Thursday, December 9, 2010

The D&D 4e Starter Kit

Before our first session of playing D&D, my wife and I felt it necessary to read all sorts of books about D&D. No, these weren't D&D handbooks. These were tangential books like the previously mentioned 30 Years of Adventure, the Waterdeep novel series, and D&D for Dummies. We didn't want to be the bozos with no clue about what was going on, right? I mean, heaven save us if we appear foolish in the presence of our nerdly brethren!

After a while we finally made the plunge and got the D&D Starter Set. To us, this was "buying the game." We knew it was a trimmed down version, but we figured that it would give us somewhere to start. This product has since been replaced by the much better "New Red Box," but the original 4th edition starter set prompted from us the same reaction we had been getting all along as we read about his game: This game sounds awesome. I wish I knew what it was about.

I had gotten the starter set, unpacked it, and studied it for an hour or two before picking up Cassandra from work. This is what the subsequent conversation sounded like:

Me: "Hey! So I finally picked up a D&D Starter Set. It's simple and geared towards new players. We can finally give this game a shot."

Cass: "Oh cool! So you have an idea of how to play now?"

Me: "I have no earthly clue how to play, but it looks awesome! It involves these funky dice and everything. Just as the books promised!"

When we got home we stared at the pretty dice and the monster tokens and chits and things... they were colorful and my wife and I enjoy colors.

But teach us to play Dungeons and Dragons? Well... no. I'm not going to fault Wizards of the Coast on this one though. From what I've heard from other folks and Wizard's own D&D Podcast, this reaction is pretty typical.

I'm not going to do too serious of a review of this product, because it has been since replaced by the Red Box. Nevertheless, I'm going to point out that it is probably a great starter set for people starting 4th Edition, but not necessarily starting D&D. I get the feeling that, although Wizards gave us everything we needed, we had no clue on how to absorb this material. Someone who was familiar with tabletop RPGs would probably have an easier time of it. While trying to learn this game on our own, I felt that explanations were either very technical or very fluffy without the in-between that I really wanted. It was the switches between these two extremes that frustrated me.

One moment I would be reading how D&D was a game of adventure and whimsy, and the next I would be told all the technical details of the hunter's quarry feature (when I had no clue what a "class feature" even was.) For me, things only really came together in my head after bumbling through a few sessions with experienced players and after being able to hear/see how the game is played.

If you're a new player, I would very seriously suggest listening to the PvP and Penny Arcade Podcasts to get an idea of what play is like. For me, the ideal starter set would not only include what is included in the Red Box, but also a tiny DVD or a link to a youtube video or podcast of someone actually doing it with you while you followed along.

As for Cass and me, we eventually found some people on the forums of our local game shop. Thus we set up our first gaming session with excitement for the future, and fear of making complete fools of ourselves in front of people who casually discuss their "1000 point space ork armies."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

How my wife and I started playing DnD

First, a little on Cass's background and mine. If you had told me five years ago that the woman I had just married would one day insist that we play Dungeons and Dragons, I would have been... well not shocked, but surprised.

We were both fairly geeky already. She was the type of geek who went to Renaissance faires and listened to neo-Celtic songs about rat catchers. I was the type of geek who played video games set in Renaissance fair-like worlds. I would also multi-class into Rat-catcher.

Eventually I did join her in attending ye ren-faire, and she eventually read Lord of the Rings after me coaxing her. Next I got her into the City of Heroes MMORPG - AKA Digital Dolly Dress-up Time with Super-powers. (I don't mean that to be derogatory either. Playing super-hero dress up is awesome in that game.) That game got us into the whole MMO thing. After a while we joined the masses in world's largest MMO, World of Warcraft.

It was shortly after that well... this happened:

We had talked about maybe one day playing D&D just to see what it was like. I always figured we would either continue talking about it, but never doing it, or talk about it until one of our friends overheard us and taught us how to play.

