Monthly Archives: June 2012

D&D Power Cards

There’s been a sudden demand online lately for my D&D 4e power cards for  Magic Set Editor. Here’s a sample from the deck of my wild mage, Shyui:

I can’t take all, or even most, of the credit for these. Ander00 on ENWorld originally created the MSE files, and another user whose name I have long since forgotten tweaked them a bit before I got a hold of them. So very little credit actually goes to me – especially since it’s been so long that I don’t even remember what changes I made.

We found them highly useful back when we still used stacks of power cards, so I hope you’ll find them useful too. Enjoy.

If you already know how to use MSE, you can skip the next two paragraphs.

This should be how you install any MSE style: Navigate to where you installed MSE and unzip the download into its Data folder.

To use just fire up MSE and click “New Set”. Under “Game Type” click “D&D” and then “Ander” under “Card Style”. Click Ok and you’re golden.

To choose between At-Will, Encounter, Daily, magic item, etc., click on the background and choose the appropriate color from the drop-down. Other sections also have drop-downs, everything else you just type in.  The icons (Standard, Ranged, etc.) are entered using hotkeys (found in ./D&D-Ander-symbol.mse-symbol-font/symbol-font if you want to change them); just click in the box and hit the letter you want:

Actions (Left-Hand Box):
s – Standard action (Gear)
o – Move action (Boot)
m – Minor action (Half the standard action gear)
f – Free (Circle)
r – Immediate reaction (“Stop” hand)*
I – Immediate interrupt (Lightning bolt)*
i – Immediate (Exclamation point. Not sure what this one is for unless it’s Opportunity Actions.)

* For some reason, I can only get I and r to work in the right-hand box where they don’t help. It looks like I always used i before, and relied on the text box for specifics about whether it’s an interrupt or reaction.

Everything Else (Right-Hand Box) :
e – Melee (Sword)
r – Ranged (Bow)
n – Melee/Ranged (Sword and bow)
u – Close burst (Starburst)
U – Area burst (Starburst with an arrow indicating range)
b – Blast (90° angle with an arrow streaming out of the middle)
p – Personal (Silhouette of a bust)
t – Touch (Also the “stop” hand. Should be something else if I and r would work; pointing hand?)
w – Wall (Labyrinthine line)
E – Beast (Wolf head)
a – Melee weapon beast (Wolf head and sword)

On a side note, in making the list of hotkeys I realized at least part of what I did to change it: I made at least one icon (minor action) and tweaked others using gimp. I may also have replaced some of them with icons from other sets, but it was so many years ago that I’m really not sure what all I did.

I also just noticed that there are a couple of XCFs in ./D&D-Ander-symbol.mse-symbol-font. Those are gimp’s native format; the equivalent of .psd in Photoshop. Had I noticed them sooner I would have left them out to save space; sorry about that.

Free RPG Day in Asheville, NC

In case you’ve been wondering why I’ve been so quiet lately, it’s because I’ve been busier than a half-legged man in a butt-kicking contest. Not only am I continuing to work on the three games I’ve been developing, and taking an active part in the most recent world event in Kingdom of Loathing (the only video game I still play regularly), I have also been prepping to run HackMaster Basic at Wyvern’s Tale’s grand opening during Free RPG Day later today. If you want to guarantee a seat, head on over to their sign-up page as seats are limited. Pre-gens will be provided.

Just in case there aren’t enough players, I also made a bunch of pre-gens for the current D&D Lair Assault so my wife can run it instead. Either way, we hope to have a blast while meeting some new roleplayers before heading to Hillside to run Pokémon League as usual.

(Please, no ranting about the feud between those two stores. Let’s just enjoy the awesomeness that is Free RPG Day.)

Feelings on D&D Next

Naturally, what I details I can share about the game is limited by a fairly standard NDA, but I’m actually pretty excited about the release of the game – something I’ve never before said about any version of D&D, and only once about any class- and level-based game (HackMaster 5e).

The main reason I am so excited about it is that it uses an idea I considered for one of the games I’m designing (the one I’ve referred to previously as my “magnum opus” since I expect it will be). Since WotC has publicly discussed 5e’s skill system, I can actually go into some detail here. In short, there is no fixed skill list, but skills still add to checks. But now, unlike in the past, those skills aren’t tied to any particular attributes. Instead, whenever you want to do anything, the GM tells you what attribute to use and chooses an appropriate DC if it’s not an attack. Then you roll a d20 and add that attribute’s modifier (which are the same as in 4e, and probably 3.x/Pathfinder), and any skill that applies.

