Wednesday, October 4, 2017

GM 101: Basics of Stealth and Hiding in D&D

Dragon Magazine #88 cover by Jim Holloway
Why is stealth so hard in D&D?

Based on recent social media chatter, it appears GM’s have some confusion when adjudicating stealth and hiding, and players believe their Rogue skills give them Advantage more than the rules as written would suggest. A re-review of the rules as written with a few examples should help.

To break this down a bit, let’s start with the rules as stated in the SRD 5.0 (bold emphasis added).
___________

Stealth

Make a Dexterity (Stealth) check when you attempt to conceal yourself from enemies, slink past guards, slip away without being noticed, or sneak up on someone without being seen or heard.

Hiding

The GM decides when circumstances are appropriate for hiding. When you try to hide, make a Dexterity (Stealth) check. Until you are discovered or you stop hiding, that check’s total is contested by the Wisdom (Perception) check of any creature that actively searches for signs of your presence.

You can’t hide from a creature that can see you clearly, and you give away your position if you make noise, such as shouting a warning or knocking over a vase. An invisible creature can always try to hide. Signs of its passage might still be noticed, and it does have to stay quiet.

In combat, most creatures stay alert for signs of danger all around, so if you come out of hiding and approach a creature, it usually sees you. However, under certain circumstances, the GM might allow you to stay hidden as you approach a creature that is distracted, allowing you to gain advantage on an attack roll before you are seen.

Passive Perception

When you hide, there’s a chance someone will notice you even if they aren’t searching. To determine whether such a creature notices you, the GM compares your Dexterity (Stealth) check with that creature’s passive Wisdom (Perception) score.
__________

So there are a few things that are implied by the above rules that could be stated more clearly, or at least clarified with examples.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Raging Owlbear interviews Frank Mentzer

Source: Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
This past week I was delighted to welcome Frank Mentzer as a guest in my first video chat. I hope to do more of these with other industry folks in the future, but that's for another day. Forgive my rough style, as I don't usually do interviews, but this opportunity was one I just could not let pass by.

In the chat, we talk extensively about Worlds of Empyrea, his new game setting coming to Kickstarter on October 2nd, as well as anecdotes about his life before, during and after TSR Inc in the early 1980's.

Full disclosure: I did not ask for, nor was I offered, any compensation for this interview. It was my absolute pleasure to talk with Frank as a fellow gamer and fan, and I would be pleased to chat with him again at a future date. I hope I don't come off as too fan-boyish, but I found him to be extraordinarily open and friendly.

Highlights


A couple weeks ago, Frank's website leaked several names on the Worlds of Empyrea project which are mostly unconfirmed (as of this writing) such as Janelle Jaquays, Clyde Caldwell, Jeff Dee, David "Diesel" LaForce, Larry Elmore, and Erol Otus.

Box contents will include perfect bound books, maps and an introductory adventure. Jeff Easley planned as designer of the box covers. Pre-generated characters in small brown character folios reminiscent of OD&D box set.

13:25 Hoping to release Worlds of Empyea in game system specific box sets -- RuneQuest, Savage Worlds, D&D 5e, AD&D, BECMI, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Pathfinder, and Swords & Wizardry all hinted. Chaosium and Pinnacle Entertainment were specifically noted in the discussions, and RuneQuest is one of Frank's favorite game systems. (Hints also at sci-fi toward the end).

15:10 / 23:04 Darlene (World of Greyhawk) confirmed as art direction and cartography. Alyssa Faden (Dragon Kings, Bethorm) also confirmed for cartography and game maps. Hints at an "Anna" which very well could be [unconfirmed] Anna B Meyer (Midgard game setting).

52:00 Looking to release Empyrea box set for Gen Con 2018 and more details about the box content.

Frank also dropped two exciting names off the record which I cannot reveal, but suffice it to say, D&D fans will be thrilled what these folks will bring to the realm.



Video Index:
00:00 Introduction
00:50 Empyrea - TSR/RPGA origins
03:16 Contrasts between Gary's Greyhawk game and Frank's Empyrea campaign in the 80's
05:48 Distinction between I12 intellectual property and Frank's new setting
07:52 Reminiscing about early internet chat room play
09:18 How is the content for Worlds of Empyrea being developed?
10:11 Eldritch Enterprises side bar
11:25 Talking about the setting format for Worlds of Empyrea
13:25 Intent to releaseWorlds of Empyrea for multiple game systems -- RuneQuest, Savage Worlds, D&D 5e, AD&D, BECMI, Dungeon Crawl Classics, and Swords &Wizardry...
15:10 Darlene as the Art Director and doing the large maps, and other well known TSR names adding art and other content. Roughly 35 contributors developing content of some variety.
17:57 Community crowd sourcing setting content as a future project
19:53 Future project to develop a global non-profit gaming database allowing gamers to connect, game together and share community ideas/content.
22:30 RPG Creators Relief Fund - http://www.rcrfcharity.org/
23:04 Darlene and Alyssa Faden contributing to cartography and game maps... Hints at an "Anna" which very well could be Anna B Meyer (unconfirmed).
25:14 Box set content: Maps and perfect bound books, full color bleed. Aiming for top quality contents and product design like you would find from one of the larger game companies. Jeff Easley planned to design box cover. Liz Danforth (Tunnels & Trolls) invited to contribute production efforts or artwork? [unclear]. Character folios reminiscent of OD&D brown books.
29:52 Discussions with Chaosium on a RuneQuest-specific version of the Empyrea box set
31:04 Talking about the history of TSR and breaking into a job during the early days
34:04 Getting the Basic / Expert set project
36:45 Legacy and importance of the RPG design community
41:40 Development of Basic and Export into BECMI
46:20 Life after TSR
48:33 Coming back into game publishing
52:00 Empyrea Kickstarter details
54:07 Genre variants for Empyrea to match the theme of the different game systems, including sci-fiction or space opera.
58:00 Frank's play style

Friday, September 22, 2017

D&D in 3D (printing)

Mixing existing OpenLOCK and OpenForge tiles,
I modified some arched corners for my dungeon.
You may have read in an earlier post that I funneled some funds that might have been spent on other terrain into a new 3D printer. It was a bit daunting, because there seemed to be a lot to learn just to get started, but I found an excellent entry-level printer, the Monoprice Select Mini V2, for around $250 (including the first spool of filament). [PS - Don't buy one off Amazon, they still only have V1's. Go direct to the Monoprice web site].

