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)

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.

Simplicity vs. Complexity

Now, don’t get me wrong. This is a tabletop skirmish war game through and through, but the developers have tried to make the rules as approachable and lightweight as possible, while still giving the war gamers enough crunch to satisfy that play style preferences. As an example, during our demo, we played the mostly the basic skirmish rules, ignoring the terrain and cover options. The rule book in draft form (linked from their web site) is about 35 pages, but the game play is less complex than it would appear at first glace. One critique is that the number of phases in a round seems high, making it more complicated than needed, but once you've played a couple rounds, it's actually fairly smooth.

One fun feature is the “Dynamic Unit Formation”. This is a fancy way of saying that a skirmish group consists of models that are within a couple inches of one another. Instead of using movement trays, models move individually. A “unit” consists of all the models within a certain distance of the model(s) that have based (engaged melee) with an enemy model. This simulates the “scrum” effect of many combatants near one another on the battlefield. You then roll your dice pool for all your models vs. your opponent who also gets a dice pool for all of her nearby models. Each player then assesses the damage and removes models from play. This also allow you to spread the damage around your units in an effort to protect your heavy hitters.

I found this concept easy to grasp as a beginner, but I could also see the deeper strategy related to unit placement and maneuvering, for those times when you want to commit certain troops while protecting others. The Kickstarter reads, “Chronicles is won and lost on smart choices and outmaneuvering your opponent, not on random dice rolls and luck.”  This is somewhat true in that maneuvering and model placement plays a key role in combat… However, anytime you roll a fistful of dice (which happens fairly often), luck will occasionally swing hard in one direction or the other. The law of averages, however, should keep these luck swings within reason.

Each faction also has its own set of special powers (I’ve forgotten what they are called in game). These are basically special maneuvers or combat effects that you get to use during your special phase and vary based upon a die roll and other in-game factors. This gives the different factions a unique combat feel.

For the board gamer, the "Combi-box" gives you two factions and the rules are simple enough to teach to your friends fairly quickly. The rules are flexible enough to play just a “light” version of the game, or throw in all the typical skirmish game bells and whistles. As I noted, you can check out the draft rules on their website.

Models and the Money Train

One thing to note, the developers are not attempting to ride the model wave cash train. Unlike other skirmish games where new models constantly ramp up the power curve and put players into an endless metagame “upgrade mode” with their armies (I’m looking at you X-Wing), Chronicles is not going to perpetually introduce new models for each faction. While they may add more factions to the game as expansions, the business model is not built upon continually draining the player’s wallets on new models for their preferred faction.

With Chronicles, the goal is that you could keep playing with the base set for as long as you would like. While it may be that some new models for a faction may be added in the future, there will not be the metagame race that occurs with other skirmish games.

The models themselves are beautiful. I mean, they really did a excellent, detailed job with the sculpts. Of course, we were playing with very well painted miniatures which definitely helps with the optics, but what you see in the Kickstarter is what you will get. I have seen the actual plastic minis, not just digital renders, and they are quite nice. I think most gamers will be pleased with what one gets in a $120 Combi-box. Hopefully, stretch goal models will enhance the box even more.


Because I’m not a war gamer, I can’t speak to the community aspect as well since I’m not familiar with how other game developers engage their player base, but Happy Gorilla definitely understands the importance of a fan base in the development of a game. Their online portal is going to reward players for just being active in the community. They were clearly excited to engage with the fans and have the players contribute to the lore of the game. Their enthusiasm was infectious and I hope that the community responds to their efforts.

Kickstarter Considerations

Happy Gorilla is a new company, and as one, they are bound to run into some of the typical fulfillment issues that any new company might experience. However, I have seen and played the game. It is complete. The models are done. The rules are written and likely only have some beta-test editing for completion. They already have all of their suppliers ready to go. Despite being new to the industry, I am pretty confident these guys can deliver what they promise.

