then yes, you are correct. But those Feats plus the other abilities the Champion offers can create a truly spectacular war machine.
Creating a unique D&D Fighter
But what abilities make the Champion unique, you might be asking? Right off, I draw your attention to the fact this Fighter is the only one who gets the Improved Critical ability, and not once, but twice, at 3rd level and again at 15th level, though under the Superior Critical title. What this means is a Champion can score a critical hit against a foe on a roll of 19 or 20, then at 15th level on an 18, 19 or 20, and no other class offers this feature. This might seem like small potatoes to you, but I can tell you from experience, this is an extremely nice ability to have, and it comes up in game combat more often than you might think.
Next up, at 10th level the Champion earns an Additional Fighting Style, another ability not available to other Fighters or even to other classes, at least not without multi-classing. Again, this might not seem like a big deal at first glance, but it really allows the Champion to have an extra level of power not common to other characters.
Then there is the Remarkable Athlete ability at 7th level. I admit, this seems like a rather lackluster boost, allowing the Champion to had half his or her proficiency bonus to Strength, Dexterity or Constitution checks that don’t already include the proficiency bonus, but again, from experience I can point out this is a handy ability to have. Depending upon a Champion Fighter’s skills, this could prove helpful in combat situations, especially ones involving grappling, but it can also prove a boon when trying to kick in doors, bend bars, swim long distances, etc.
Last but not least, there is the Survivor ability. I’ll admit, I often find the extra abilities for classes at higher levels to be lacking, but this one is pretty nifty. Whenever the Champion is reduced to half hit points or less, at the end of each of the character’s turns the Champion gets back 5 + Constitution modifier in hit points. That’s pretty awesome. Not only does it keep the Fighter going like an Energizer bunny, but it could prove the difference in a battle against any number of big bad guys.
Okay, I’ve nearly said my peace here, but I’d like to point out one more thing concerning the Champion. Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons is often compared to ye olde First Edition, sometimes with players stating 5e has that old-time feel to it of the early versions of the game. I can see that, though I also see that Fifth Edition has gone far beyond the original game. However, that being said, I would be remiss not to point out that the Champion Fighter, being a relatively simple archetype when compared to others, is probably more like the First Edition class of Fighter than any other Fighter archetype, or perhaps more so than any other Fifth Edition class, period. Some might not consider this a good thing, but others will.
There. If you still don’t see the potential of the Champion Fighter, then I am at a loss. But I will repeat that it’s how you play your characters that keeps those characters from becoming stale, not the archetypes or classes or any other rules. Players make the game.
I realize much of the focus of the Nerdarchy website is tabletop role playing games, but it is not all the site is about, and with Christmas fast approaching my thoughts always turn to the Atari 2600, originally known as the Atari VCS.
In case you are not familiar with the Atari 2600, let me fill you in a little. From approximately 1977 to 1983, the Atari 2600 was the most popular home video game console in the world, and the first multi-game console to become a huge hit with consumers. Even today it is possibly the most collectible of vintage gaming systems, perhaps only rivaled in popularity by 1985’s Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).
Christmas always reminds me of the Atari 2600, bringing out in me a longing for a simpler time, a time of blocky graphics, beeps and boops, and game controllers than only have one joystick and a single button.
See, I received my first Atari 2600 as a Christmas gift. I don’t remember the exact year, but it was probably 1982. I would have been 12. That year I also got four game cartridges: Pac-Man, Frogger, Donkey Kong, and Yar’s Revenge. All of those were great games for the 2600, and the 2600 itself was a fantastic, though simple gaming system.
In years to come I would also discover the joys of owning an Odyssey 2 video game console and an Intellivision II, and eventually a Super Nintendo and later a Playstation 2, but none of those take me back to Christmas and my youth like the Atari 2600 (in fairness, the Intellivision comes close, but not quite).
