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Gnomalicious Gname Mastering Gnoodlings

It’s really too bad I couldn’t think of a synonym for “mastering” that started with an N, isn’t it?

Gnome Rodeos are our regular link roundups. Provided everyone doesn’t simultaneously stop talking about GMing for a week, you should see one most Fridays.

GMing Regulars

Dungeon Mastering [1]: DMing.com celebrates its first birthday [2]! Yax’s site remains one of my favorite RPG blogs, and comes highly recommended. From this week, try this: What if you were only going to GM one more gaming session, ever? [3]

Musings of the Chatty DM [4]: Chatty opens the floodgates by asking gamers to tell him about their dice fetishes [5]. Man, we’re a weird bunch — and I love that about us. He also hit a vein with his take on the tyranny of fun [6], and I couldn’t agree more: what a pile of horseshit. (And So you wanna write a RPG Blog? Part 1: Why? [7] is right on — if you’ve thought about starting your own RPG blog, give it a read.)

Roleplaying Tips [8]: Issue 409 is all about creating atmosphere [9], and I love the suggestion about dice.

GMing All Over the Place

Amagi Games [10]: This is my favorite Gambit yet: Households [11]. I’ve always wanted to try a home base-driven campaign, especially a fantasy one, and drilling down to this level of roleplaying-rich detail for a game like that sounds like a lot of fun. (The Attention of the Gods [12] also looks good.)

Ander00’s D&D 4e power cards [13]: I found these via The Gamer Dome [14], and you can download them directly in PDF form [15]. They’re freaking awesome. Not only do they fit the feel of 4e, but they pack everything you need into an attractive package and improve it by giving you boxes to note adjusted totals and including little details like icons for melee/ranged and action type. I took a tremendous amount of geeky pleasure in cutting out sets of these for the guys in my group, and they work really well. They’ll keep your players organized and make the game more fun.

Pen and Paper Portal [16]: Bad news: P&PP’s Premade Campaigns series is winding down. Good news: There are loads of them to enjoy [17].

Wizards of the Coast [18]: Thanks to Critical Hits [19] for this heads-up: The first round of 4th Edition errata is available [20]. On the one hand: Ugh, errata, bleh — but on the other hand, at least they’re pretty prompt about publishing it. Bankuei [21] says skill challenges got a monster overhaul, but the PDF won’t load for me right now. Anyone want to weigh in on this?

In unrelated news, Wanted is a) very good and b) will make you want to run or play an action game. It’s incredibly over the top in the best way.

12 Comments (Open | Close)

12 Comments To "Gnomalicious Gname Mastering Gnoodlings"

#1 Comment By koranes On July 18, 2008 @ 2:09 am

I really like your link-rodeos!!! keep up the good work!

#2 Comment By Bartoneus On July 18, 2008 @ 5:44 am

I still really want to see Wanted (haha), but I’m on only 2 hours of sleep because we went to see a midnight showing of Dark Knight last night which is an absolutely amazing movie. Disturbing, but you have to go see it!

#3 Comment By Adam Nave On July 18, 2008 @ 7:16 am

There are some more power cards available from the EN Wiki, as well as instructions on how to make your own. See the “Templates” section, since most folks keep the pre-made cards with their templates.


#4 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On July 18, 2008 @ 8:24 am

4E Skill Challenges were brokety-broke-broke, and desperately needed an overhaul. The overhaul looks good (no initiative order, characters aren’t required to participate, all DCs are dropped by 5, etc), but we haven’t playtested it yet…

#5 Comment By Patrick Benson On July 18, 2008 @ 8:40 am

Chatty’s post was excellent!

#6 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On July 18, 2008 @ 11:42 am

Agreed re: Chatty’s “Tyranny of Fun” rant.

I am really tired of the pseudo-intellectual overanalysis of games and mechanics, often by people who don’t even play the game. Before it was launched, I read that 4E was going to be everything from the Holy Grail of Gaming to a [23]. You’d think that this kind of worship/vitriol would have stopped once people actually played the damned game.

I know we’re geeks, but for the love of all that is holy, stop perpetuating the stereotype of gamers as argumentative overthinkers.

#7 Comment By Alan De Smet On July 18, 2008 @ 3:03 pm

The errata did overhaul the skill challenges. To crudely (and slightly inaccurately) summarize: all DCs dropped by 10 (5 if you weren’t using the footnote on the DC table that said +5 for skill checks). The number of failures for success is now always 3 for all complexities.