Final Thoughts

If you enjoy skirmish war games, or strategy board games that have war game aspects, you will likely enjoy this game. If you have wanted to play a miniature skirmish game, but didn’t want the steep cost or rules learning curve associated with some of the other well known IPs, you will likely enjoy this game.  If you like well sculpted miniatures, you will be pleased with the models in this game. At the very least, you should check out the Kickstarter, download the rules, and see if this is a the kind of game that would tickle your fancy.

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 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. 

If you buy partial content packages, such as a subrace or the non-SRD spells from the Player’s Handbook, that purchase becomes a credit toward the book as a whole. So if you purchased $10 worth of the content bundles or “elements” out of the Player’s Handbook, the full book would only cost $20 (instead of $30) after the $10 credit was applied for the content you’ve already purchased.

From a pricing perspective, the overall value isn’t drop-your-jaw fantastic, but not terrible either. The electronic versions of the books run about half the retail hardback list price. This is a little high when compared to other RPG publishers that offer PDFs of their for a much lower cost. Most other publishers offer their PDFs in the $10 - $15 range… about 1/4 of the hardback price, but I’ll give Curse credit in that the D&D Beyond content does need some custom HTML markup to be best used web-enabled which adds to their production costs. The content “elements” such as races/classes/etc are fairly reasonably priced about about $2 - $3 depending and there is an “All PHB spells” package at $5 as well. None of the content packages require a subscription.

And the Not So Good

The subscription pricing is a bleeder. If you are a DM, $6 per month to allow your players access to the content you have already purchased for yourself. This adds up pretty darn quickly, and that $6 does not include any content by itself -- it only includes monthly player access as a cost on top of the purchased content. Honestly, in a year’s time, you’ve paid the equivalent of 2 more Player’s Handbooks or Volo’s Guides and then some.

Tell your players to buy their own damn content. DM’s have enough to pay for as it is. Luckily, this is purely optional. It would be nicer if they offered this as a option for a player account to pay for when invited by the DM, rather than make the DM pony up.

If you don’t opt for that, there is still a $3 per month fee to access published “home brew” content. Curse is charging you for content created by the community, and if you are a content creator, you do not get any of that revenue share for your work. To me, this is a greedy form of community crowd-sourcing content and leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth. I hope Curse reconsiders its business model when it comes to community content, and stick to selling WotC IP.

… And the Ugly

This part is outside of Curse’s control, so I will rant a bit specifically about Wizards of the Coast again.

If you are a DM running Storm King’s Thunder online, as an example, you are forced to choose your tool. Do I buy it in Fantasy Grounds or Roll 20? And if I purchase it on one of those platforms, I still can’t use that same digital content I have already purchased in D&D Beyond… so I may have to buy it in at least 2 places (digitally) to get full utility, and possibly 3 -- in D&D Beyond, in a virtual table top, and in hardback form. Similarly, if I want to take advantage of the character sheets within a VTT as well as D&D Beyond, I would also be forced to buy the Player's Handbook digital content in both places.

Honestly, this sucks. As I have noted before, Wizards could have easily created a licensing model that would have allowed the content to be transported across the platforms, so that content purchased for your D&D Beyond account could also be activated (for a small fee) in other online tools such as a VTT and vice versa. Ideally, I should be able to buy a single license for the Storm Kings Thunder content, and use it in whichever tool I would like. 

But no… If you want Storm King’s Thunder on your virtual table software as well as D&D Beyond, you now have to buy it, full price, in both places. They could technically still create a license server for the future, but it would likely piss those off who have already re-purchased the same content on multiple platforms. 

Lastly, by licensing the content, instead of a straight-up purchase like a PDF, you are basically shit out of luck if Curse [D&D Beyond] ever goes out of business or Wizards revokes their licensing arrangement with Curse. Think about that carefully. You are only allowed to use this content for as long as Wizards allows it… and it can be revoked at any time.

Unlike an owned PDF.

Again, this is not so much an issue with Curse as it is with Wizards of the Coast not taking a more consumer-friendly approach to their digital offerings.