The success of the Atari 2600 really shouldn’t be any surprise. It had a lot going for it at the time, the most important of which might have been its simplicity of use. One joystick, one button. That’s all it took to play the games. There was an On-and-Off switch, a reset switch, and a few other switches on the console itself, but all in all this was a simple device. A number of competing consoles at the time tried to get fancy with more buttons and keypads and the like, but this was still the dawn of video games, especially home gaming, and the public probably wasn’t quite ready for more complex game play.
The 2600 also came with some extra controllers, a pair of paddles which weren’t used for a huge number of games, but were quite helpful when playing the likes of Super Breakout or Activision’s Kaboom! As with the joysticks, these controllers were easy to use and only included a single button to push.
Cartridges were needed to play a game on the 2600, but one came with the boxed 2600 when you bought it, and there was little trouble finding other game cartridges for sale.
Also helping the Atari 2600 was the fact it was the first at-home system to offer Space Invaders and Pac-Man, video games that had been huge hits in the arcades of the times. Space Invaders turned out well, but the port of Pac-Man was nearly a disaster, though Atari pulled through for another few years with other popular versions of arcade games as well as some original games that were quite excellent.
Such popular Atari games as Adventure, Asteroids, and Battlezone were enough to keep customers lining up for the 2600 systems for years, but other companies quickly got into the act, making their own second-party games for the 2600. This was how we got such popular games as Atlantis, Demon Attack, and Dragonfire from companies like Imagic, as well as Activision games such as Freeway, River Raid, and the unforgettable Pitfall!
Unfortunately the heyday of the Atari 2600 would eventually come to an end, usually recognized as beginning with what is known as the great video game crash of 1983. Christmas shoppers turned away from Atari that holiday season, and soon after the Atari company found itself in dire straits. The Atari 2600 continued to sell in various versions, and would continue to do so until 1992, but the company that had created this grand device found itself sold off and eventually discarded.
But that doesn’t quite mean the end of fun.
The Atari 2600 and its many, many games live on today on gaming discs for modern systems, such as the Atari Anthology disc for the Playstation 2, and for computers. There is also a series of simple consoles called Atari Flashback which offer not quite the same experience as the original Atari 2600, but it’s close, and the Flashbacks come with plenty of games just waiting for action on your television or computer screen.
So, the Atari 2600 still lives, which is great for us older nerds who grew up in the ’70s and early ’80s.
But whatever your favorite gaming console, remember to Stay Nerdy!
Blast from the Past: Atari 2600 video game system
Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons has been around for more than a couple of years now. Since its inception, it has been obvious the game’s publisher Wizards of the Coast is doing something different with this edition when it comes to the number of publications. Earlier versions of D&D had lots and lots of books, from rules books to adventure modules, travel guides, setting guides, etc. Some might even suggest the third edition of the game was somewhat notorious for this.
Fifth Edition, however, has a slimmer number of publications beyond the core books. There is nothing wrong with this. Wizards of the Coast is obviously focusing upon a different strategy and it seems to have worked for them considering the popularity of the game. And in all fairness there have been some adventure modules and other books released, plus there have been fairly regular free pdf documents offered on the Wizards of the Coast website, not the least of which have been the Unearthed Arcana series which provides new but unofficial rules for Fifth Edition.
The Unearthed Arcana series appears to be rather popular, especially since recently Mike Mearls and Jeremy Crawford wrote on the site that they were going to focus more on Unearthed Arcana in months to come and that the Sage Advice column would be on standstill temporarily.
One might think, or maybe even hope, this means the material used in Unearthed Arcana over the last couple of years might be released sometime in the next year as an official publication in book form.
The future of Unearthed Arcana?
It is no secret Wizards of the Coast has made use of the Unearthed Arcana materials to test rules and to learn from the feedback of gamers. This is great! Not everything released through the Unearthed Arcana has been a winner, and I think Mearls and Crawford would agree, but there has been quite a lot that has been excellent, though maybe a few tweaks here and there might be nice.
That being said, we now have nearly two years’ worth of Unearthed Arcana material for 5e D&D, yet little of it is official.
In my opinion, it is time for that to change. Wizards of the Coast needs to seriously consider an Unearthed Arcana book, or something similar, which would gather together materials approved by the publisher.
Why do this? And why now?
