Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lessons Learned in DMing: Items

Fair warning: The following post has an unhealthy level of nerd content. Read at your own risk.

I came into the hobby of DnD (and subsequently, any table top RPG) not so long ago, so it's been a major learning experience everytime I play. However, not all of that is just in the rules that you become more familiar with, but in the techniques you pick up on successfully playing the game.

Recently, it's become a bit of a problem how items have been distributed in my game. It seemed worthwhile, then to share what I've learned so far about actually giving out items in a game.
  • Who else can do it?
In most of these games, there's no such thing as a unique power. If you have an item that can do it, then most likely there is a character who can do the same thing. The key is to think about when that character could gain access to that power. If you give 1st level players an item that emulates a 20th level wizard spell, you've just given them something severely overpowered for their level.

Alternatively, most games include charts of how "wealthy" adventurers should be at certain levels of advancement. If you give them something far more valuable than they should have at that point, it's quite possible it's too powerful for them to have.
  • Shotgun vs. Machine Gun
Another thing to consider is the number of uses a player can get out of an item. Is it like a grenade, one use and it's gone? Or does it recharge everyday? How many charges do you get for a day? One? Twelve?

The frequency of encounters where the item might be used are critical in this. If you only need to fire a gun once a day, then your guys are probably only going to need one bullet a day; anymore than that, and you've probably given them more power than they can handle. On the other hand, if they're firing that gun five times a day, then one bullet is going to limit the usefulness of that gun, although its use could probably be much more dramatic at that point.
  • Does it have a downside?
One last thing to consider is the downside to the item you give your players. If it's really powerful, there has to be something to discourage them from using it frequently. If you give someone a flamethrower, you could counterbalance that by placing them in a gasoline refinery. Likelihood of use: Low. On the other hand, if you place them outside that gasoline refinery and give them the flamethrower, those chances just skyrocketed. As a side note: Players love to solve their problems with arson. It's far easier to just burn a building down than to actually worry about dealing with any of the people or traps inside. Try to minimize that.

If you play the games, I hope you found the post helpful. If you don't, well, I at least hope you haven't gone into dork overdose; you'll be hard-pressed to find an HMO that covers it.

Not Exactly Messianic Behavior

Huh, would you look at that . . . a news story that actually shows Obama to be something other than Christ's political comeback tour.

Too bad it's a British newspaper that's covering it. American outlets don't seem to interested.

Well, that's not entirely true. This business with Tony Rezko has been known for a few years now. That didn't keep Illinoisans from electing him to the US Senate (not that he had much competition for the spot).

Friday, February 22, 2008

Link Dump!

Does anybody remember those old Surge commercials? The title is supposed to sound like that.

Anyhow, I was supposed to be in Baltimore today, but we've had about 24 hours of sleet and ice pounding down on us, so I'm stranded here in SoIL. I've missed some legitimate (and not so legitimate) blogging the last few days/weeks, so I thought I'd just dump some links out on ya'll.
  • The Archbishop of Canterbury called for Sharia Lite in Britain. Most sane people wondered what religion he was working for. I'd thought about writing up a detailed rant about how stupid that truly is, but then I read Big Lizards' superb analysis, and I lost heart. Read the whole thing, Dafyyd is a truly excellent writer.

  • Mario Kart is finally coming to the Wii. All is right with the world.

  • Also, nothing gives you a good laugh like making fun of children and their crappy science fair projects. Good times . . . good times.
Everybody was making a big deal about Michelle Obama's comments that she was proud of America "for the first time in her[my] adult life." What fewer people noticed was some of the truly creepy rhetoric she was using in the rest of the speech:
Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.
Well, a Jim Geraghty noticed, although I think Ace's reaction is funnier. A lot of people are speculating that Obama's appeal is more a cult of personality than anything about his qualifications or policy positions. I'm starting to wonder if it isn't true.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Not dead, but not a zombie either

Heya folks. No, I didn't forget about this silly thing again. No, I didn't run out of things to whine blog about. No, I'm not dead.

As it turns out, the wireless adaptor on my desktop computer went kaput.

I'm writing this post from my laptop, so I'm not completely isolated from the webernets. Still, I just don't spend as much time at the computer when I have to use the laptop. I think it's a psychological thing.

In any case, I'll have a "regular" posting schedule again when I buy a new one. Whenever that is.

One other note I should make, this being one of the rare personal notes I toss out there: I'm going to be travelling a lot in the next few weeks, so I will either be absent quite a bit or I'll have loads of interesting things to talk about. I have grad school interviews (again). This weekend is SLU, next weekend is UM-Baltimore, and the following weekend is University of Cincinnati.

And I still have four schools to hear from yet.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Still in Stage One

So, John McCain is the Republican candidate for POTUS.

I suppose I could have a serious discussion about this, linking articles such as this one, and this one here.

On the other hand, perhaps I'm still enjoying these last few moments when I can be in denial, and would rather just post funny stuff. Like this.

Serious discussion after this weekend. Reality will catch up to me soon enough.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Great Firewall

Captain Ed takes note of some interest in China's internet censoring activities as relating to their upcoming Olympic games.

I've had mixed feelings about China hosting the games. I think it's despicable for the world to gather there and pretend like China isn't one of the worst abusers of human rights. Still, if the presence of so many outsiders allows some of those abuses to end, or even just the stories told, then perhaps it is worth it.

Any thoughts?

Friday, February 01, 2008

If it's McCain?

I've been having a lot of discussions about John McCain, either here on the blog or elsewhere in my life. I've made it abundantly clear that I do not want him as my nominee, preferring Mitt Romney. A question that seems to crop up is, "What will you do if he's the nominee, then?"

This is an interesting question for a lot of conservatives. Even Ann Coulter, firebrand Republican that she is, declared she'd campaign for Clinton before voting for McCain.

Dafyyd ab Hugh, proprietor of Big Lizards, makes the case for holding your nose and voting McCain if he's the nominee. Perhaps he is being more realistic than anyone else in approaching this. Perhaps he is thinking of the worst case scenario if Republicans should lose this fall. Take it as you will, but I highly recommend reading it.

A short excerpt? Okay:
If John McCain is nominated and loses, the next Republican nominee in 2012 will likely be more liberal, not less. There is no "great conservative hope" waiting in the wings to sweep to victory four years later, as in 1980 (or to sweep to catastrophic defeat four years later, as in 1964).

In the meantime, we'll have eight years of President Obama or President Hillary... in which so much of what we consider America is destroyed (politically or literally) that what is left is simply not a country we can imagine. If we think that there is no difference between McCain and either of those two bozos, then we have let passion make a fool of us.