One day out of the blue though I suddenly found myself being driven to Asgard Games in Houston. We ended up not getting player's handbook on that first trip. Instead we ended up buying some a 3rd edition reference book and the 30th Anniversary of D&D book from a Half-Price bookstore down the street.

We didn't really know what we were looking for, but we made our first step. The 30th Anniversary book is actually a pretty good read featuring all sorts of people including Sherman Alexie, Steven Colbert, and Vin Diesel, just to name a few. It definitely kept us thinking about the game. The best thing that came out of this was checking out the Asgard Games forums and finding a group there. I'll continue the story about that first session in another post. The next few posts will be about some newbie tips on joining the hobby.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

First Postingses

Hello there!

In this first post I will outline what this blog will theoretically be like if only to giggle several posts later about how how the blog turns out to be nothing like the outline.

When I first decided to create this blog I thought I would make it a chronological saga of my wife and I getting into Dungeons and Dragons. As the weeks and months dragged on, however, it became clear that I wasn't going to write a hundred posts at one go to bring the blog up to date with our gaming.

If this is going to get written I will have to sit down and start now. So here's what I hope to see congeal in this blog:

I. The Chronicle of The Wife and I getting into D&D
     A. The Comic.
I've made a comic about how we first jumped into this hobby. Hopefully there will be more.

     B. Tips for new-comers to the hobby.
My wife and I had not played any tabletop games before starting off with D&D two years ago. I figure that at least a couple of folks out there are in the same boat we were:

How do you start playing D&D? What is it like? How many cats will I have to sacrifice? How do I find people to play with? Do I have to be a total loser to play D&D? How many encounters will I have to pass before I become one?

II. Reviews of Wizards of the Coast and other type products

      A. Wizards of the Coast Products: Reviews and Tips
Wizards of the Coast has a huge ever-growing catalog of books and things. We have collected a good portion of their current offerings. I hope with these reviews I can give people some idea of how useful/essential some of this stuff is.

     B. Other Games
In addition, I'll review and babble about other nerdy-related things I find cool. I may spiral off into World of Warcraft: The Card Game, Call of Cthulhu, Star Wars the d20 RPG, or even Star Wars the Better d6 RPG that my friend made.

III. Tips for DMs and Players

     A. Focus on first-time DMs
I have DM/GMed for a while, but I can't really claim to be veteran. I have picked up a lot of valuable advice on how to get started and how to work with different players.

     B. Specific tips for DMs and Players going from 3.5 to 4th Edition
The transition from 3.5 to 4th edition D&D is fairly drastic. The big changes are pretty obvious though. It's the small changes that I have found to trip up players and DMs alike.

     C. Tips on how to adapt a game world or create your own
All of the D&D settings for 4th Edition are pretty awesome and pretty distinct. What's also great is that you can adapt them as much, or as little, as you want, or combine them a bit, or use the existing 4th Edition settings to format your own worlds, or adapt settings from earlier editions.

     D. Tips on RP for DMs and Players
My goal for DMs is to give tips on how to maintain a world that allows RP to go however far players want it to go. My goal for players is to review a ton of great books on this blog. The more you read, the more you know how narrative works. Roleplay is basically glorified story telling, so the more comfortable you are with narrative the better at RP you'll be.

     E. Tips on character creation for players. Tips on dealing with over-powered characters for DMs. 
One of the advances of 4th Edition is that it is pretty difficult to make a useless or game-breakingly good character. These tips will be more about highlighting certain options and tricks that might not be readily apparent, as well as some basic tips that a new player may not even think of. For DMs: Particularly when you have a some players way more experienced than others, you might get a few characters that seem ridiculously powerful, or ridiculously weak. I will give tips on how to mix up your encounters to address this.

Let's see how this goes then, shall we? I had better get to writing new posts, because this first outline post is pretty boring... except for the part about sacrificing cats. That was pretty funny I guess.
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