Right off the bat, I can point to gamer dissatisfaction. I don’t mean to say there are droves of D&D fans out there who are foaming at the mouth because there aren’t more books, but there are a few, and one of the most common criticisms I see leveled against Fifth Edition is that it doesn’t have more books, especially books concerning new and/or additional rules expanding upon classes and races and player options.
To repeat, Wizards of the Coast is utilizing a different strategy than before. However, while I understand and actually appreciate that strategy, I do feel it is time for a new book providing additional rules. In fact, I appreciate this so much that only a few weeks ago I wrote an article titled “In Defense of Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons and its streamlined approach.”
Also, so far Wizards of the Coast has been hesitant to release digital versions of its 5e D&D books. This is also a different strategy than many game publishers are following today, but again, it seems to be working. It also solidifies the current books as official while making the online works unofficial. There’s nothing wrong with this, but for gamers who are sticklers for what is canon and what isn’t, this might raise some concerns, possibly even creating some confusion; if nothing else, when some dungeon masters are only willing to use material from the actual books (or even just the core books), it makes it harder for some players to find a game they enjoy.
We need more 5th Edition
Admittedly the adventure modules and other books that have been released beyond the 5th edition Player’s Handbook and the Dungeon Master’s Guide have included some new rules for classes, magics, and the like, but there has not been much of that and it is still rather limiting. Not everyone wants to purchase adventure modules, many players and dungeon masters being more interested in creating their own worlds and adventures. Some gamers simply want more rules so they can play with them in their own settings.
Also, there has been some 5th edition material released by other companies and individual game creators, but again, for those who are sticklers, much of this material will not seem to be canon, and some of it might not even live up to expected standards.
Maybe Wizards of the Coast has plans for an Unearthed Arcana book. I hope so, and the sooner the better. Either way, I’m not enraged or even annoyed, but it is something I would like to see.
It’s time. No, I don’t want the publisher to change its strategy, nor do I want to see a glut of new D&D books hitting the market, but I feel gamers have patiently waited long enough. We’ve had a couple of years now to learn 5th Edition, to experiment, to learn the ins and outs, and we need more material, preferably material which focuses upon expanding the rules instead of another campaign or adventure book. We need more official 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons material as related to the rules, especially for character generation. An Unearthed Arcana book would be appreciated.
It’s time for a 5th Edition D&D Unearthed Arcana book
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday coming up in a matter of days, the holiday shopping season kicks off big time. But what to get for your nerdy, geeky, and gaming buddies this year? Last year you might have opted for the familiar, rules books and dice, etc., but this year you would like to do something different, something special, something unique. Do not fret, True Believer, as Nerdarchy is here to help you find some uncommon gifts for your crowd of pals. Check out the items below for gifts that are just a little different.
Papa’s got a brand new bag
Bags are handy. Within pretty much any Dungeons & Dragons gaming adventure, most characters will be carrying around some kind of bag to hold their loot, extra weapons, potions, spell books, and so forth. In the real world, bags are great for school, work, and for holding all your dice and books and other gear for any role-playing session. So, one can always use a new bag, right? Look no further, then, than the Bag of Holding from the fine folks at ThinkGeek. Named for the famous D&D magic item, this bag features multiple compartments, a sturdy canvas body, and a size large enough to hold most 17-inch laptops. What gamer couldn’t find a use for this?
One ring to rule them all
Ever find yourself stumbling upon an impromptu game of D&D or some other tabletop RPG, and you don’t have your dice with you? Or maybe you’re just tired of carrying around all those dice? Don’t worry, as there is another way. Check out the dice rings from CritSuccess. As a gift, your friends might appreciate this one as it allows them to keep dice at their fingertips literally all the time.
To boldly go where no pizza has gone before
But maybe your friends aren’t all gamers. What to do then? Could some of them be Star Trek fans? If so, ThinkGeek strikes again with another great gift idea. This time it’s the Star Trek Enterprise Pizza Cutter. Yes, you read those words correctly, “The Star Trek Enterprise Pizza Cutter.” And guess what? There’s an NCC-1701 cutter for fans of the classic series, and an NCC-1701-D cutter for everybody else. And if you don’t know the difference, your Star Trek pals can explain it to you.