Final Thoughts

MPMB's PWYW character builder
As a player, the character builder tool is fairly slick, but so is the MPMB's Pay What You Want character builder on This character builder offers functionality on par with D&D Beyond, including the content from the PHB, SCAG and other sources, but for a tiny donation price.  D&D Beyond is a decent tool if you want online access to your digital books, but without an offline access mode, it is slightly more limiting than what a well-indexed PDF would be. There isn’t much reason to pay for D&D Beyond unless you absolutely have to have all the rules in a web-enabled format.

As a DM, not being able to use the same content in a VTT alongside D&D Beyond is problematic. Honestly, if Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds came out with a web interface similar to Beyond for their compendiums and allowed one to use the same purchased content both in the web UI and the virtual table top, they would utterly eat Curse’s lunch. There would be absolutely no reason to purchase D&D Beyond if Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds expanded their offerings with just a little extra functionality. That is a serious business risk for Curse.

I can see how the creature customization might be useful for many DM’s. I’ve tried it out, but the functionality not quite as smooth as the 4e D&D Insider monster customization tool. Monster customization on D&D Insider was a dream and I used it often during my 4e campaigns… but D&D Insider is gone now, as is all other electronic support for 4e. Let that be a history lesson for D&D Beyond users.  When a new edition comes along (or if Curse files bankruptcy), all that purchased 5e content could potentially vanish in a puff of digital smoke. You can’t revoke a content license on a PDF copy or a hardback.

For that reason, I will likely never invest in a platform (again) which does not allow the user to take the files with me for use in any foreseen future. If you have no need for a virtual table top, then you don’t have the concerns about where to buy your content… but caveat emptor. You never know when that content license will just disappear.

I think the one advantage I see if that if I am not running Forgotten Realms, but I am interested in a book like SCAG for the class options alone, I can purchase just the portion of the content I would like. This may be the one feature that would tempt me to pay a small amount of money. However, I will see how much I can leverage with the free tool as it is, and continue to MPMB's character sheet for my character creation needs.

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.

So, for all of you that are going, I hate you… Ok… maybe not hate… just mostly despise.  My one consolation is not having to stand within that press of humanity. I’m not agoraphobic, but even that mass of people would probably be uncomfortable.

But seriously, have a good time, but please be good to one another… and shower… and deodorize.

I think what I’ll miss most the opportunity to meet my childhood TSR heroes. I recall reading Tim Kask and Kim Mohan on a monthly basis when they edited Dragon Magazine. I loved Tom Wham’s mini-games that came about once a year in Dragon. I have fond memories of Jim Ward’s Gamma World, reading Dragonlance novels, and spending hours pouring over the details Darlene's freakin’ amazing Greyhawk map.

I hope all those designers and artists understand how much impact their works have had on a generation. It’s easy to underestimate the cultural impact these games have had. After all, they’re just games, right?

Not just games, but a gateway to adventure.

I did get to meet the exceptionally nice Larry Elmore in 2015
but I missed talking with Margaret Weis who I saw in passing.

Owlbear's Seriously Late Gen Con Post Game Report
Gen Con: This Is My Tribe Redux
Gen Con Day 0: This Is My Tribe
Missing Gen Con

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.

How much would you pay? But wait... There's more!
…and yet I just could not do it.

I wanted to pull the trigger. I really did. They even had “fan update” add-on, for people who already owned the older Dungeon tiles, but wanted an assortment of the new pieces. They almost got me with that… but with the items I wanted, I would have been in for another $200 to $500 easily.

I have kids to feed.

The sets were amazing, and there were even cool starter sets for the new DF consumer, but the pricing was getting steeper for the bits I wanted. The other issue is that I just wanted a few pieces from this add-on and some from that one… but there was no single set that included the assortment I could really use to compliment what I already owned without spending hundreds. I don’t blame Dwarven Forge. The margins on DF sets are probably small enough that they really do need to spread the highly-desired parts across different sets in order to make a reasonable profit. It’s their business, and I totally get that.

But I bought a 3D printer instead… a Monoprice Mini V2 for just under $250 shipped.

The PCs approach the Dripping Caves... Hey, this looks awfully familiar.