So why does that excite me? For several years now I’ve been working on designing what will hopefully become out go-to system, replacing the near-perfect awesomeness that is GURPS. The main reason I haven’t finished it yet is that I keep running into limitations in some or all of my core mechanic and have to start over.

One of those rejected mechanics was to do what WotC has done but while still associating each skill with an attribute, but I ran into two problems with it:

  1. Just as in GURPS, once  you get enough skills that are based on the same attribute, it became cheaper to increase the attribute instead, and that encouraged players to min/max instead of sticking to what necessarily fits the character.
  2. I couldn’t figure out how to do it without GM-determined target numbers. (Long story short, I only like static target numbers when the players choose their owns. Overall, I much prefer opposed rolls.)

WotC brilliantly solved #1 by simply separating skills from attributes. That just shows the difference between having a team of designers versus a team of one. Thankfully, thinking about it inspired me about how to solve #2 as well, so I may get to use this idea after all, and maybe even finish my game in time for Christmas.

Things got even better with Rodney Thompson’s recent article, Bounded Accuracy, which discussed the fact that while 4e showed increased PC power largely by increasing attack and defense bonuses, 5e will focus on increased HP, damage, and character options, primarily in the form of new or improved class features instead of new powers like in 4e. In other words, no more half-level bonus!

I feel so vindicated now. I’ve said all along that adding the half-level bonus and then scaling target numbers to match was just a pointless waste of players’ time, and now it seems like D&D’s designers finally agree. That is excellent news indeed.

The third thing I like is that, much like both editions of HackMaster, classes are highly customizable. As referenced in the Rule of Three for 06/05/2012, backgrounds and themes will allow players to easily adapt their characters’ classes to suit their personalities. A good example is the playtest’s cleric pre-gen discussed in the aforementioned Rule of Three.

Like a 4e knight (one of my top 3 favorite classes), he wears heavy armor, including a heavy shield, soundly bashes things with his warhammer, and has a class feature (granted by his theme), that allows him to protect nearby allies. Of course, being a cleric, he also gains access to diving magic. He actually reminds me very much of clerics in HackMaster 4e (aka D&D 2.5), who were second only to fighters when it came to attack rolls, and who could wear heavy armor and cast spells… and that’s a good thing, because I love HM4e clerics.

A large part of why I speak so fondly of HM is because it is a hybrid point-buy and class-/level-based system. You choose a race and class as usual, but you also get Build Points which you use to buy skills, talents, and proficiencies, as well as adjust your attributes if needed. So it looks like WotC has decided to follow Kenzer and Company’s lead and allow players to more fully customize their classes to suit their characters’ needs – the next best thing to the freedom of true point-buy.

If they later announce that they’re taking even more cues from HackMaster 5e and using real-time combat instead of rounds, I may just explode with happiness. That said, since HM uses opposed roles and player-determined target numbers instead of just GM-determined target numbers (which I loathe), and doesn’t hate odd attributes (why is that, anyway?), it’s always going to win out as my favorite class- and level-based fantasy trpg since I don’t see Wizards going that route any time soon. But it would be really great if they offered rules for both DCs and opposed rolls so those of us who wanted to play that way could do so without needing houserules.

For now, since AC and DCs all basically Take 10 (which is why you add 10 to all of your defenses in 4e), I think I may try the following for all or part of one playtest session:

  • For attacks the defender rolls a d20+AC-10. (I just realized I wrote that backwards when I originally wrote large chunks of the above as a comment on Bounded Accuracy; I put “10-AC” instead of “AC-10”. Oops.)
  • For DCs the GM simply rolls 1d20+DC-10 since the lowest DC worth rolling is 11. Unlike in 4e, DCs below that are too trivial to bother rolling, thus my comment about Take 10 above.

Whether it works out or not, I will say as much in my playtest report in hopes that the idea will eventually make it into the game.

So to sum up: I’m really excited about D&D Next (other than the completely absurd name) because they seem to be pulling in some of the best ideas from other games on the market (which is always a good idea) and making them their own, but without losing their own identity. All in all, I am impressed – surprisedly so, since I’ve never like an edition of D&D before.