You don’t know the power of the chopstick
Some of your friends might be Star Wars fans, so what better to get them than Light Saber chopsticks that actually light up? Even if your pals don’t like to eat with these chopsticks, the chopsticks can make a great novelty item. These chopsticks come in a variety of colors, so pick out your favorites or the favorites of your gift receiver. Now get out there and save the universe. With chopsticks.
For love of chocolate
Let’s get away from food items for a moment. Okay, maybe not. Well, sort of. Kind of. Not exactly food, but definitely food related, there is the Hershey’s Collection of candles from Hanna’s Candle Company. Here you’ll find not only candles, but aroma beads and scented waxes that smell like not only Hershey’s chocolate, but Twizzlers, Whoppers, York Peppermint Patties, and Almond Joy, as well as other scents. And if you have to wonder why these candles are appropriate for nerds and gamers, then you’ve obviously not sat around a gaming table loaded down with snacks of all kinds. If you want your friends to skip the calories while still enjoying some familiar snack smells with their dice rolling, these candles could be just the ticket.
Just roll with it
The folks over at ThinkGeek have done it again. Yes, they provide yet another fine product for the role-playing gamer in all of us. This time I’m talking about the Critical Hit D20 Rug. Yes, it’s a rug shaped like a D20, and it always rolls a 20! Perfect for any gaming room or just about anyplace to fill a spot on the floor with a warm rug, the Critical Hit D20 Rug measures 43 inches by 38 inches.
Okay. There we have it. Some gifting suggestions for 2016. If you have some suggestions of your own, feel free to recommend them in the comments.
Until next shopping season, Stay Nerdy!
2016 Nerdy gift suggestions for the holidays
Considering for decades Dungeons & Dragons has been the most recognizable name of all tabletop role-playing games, and considering the popularity of Fifth Edition D&D, it might seem the game itself needs no defending. However, from time to time I have noticed online forums with various concerns or complaints raised against the game.
The most common complaint I’ve read is that in Fifth Edition a player cannot make the type of character he or she wants, that more rules are needed in order for there to be more character diversity, that currently only similar, cookie-cutter characters can be created because of the limited number of classes and rules.
I understand. I disagree, but I understand. Continue reading In defense of Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons and its streamlined approach
Few words raise the ire of long-time Dungeons & Dragons aficionados more than “Tomb of Horrors.” The words “Fourth edition” come to mind, but that’s fairly recent and probably somewhat unfair as that version of D&D does have its loyalists.
Tomb of Horrors got its start as a gaming adventure back in 1975 when Gary Gygax decided to create a truly deadly and terrifying tournament session for the very first Origins gaming convention. Then later in 1978, Tomb of Horrors was released as a gaming module for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.
That first module featured a monochrome color scheme of a light magenta hue as well as cover artwork by David C. Sutherland III of a mummy-like monster rising up with its arms waving in spooky fashion while a grinning gargoyle and bird-like beastie looked on.
Tomb of Horrors instantly became a classic. D&D gamers either loved it or hated it. Why? In the immortal words of Joseph Conrad’s Kurtz in the novel Heart of Darkness, “The horror. The horror.”
Immediately, Tomb of Horrors was known as the deadliest, most difficult D&D gaming module to exist. Many players and Dungeon Masters still to this day believe it so. Noticeably, over the decades this adventure has made many an article’s list of top or best gaming modules, D&D or otherwise.
And why not?
There are traps without savings throws that slay instantly, misdirections all over the place, teleportations to doomsville, a handful of cheating beasties, and a boss that is practically indestructible. Just opening the front door could easily wipe out an entire party. And all that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Imagine, this death and destruction falls within a map that takes up only one page. One! And though this adventure is allegedly built for character levels of 10 to 14, it would be a challenge for characters of even a higher level. A Wish spell, even, doesn’t do you much good when some monsters always strike first and simply walking into a room can get you teleported (naked without any of your gear, no less) into instant death.