You see, I’ve gotten to the point where I just need specific pieces here and there. Spending $400 to get those dozen or so bits I really want just doesn’t make sense for me financially. These days, there are plenty of 3D models available for free or at a low cost on the internet such that going the 3D printing route makes a lot more sense.

My players consider their options
in the temple of Orcus.
I admit, the quality of the terrain pieces will not meet Dwarven Forge, especially using a consumer-grade 3D printer… and I’m back to the grind of painting again. But the flexibility of printing what I need (albeit slowly), instead of buying a large set to get the few pieces I want, was a key decision point for me. I haven't completely lost my religion. One day in the future, I will probably still pick up the occasional small set to fill out my existing DF collection, but I think I finally broke my addiction.

Fat Dragon offers a
Try-Before-You-Buy option.
If you are curious about 3D printing Dwarven Forge-like terrain, check out OpenForge on Thingiverse, as well as the excellent offerings of Fat Dragon Games on DriveThruRPG. I will likely follow up with another post on my progress and experiment more with my new toy.

To Dwarven Forge, I propose an idea. Consider added an adjunct digital line to your physical products. I know you would not want to be in competition with yourself, but you might consider creating some digital sculpts that might complement the physical Dwarven Forge product. As a consumer new to the DIY scene, I’d still love to also be able to support the company that has gotten me here.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

D&D: The Pros and Cons of World Building

(with apologies to Roger Waters)

In a recent Tweet, Mike Shea (@SlyFlourish) made a controversial pronouncement about world building (he has since moderated his stance a bit), but I considered it thought-provoking enough that I wanted to “deep dive” on it a little, especially for those who don’t follow the #dnd Twitter verse… and I also made a bit of a joke that I was going to refute each one of his tip tweets with a blog post (It was only a joke).

I had meant to write this post back when this occurred, but with Origins and other life events, it took me a couple weeks to post about it. Unfortunately, I can’t find the original tweet (possibly deleted, since he clarified his stance later), but you can see a fair amount of the discussion that ensued by searching through the various Tweets and replies.

As noted, Mike moderated his stance after reviewing both sides of the debate, but the original gist of the comments were:

No one cares about your world building. Spend more time becoming a better DM (encounter building, PC hooks, etc) rather than exploring the intricacies of your fictional world, especially given that players will not see (nor possibly care about) most of that effort.

This stirred up a bit of a bees nest, because he is both absolutely correct and utterly wrong at the same time (yes, I know this statement appears self-contradictory).

Roger Dean paintings always put me in a world building mood.

First, I’ll start with the Cons as Mike (and others who agreed with his stance) originally stated them:
  1. If you build a big sprawling world, your players will not see most of it and therefore your effort is wasted.
  2. Time spent world building would be better spent focussing on the PCs, their backgrounds, recent actions in the campaign, etc. Focus on the players and work on what they care about, rather than spending a lot of time on what you care about (which they may not).
  3. If your detail a lot about the world, it doesn’t leave as much room for the players to contribute to the details of the world.
  4. There are oodles of pre-published worlds out there. Use one of them instead of spending scads of time building one from scratch (i.e. - Why reinvent the wheel? Your generic fantasy world is not a special snowflake).
  5. Once you’ve spent a lot of time on your snowflake, you may be hesitant to let the players make large changes to your intended timeline of events or political landscape, which would lead to railroading, rather than letting the player’s agency contribute to the shape of the campaign.
  6. When prep time is constrained, world building time is better spent on game preparation which has a more immediate and lasting impact on the quality of play.
These are actually all perfectly valid points. Assuming you are spending more time on world building than you are prepping for the upcoming game sessions, you may be falling into one or more of these traps.