The steep slope of failure is shallower, but still problematically steep. And now instead of insanely hard as written, it’s insanely easy. For the arguably common case, you simply can’t fail at most levels.

It’s entire possible that it’s not broken, just poorly described. The errata is a very mechanical “change this number to this number.” We have never gotten a design overview from them that would help explain what they’re thinking. Such an overview would massively help. Indeed, I suspect the original system wasn’t broken for WotC because when they played the game, they drifted the system is small ways that didn’t get noted in the manual. Something as simple as “good ideas almost always earned +2 circumstance bonus” radically changed the results.

Ultimately the new system still has radical spikes in failure rates for relatively small modifiers, especially if you’re shooting for success rates in the 50-80% range.

My full analysis of both the old and new system, chock full of numbers: [24]

#8 Comment By Martin Ralya On July 18, 2008 @ 3:34 pm

@Alan: Welcome to next week’s Rodeo lineup, Alan — that’s awesome.

#9 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On July 18, 2008 @ 10:01 pm

Nice work, Alan. I think a critical element of the Skill Challenge is that losing one does not end the game. Therefore the 95% success rate seems unnecessary, and I think we can assume lower numbers…

I agree that it is a clusterf*ck (sorry, slipped into Army lingo there). I don’t know what WotC was aiming for, but instinct tells me to go for a sliding success rate of 75% at CD 1 to about 25% at CD 5. Per your table, that’s roughly where the DC is about 6 points higher than the skill modifier, or a character with a +9 Diplomacy trying to negotiate a DC15 issue. Given that a +9 modifier is possible for a first level “primary skill”, and DC15 is “hard, but possible” at first level, that actually sounds about right. I haven’t seen higher level characters, so I have no idea how that relationship scales.

Whew. Did I say, “Nice work”?

#10 Comment By Alan De Smet On July 19, 2008 @ 12:12 am

One of the many problems is that we have no idea what WotC expects. The DMG does emphasize ensuring that the story continues even on failure, which might indicate desired failure rates as high as 50%. Or maybe it’s more like fights, where you almost always win, suggesting 90% or so. In my interpretation, higher complexities (longer challenges) shouldn’t be harder or easier. If you want to fiddle with the difficulty, fiddle with the DCs (and indeed, the version 2 update suggests just this). But maybe they do intend difficulty to go up as challenge length increases. We have no idea.

I’m also uncomfortable with the rapid jumps in the odds when you’re in the 70ish percent range; the area I’d consider the sweet spot. A single point of difference can jump your chances 20% either way. It seems like if you’re in the sweet spot (wherever that is) you should have a few points of slop where the odd change, but not so radically. Unfortunately the very nature of having so many rolls tends to cause clumping.

Analyzing Stalker0’s two replacement systems
( [25]
[26] ) is next on my list. He approached the problem with very similar goals to me, and I’m interested in seeing if his rules work for me.

(Another goal is trying to make the page clearer. It’s jargon-o-riffic, doubly so since I invented some of the jargon. 🙂

#11 Pingback By Underholdningens tyranni « Stemmen fra ådalen On July 19, 2008 @ 6:34 am

[…] Tyranny of Fun – replik fra Chatty, som er imod – og som reflekterer over diskussionen på hans blog. Dele af diskussionen gled over til dette indlæg. […]

#12 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On July 19, 2008 @ 10:23 am

Well, knowing what you show on your analysis, a decent GM can cherry-pick the probability he’s looking for (just a decent GM can adjust an encounter to fit the level of difficulty he’s looking for). At some level, it really doesn’t matter what WotC wants, just what the GM wants.

There, that more explicitly states why I appreciate the analysis. It lets me set DCs based on how difficult I want the challenge to be, without re-writing the system.

#13 Comment By Patrick Benson On July 19, 2008 @ 5:42 pm

I remember some video postings and interviews of the designers of 4e. They repeatedly stated or suggested that the game was being designed around a 60% success rate as that seems to be the sweet spot for a game to be challenging to most players without becoming to easy. I don’t know if this was their goal for just combat or for all aspects of the game though. I’m using it as a general rule of thumb for encounter/challenge designing.

Excellent analysis of the system Alan De Smet. It is very helpful for us number crunching types.