See why some people love this module and others hate it? Tomb of Horrors has been called a “character killer” by more than one disgruntled gamer, and sometimes by a gleeful one.
But Tomb of Horrors didn’t end with 1978’s edition. No, siree. In 1981, TSR Hobbies Inc. (then the publisher of all things D&D) released the module again, this time with full color on the outside cover, though much of the inside matter was the same as the 1978 version.
For this article I broke out my copy of the Tomb of Horrors, which is the 1981 edition, and I was surprised just how small it is. The actual adventure is only 12 pages, but there is an additional booklet of illustrations which is 20 pages, with the actual map being on the inside of the back cover. Compared to the heavy hardback gaming modules of today, this thing is miniscule, yet it packs a lot of punch.
Still, 1981’s edition was not the last time Tomb of Horrors would rear its head.
In 1987, the module appeared along with three others in the AD&D collection titled Realms of Horror. I had this at one time, and I have to admit it was quite handy to have four famous modules all in one publication. Those modules were Tomb of Horrors, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, White Plume Mountain, and The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.
In 1998, Second Edition AD&D finally got into the swing of things when Return to the Tomb of Horrors was released. This was actually a boxed set and a sequel to the original Tomb of Horrors, expanding upon the story and the main villain, basically creating enough material for a full campaign.
2002 brought around a Tomb of Horrors novel, written by Keith Francis Strohm, and 2005 hosted a Halloween treat from Wizards of the Coast of a free pdf that was the Tomb of Horrors reworked for D&D 3.5 rules.
Fourth Edition D&D was not left out in 2010 as Ari Marmell and Scott Fitzgerald Gray penned for Wizards of the Coast a hardback adventure titled Tomb of Horrors which included some of the original’s material plus expanded material based on the 1998 boxed set. That same year, Gray also penned a new version of Tomb of Horrors updated for Fourth Edition.
Most recently, in 2013, the Tomb of Horrors was kept alive when it was released in a hardcover titled Dungeons of Dread, again with Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, White Plume Mountain, and The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.
So, it seems the Tomb of Horrors just won’t die. Every few years a reprint or new version pops up. This longevity alone should be enough to prove the importance of the module to the D&D game, but even if it didn’t, there are plenty of articles and blogs and social media postings which keep bringing it up.
Again, some players love it, some hate it, but whatever your opinion, Tomb of Horrors doesn’t seem to be going away.
I have never had the pleasure to actually play a character in the module, but back in the ’80s I did get to steer a party through the Tomb of Horrors as Dungeon Master. Pretty much every room wiped out the party, but I always let them start over, not out of sympathy but more for the sake of curiosity. Eventually the group did make it to the big, bad guy, but they couldn’t vanquish him after multiple attempts.
If you decide to delve into this most fiendish of adventurers, try to do so with a smile, and Stay Nerdy!
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Blast from the Past: Dungeons & Dragons Tomb of Horrors
Recently I’ve run across two situations as a Dungeon Master which I believe are worth sharing with a wider audience. First, one of my players came to me concerned he had not played his character’s personality correctly during a recent Dungeons & Dragons gaming session. Second, a player in a different campaign (one in which I play and am not game master) came to me worried his character had done something out of character.
Obviously, these are similar situations. Also, I’ll add that both these players are relatively new to tabletop role-playing games, each having been gaming for less than a year, though both are experienced enough to know the rules quite well.
My responses in both situations were pretty much the same: Don’t worry about it. It’s your character and they can act however you want them to. Besides, I as a player or DM didn’t notice any wide variations from character type. Nobody suddenly turned into a murder hobo or started acting like a lunatic, nothing like that.
However, upon thinking further about these recent happenings, it occurred to me maybe other players need to hear the same thing, especially newer players.
Here it is: You don’t always have to play your character the same way. Don’t allow alignments or backgrounds or personality listings limit your characters’ responses, capabilities, their reactions, etc.