However, there are also Pros (Pro’s?)... benefits that came out of the discussion which I will attempt to summarize (and add my own thoughts):
  1. World building is one of those solitary D&D activities where the DM can stretch their creative wings. Just like players who build PCs that they may never use in play, it's an exercise in imagination that keeps creative juices flowing and generates new ideas.
  2. It is not necessarily time wasted as most GMs will likely focus development on the areas in which the PCs are already exploring. This creative endeavor will very likely produce NPCs, hooks, and adventure ideas for the campaign.
  3. Without homebrewing, no one would have invented Forgotten Realms (Greenwood’s homebrew), or Eberron **. 
  4. A homebrew is not weighed down by published game world canon, nor is there much mystery left in those well known settings. (i.e. - “What’s over that next mountain?”)
  5. The players may engage more if the GM is world building with the players' interests as well as the their own in mind.
** There is some debate whether Keith Baker created Eberron specifically for the WotC setting competition or if it (or elements of it) existed prior to the competition.

These are all perfectly valid points as well.

All Things in Moderation

Like Mom says, “There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. All things in moderation.”

It always boils down to moderation. If you spend more time world-building than you do on campaign prep, you may be on the wrong track because you are focussing your energies in ways that may not directly lift up your game mastering skills or the player’s engagement. On the other hand, if you focus your world building on the things that your players do care about, then it is likely your creative labours will cultivate some in-game fruits.

One of the best adventures of the 4e era
As an example, I ran a Nentir Vale campaign based on the Reavers of Harkenwold module for D&D 4th Edition. The module doesn’t go into a lot of detail as to why the Iron Circle is invading Harkenwold. They are merely presented as the conquering Bad Guys and no more need be said about that. While Nentir Vale is technically a "published setting", there is actually very little published about it, so it's largely a blank canvas. During my own Nentir Vale home brewing, I built up some backstory about the Iron Circle and gave the villains their own ideals and motivations. This lead directly to several ideas about how the important NPCs would react to the PCs’ interventions and created other hooks as I opened up the sandbox wider. Not all of the notes I wrote up directly impacted the PCs, but it did give me a scaffold upon which to hang future events and adventures. It also turned a "Levels 2 to 4" module into a 3 year campaign encompassing 8 or so levels of content.

There is also something to be said about deriving your own enjoyment from your campaign. A GM’s enjoyment is as important to the game as the player enjoyment. As a GM, you don’t want to burn out, and if world building keeps the fires lit, then more power to you. However, keep in mind that the actions of Queen Forgothername from 400 years ago will probably not be important to your players. It’s fine if you want to write out a complex history for your own sake, but don’t let yourself be frustrated by the player’s disinterest in the historical trivialities of the world… because they likely won’t care. However, throwing in a piece of historical trivia here and there does add verisimilitude and may lead to other adventure hooks (or red herrings) if the players do happen to glom onto a casually-mentioned historical aside.

Roger Dean
As general world building advice, I would recommend prioritizing the aspects of the game world that have a more direct impact on the PCs, their backgrounds, NPC relationships, etc. Detail those people and places with which the players are already building a relationship. I would also prioritize those ideas that make the world a bit different than the traditional fantasy world, especially details that have impact or consequences related to the actions of the PCs. Those consequences will add interest for the players in what might otherwise be setting noise in the background.

There may be times where you are drawing maps or detailing places the players may never explore, and that is OK as an exercise in solitary creative fun, but make sure you also leave time for planning for the next few upcoming sessions of your game and improving your GMing skills.
If the time spent world building negatively impacts your session organization and how well you are actually running the game, you need to rearrange your priorities to improve the game at the table rather than the setting awaiting in the wings.

Final Thoughts

There are always two sides to every coin and at least as many in any debate. World building can be an excellent way to get into a creative flow for your game as well as come up with new ideas for adventures, plot hooks and NPCs... But make sure the hours spent world building help improve the overall game as well. Don’t short change the session preparation side of the equation and make sure your world building involves and integrates the players’ actions and interests.

What fun or interesting ideas have come out of your world building that paid off in the campaign? Tell us in the comments!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Origins 2017 Post-Game and Owlbear 500K

Last weekend, I spent my long overdue vacation time attending Origins Game Fair. During that period, Raging Owlbear crossed the 500,000 page view mark. Three years ago, I could have never guessed I’d get more than a couple thousand page views in any given month. It’s been pretty surprising the blog has grown the way it has. Thanks for the support!