First Impressions


First, I must say the MP Mini is an amazing entry level 3D printer. The build area is a 120 mm cube, or just shy of 5 inches along the X, Y and Z axis. Note, this does mean some models may be a bit large to print without breaking them into pieces, but printers with a 6’ x 6’ build area are more than I was prepared to spend and I was ok with compromise on this one point. If you do have a little more to spend, consider one with a slightly larger build area.

The Mini V2 comes pre-configured out of the box. Sometimes a little plate-leveling is required, but there are a few YouTube videos to assist the learning curve on this. I had a small struggle getting it just right, but all in all, it wasn’t a major issue and the Facebook communities were a huge help. I selected PLA filament, which is better than ABS for my purposes (and no poison fumes), and I was off to the races!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Chronicles Kickstarter

There’s a new Kickstarter on the block!  (Well, that’s pretty much true every week… but this one piques my interest)

UPDATE 09/15/17: Unfortunately, Chronicles looked like it was not going to fund, so the designers have decided to cancel and review how they might revamp the product. I wish them the best of luck!

Chronicles: The Game

I was lucky enough to meet the guys from Happy Gorilla at 1D4 Con in West Virginia, and I got to try Chronicles out in a demo skirmish. Chronicles: The Game takes the traditional war game niche (like 40K, Warmachine, Hordes, Malifaux, etc) and aims to make the genre more accessible to the board gaming fans (Blood Rage, Conan, Rising Sun, etc).

Full disclosure: I am not a war gamer. I enjoy the occasional casual game of X-Wing and Imperial Assault, but I don’t play heavy miniature war games like 40K, Hordes, Warmachine or their like. Also, while I have met Happy Gorilla guys at a con, I have no other ties, personal or business, with them.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

D&D Beyond: Impressions, Pricing, and Licensing

Just in the past couple weeks, Curse officially launched D&D Beyond and published all of the pricing arrangements for the service. This is not a full review, but just a few impressions on the tool, the pricing and Wizard's content licensing.

First, the Good


As a product, D&D Beyond is slick. The interface is reasonably easy to pick up (the search features could use some minor improvements for usability, but that's mostly nit-picking). All in all, it’s a well polished reference engine. 

All of the content from the SRD and adventure supplement PDFs (as published on the Wizards.com web site) are also included for free. For instance, Snilloc’s Snowball Swarm and other spells from the Princes of the Apocalypse player PDF is included in the free tier. As a player, you also get 6 unlocked character slots for free.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Missing Gen Con (again)

This is me not packing for Gen Con 50.
I am extraordinarily bummed I’m not to be going to Gen Con this year. Due to the 50th Anniversary, everybody is going to be there… and I mean every body. If a designer or artist once worked in RPGs or board games, chances are quite high they will be at Gen Con 50.

It will be an amazing opportunity to get your stuff signed by almost anyone you can think of. Tim Kask, Frank Mentzer, Tom Wham (possibly?), Jeff Grubb, Larry Elmore, Tracy Hickman, Margaret Weis, Darlene, Luke & Ernie Gygax, Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Ryan Dancey, Peter Adkison, Steve Jackson, Davis Chenault, Jolly Blackburn, Chris Perkins, Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford… just about anyone old school or new school is going to be around if you can hunt them down for a chat and a selfie. If Gary Gygax or Dave Arneson were to rise from the dead like Lazarus, I'm pretty sure you'd see them there.

Monday, August 7, 2017

D&D: Breaking My Dwarven Forge Addiction

My intrepid PCs invading the Caves of Chaos.
I confess I have an addiction to Dwarven Forge.

Years ago, I’d see their resin dungeon sets at conventions or online and always thought “Wow. Those would be so amazing to own and use in play.” Then in 2013, they kickstarted a light, durable plastic version of their Dungeon tiles and I was immediately sold. It was the first product I pledged on Kickstarter. I unhesitatingly pledged two unpainted sets for the amazingly low price of $120. I later regretted not buying painted sets, as I have still not finished painting all my tiles… but I still love the tiles.

In 2014, they introduced the Caverns and I promptly signed up for 2 painted sets at $220 (not going to make the unpainted mistake again). In 2015, I pledge the city builder, but at $250+, could only afford to buy enough for a few small houses and a bridge. In 2016, my Castle Builder pledge was another $200+, but that really only got me a few extra City Builder pieces, another bridge and some terrain bits. I couldn’t really afford any of the actual castles. The pledge amounts were getting higher, but the sets I could afford were getting smaller.

In 2017, Dwarven Forge kickstarted a new set of Dungeon tiles that solved a lot of the issues I’ve had in play with my own DF pieces. You could purchase base trays to pre-set rooms to easily move on and off the table. They added more magnetized parts to hold things together. They introduced large-size elevation boxes to allow easy creation of elevated terrain. They added all kinds of awesome bit and parts to make encounter areas just drip with detail and theme.
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