We have moods, and characters could, too. Maybe your Fighter isn’t a morning person and grumbles through his day until about noon. Or maybe your Monk is grumpy between meals. Or your Sorcerer hates cats and becomes nasty at the sight of them. Anything is possible.
Sure, you generally don’t want a character to have wild mood swings all the time, but under the right circumstances they might very well do so for a short period. Or they might act differently at a given time simply because they are having an off day. It happens.
Events change people. Other people change people. Alcohol and medicine can definitely change a person. Heck, sometimes something as seemingly innocuous as the weather or time of day can change a person. More than once I’ve woken up feeling like a grizzly bear because my sinuses are seriously bothering me and causing pain.
Change can create drama. Change can create conflict. It can be fun.
If a character never changes, they can become quite boring.
I’m not necessarily talking about a story arc, a long term mental or emotional development in a character, though that can be part of it. I’m talking about day-to-day change, or session to session, sometimes even within a single session.
Alignments and other background material shouldn’t be used to limit a character, but should be used as a guide to help them grow. For example, if a Good character is suddenly put in a situation in which he or she is somehow forced to act in a non-Good manner, that should change the character, possibly short term but maybe longer, though it doesn’t mean they are no longer a Good character. It simply means they had a tough choice to make and whatever they decided, it can bring about emotional, mental and possibly spiritual adjustment.
Another example would be an Evil character acting Good. Just because a being happens to be Evil, that doesn’t mean they don’t have friends or that they don’t have a soft spot or two. James Bond’s nemesis Blofeld had a cat, for instance. Dexter had a son and a sister whom he loved. Even an Evil person can act Good under the right circumstances.
Lawful characters might act silly from time to time, and maybe Chaotic characters will sometimes act more dignified. Neutral characters could possibly swing all over the board emotionally.
A character’s background information should affect the character, but it should not control them. It’s really up to the player how far these boundaries can be pushed, though the DM can offer some words of advice.
On the flip side of this, players should not use the possibility of change to allow their characters to do absolutely anything at any time, to act completely against type. Alignments and such should still be a guide, though a broad guide.
A slip here and there is no big deal. As I’ve said, everyone has an off day from time to time. If a player has a character who looks inward and finds he or she is not living up to their own ideals, then it is up to that player to guide the character in making changes. The game master should only become involved if their advice is sought or if a player is acting disruptively at the gaming table.
Now get out there and game, and Stay Nerdy!
If you’re not familiar with the Al Swearengen character, then you must not have watched much, if any, of the HBO western drama Deadwood which ran for three seasons some years back. In a show known for its coarse language, Al Swearengen as portrayed by Ian McShane, was the coarsest of the coarse. In other words, Al is pretty hard to forget, and despite his dark ways, many who come to know him also love him.
Something of an underworld boss and a political shaker and mover in the town of Deadwood, Swearengen is known as a knife fighter, though he is more brawler and assassin than a trained combatant. Often he leaves the dirty work to hirelings, but from time to time he does seem to get a weird melancholy glee out of slitting throats himself.
Recently I was behind the wheel of a car again for hours upon hours and I had to have something to think about. So, in keeping with the past when I D&Dized Forrest Gump, my mind turned this time to D&Dizing Al Swearengen.
First, his stats, then some explanations.
Al Swearengen — D&D style
Human (variant) Barbarian 2 /Rogue (Assassin) 4
Alignment: Neutral Evil
Strength – 14 (+2)
Dexterity – 13 (+1)
Constitution – 18 (+4)
Intelligence – 12 (+1)
Wisdom – 16 (+3)
Charisma – 16 (+3)
Passive Perception: 21
Hit Points: 58
Armor Class: 15
Melee attack: +5
Ranged attack: +4
STR – +5
DEX – +1
CON – +7
INT – +1
WIS – +3
CHA – +3
Deception – +6
Insight – +9
Intimidation – +9
Perception – +6
Persuasion – +6
Stealth – +4
Languages: Common, Cursing
Expertise (Intimidation and Deception)
First off, let me say that I’m pretty much ignoring the fact Al Swearengen probably knows how to use firearms, at least ones appropriate to his time period. However, even with the multitude of firearms available in Deadwood, Al sticks to using his knife for the most part, which we’ll equate to the dagger. If one wants, it would be no big deal to give him proficiency with firearms, maybe through a Feat or some such.
