The boxer carefully parried the first punch out of the way and sized up his opponent. Just when another jab came toward his face, he deftly stepped out of the way and followed up with a huge haymaker.

It was easy to dismiss her petite frame and blindness as weaknesses, but combined with her short staff and her training, even the dragon’s bite found only the dirt under her feet. Her stance was strong, her reflexes fast, and her hands moved like water.

His hits weren’t hard, at least at first. His movements weren’t fast, at least at first. He didn’t look strong, at least at first. His opponents were powerful, at least at first.

She knew the honor she was undertaking. She had gone out into the wilds and found a great dire bear and brought it down with only her hands, and a little bit of her head. She had been given the graven axes of her fathers, and their fathers. She could feel the rage welling up inside as she accepted the mantle of Berserker. Read the rest of this entry »

The young elf moves silently, quickly through the Lord’s house. She picks her away around the guards, avoids setting off the Nightingale Floor, and arrives at her destination – the Lord’s treasury. So she kneels down, pulls out her simple tools, and begins to work.

They would never recognize him. As a master spy and confidant to the Prince, he was an expert in disguises. Now, though, with the Empress deposed and the Prince in exile, he needed all of his skills to blend in and find out what had happened.

He always had to fend for himself, ever since the humans came in and killed his parents. He wasn’t the fastest orc, or the smartest, but he was tough and he was good with his fingers. He picked pockets to feed himself and, occasionally, he roughed it out with those who caught him. Hasn’t lost a fight once, but he also doesn’t fight fair.

She cleaned her dagger on the jerkin of the merchant who had refused the Guild’s protection. It’s far too bad that the Merchant’s guild had decided he was worth sacrificing for their petty games. No matter, though – it was simple for her, a single thrust, right between the ribs on his back. No sound, no muss, no fuss.

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A samurai plucks arrows from her quiver and looses them toward an enemy before her, peppering the vicious ogre before dropping from her horse, drawing her sword, and moving in for the kill.

Fighting for his life, the gladiator bashes the first swarming goblin with his shield then throws the shield at the next. His sword cleaves a third goblin as he picks up one of their crude spears and uses it to old the mass back as he figures out his next move.

Plumes of smoke erupt from the guns of the small band of musketeers, picking off the flanks of the advancing force of armored knights. They keep in formation, shooting and falling back, until finally the knights number less than they and their swords leap into their hands for the final struggle.

All of these are fighters. Each and every one of them. They all stem from a single, pure ideal. A fantasy of the warrior who is an expert in all forms of warfare and combat. In Dungeons and Dragons, we call that warrior The Fighter.

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To continue discussing the importance of the fantasy in D&D’s design, I’m going to focus on the classes and their impact both in the game and the world the game exists in. Part of the joy and draw of roleplaying games, especially pen and paper roleplaying games, is the theoretical depth of the world they exist in. There’s a living, breathing world behind the heroes’ actions. Since there is a living, breathing world, though, there has to be a place for the heroes’ skills, abilities, and histories in that world. They cannot be entirely divorced from the capabilities of the people around them, and they must represent their power in the story in the mechanics of the game (as the mechanics represent the “physics” of a world, in a way).

Unfortunately, Dungeons and Dragons has always failed on this measure in one way or another. Fifth Edition represents the biggest failure in this fashion.

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It’s time to shake off my cobwebs and get down to work again. Touche isn’t really going anywhere and I think I’ll talk about another project that’s a lot easier to analyze and dig into. Which is odd since it’s much, much more complicated.

See, I’ve been playing pen and paper RPGs since I was a child. I’ve always been emotionally invested in the opportunity to be someone else – a powerful wizard, a swashbuckling pirate, a fanatical defender of my people, a mad scientist, a humble priest. I’ve been drawn toward all sorts of gaming systems over the years, from the AD&D I started with to the classic World of Darkness that got me into online communities to the new wave of story-oriented systems like FATE and Dungeon World.

Dungeons and Dragons, though, will probably always be special. Besides being my first taste at fantasy roleplaying, it also forms the basis of several of the video games many people love – Icewind Dale, Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Neverwinter, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, The Temple of Elemental Evil, Eye of the Beholder…the list is long and has its own storied history.

I’ve kept up with the edition changes over the years, griping about the things I thought were a problem but mostly seeing the games move forward toward better play and a better understanding of the “D&D Fantasy”, the game’s own unique spin on the high fantasy of Tolkien and Morcock. That is, until 5th edition.

Fifth Edition D&D shoots itself in the foot, so I’m rewriting it.

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