Second, I would like to point out that when it came to using his knife, Al seemed to operate in two different modes. More often he took the form of an assassin, killing an opponent from surprise with a simple stab to the chest or slice to the throat. But in a confrontational fight he became a brawler who appeared to have little concern for any damage he took as he long as he was dealing it out to his foe. This is why I gave him levels in rogue and barbarian, the first for his murderous skills and the second for his melee sensibilities.
Why Al Swearengen is a Barbarian
Some might argue that Al is a Fighter instead of a Barbarian, but he does not seem to have the trained capabilities of a Fighter, nor does he have the survival skills of a Ranger, and he is most definitely not a Paladin. No, Barbarian seems to fit best, in my opinion. He likely did not pick up his Barbarian abilities from any time spent in wilderness territory, but more than likely gained them from a hard life on the streets of Chicago, where an arrest warrant for murder still awaits him. For those who think the Barbarian class isn’t appropriate to learn on city streets, I would suggest then a re-skinning of the class, or perhaps Al gained such capabilities before arriving in America, as he is obviously British in origin.
About his levels, I couldn’t quite see Al with the Frenzy ability of the Berserker and definitely not those of the Totem Warrior, though the capabilities of a lower-level Barbarian seem more than appropriate, so two levels of Barbarian. Four levels of Rouge is enough to garner him the Assassinate ability, definitely a must, as well as allowing for plenty of extra talents at knife fighting and killing, plus there’s the benefit of a Feat.
Concerning his background, despite the overlap with his Rogue abilities, Criminal seemed to fit as the show did include some mention of earlier legal troubles in the East which Swearengen had apparently fled.
Alignment might be a bit of a stickler, as I could see many who love this character want him to be neutral at heart, though I don’t believe they could argue well that he is possibly good. It is true Swearengen has a soft spot for certain individuals, and he does have friendships and seems to truly like certain people, but who is to say an evil person couldn’t have those inclinations? To my thinking, someone who is more than willing to blindside a non-combative opponent with a cut to the throat, then feed that victim to the pigs, that someone has entered evil territory. And just because Al is evil doesn’t mean he is all bad. Concerning the other aspects of his alignment, I believe Swearengen would here fall into the neutral territory as he is definitely self serving but does seem to follow something of an unwritten code, mixing a little chaos with law.
Now onto his stats.
Al Swearengen is obviously fairly sturdy, him and his partner Dan having built the Gem saloon with their own hands, after all, but he’s getting along in years and probably isn’t as strong as he used to be. Plus, though he’s got a little bulk, he’s by no means a hulking brute. Thus, I felt a 14 Strength appropriate, with his Barbarian abilities giving him a little boost when needed.
As for Dexterity, Al can move a little when he has to, but he’s not going to be doing any gymnastics, so a 12 seemed appropriate; he might be a knife fighter, but he isn’t a finesse fighter, depending upon his Strength for attacks. A Constitution of 18 might seem high to some people, but keep in mind this guy can drink just about anyone under the table, and in the TV show he survives a serious illness which would have killed lesser individuals of the time period. An Intelligence of 12 shows some smarts but without being overly brainy, and a Wisdom and Charisma of 16 show where Swearengen often truly shines, in his verbal words of wisdom, as coarse as they might be.
When it comes to Feats, the Tavern Brawler seems a natural. I also gave him Observant because when I think of Al, I think of him atop his balcony outside the front of the Gem saloon, his eyes always watching the comings and goings of the town of Deadwood.
As for his skills and other abilities, I believe anyone familiar with the Swearengen character will have to admit Al probably has those talents. Though a knife fighter and brawler at heart, more often he depends upon his skills to read others and situations, plus his gift of gab, to get his way in any situation.
There you have it, the D&Dized Al Swearengen. If your campaign includes lots of swearing, you couldn’t ask for a more interesting character. If not … well, still Stay Nerdy!