Anyway, back to Origins… If you don’t already know, Origins is one of the largest tabletop gaming conventions aside from Gen Con. This year saw approximate 17,000 attendees in the Columbus Convention Center.

In a prior post, I ranted a bit on the issues encountered during pre-registration. Thankfully, the on-site badge pick up this year was fairly quick and painless. This year they had multiple laptops available on which one could perform a self check-in and have your event tickets printed.This was a welcome improvement over the last year where check-in took anywhere from ½ hour to 2 hours depending upon when you arrived. This year, we were in and out of the line in a matter of minutes.

For the most part, the convention appeared to run fairly smoothly, although I did hear from a Mayfair representative that all was not perfect. Mayfair, who is a major sponsor of Origins (and publisher of many popular games such as Agricola, Caverna and Patchwork), submitted over 700 events into the pre-registration system which, due to a technical snafu, were not in the registration system, nor printed in the events program. Because of this, the Mayfair hall was very lightly attended in comparison to other years. There is bound to be some damage to the relationship, as Mayfair has been a headline sponsor of Origins for as long as I can remember. I hope this doesn’t create a permanent rift.

From my perspective, the convention went quite well and some of the lost esteem due to pre-registration was regained over the course of the weekend.

  • Played Castles & Crusades with author Davis Chenault (which I wrote about). He’s a true mensch.
  • Had a chance encounter in the hallway with Chris O’Neill of 9th Level Games. Not only did he remember who I was, we had a pleasant (but quick) conversation about 9th Level and their new releases. Super nice fellow.
  • Briefly watched Ken St. Andre GM’ing a game of Tunnels & Trolls. I would have liked to say hello, but I did not want to interrupt his game.
  • Won a Tie F/O model playing X-Wing. 
  • Played a truly enjoyable home brew Savage Worlds scenario.
  • Participated in a crazy Paranoia LARP
  • And a crap-ton of D&D Adventurers League (probably too much, to be honest).
  • I did not get an opportunity to chat with any WotC people.
  • There were a few well-known authors/bloggers I wanted to meet, but did not.
  • I really wanted to get to play a demo of Dragonfire which looks like it could be a hit.
  • There just isn't enough time in the day to fit in all the extra gaming.
  • I don't have tickets to GenCon this year... sigh.

Let me know about your Origins experience in the comments!

Owlbear and the Troll Lord
These come equipped with ER-PPCs, right?
Bit of a furball going on...
7 evades in a row?!?
Hey Guys... What's in here?
Meeting Chris O'Neill in 2016
Dice Tower's Tom Vasel
Acerak demands your.. erm... devotion.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

D&D Character Sheets - a $10 Review

TLDR Summary: Don’t buy this. Not worth the price.

Wizards of the Coast recently released a new character sheet folio for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. I recently previewed this in an article a couple week ago, but here is a “full review”.

The D&D Character Sheets contains a folder with a ampersand dragon artwork, 4 copies each of 3 standard character sheet designs (12 total), 8 copies of the "newbie" character sheet, and 4 copies of the spell sheet. Basically, a folder with 24 sheets of paper.

Don’t buy this crap. Seriously. Just don’t.

With two exceptions, the character sheets included in this folio are all directly downloadable for free from the website. If you don’t have a printer, go to the library. They have internet and printers. I just saved you $10.

The folder? It's a folder. It's glossy. It's made of card stock. It's basically the same as any other glossy folder at an Office Depot (are those places still around?), but with the ampersand artwork seen above on the cover (originally a Dragon+ cover) which I find less than inspiring. Looks a bit like an 80's metal hair band album cover. These are character sheets. Why doesn't the illustration contain characters? Inside, it has a list of actions in combat, but MPMB's combat reference sheet is much better -- see below.

If you want more pictures, you can check out Grand DM's blog.

"Newbie" Sheets

One exception to the freely downloadable clause is the character sheet designed for new players. It uses a larger font with a larger layout area for the most basic numbers a new player would need (AC, Initiative, Saves). It leaves off ideals, bonds, flaws and the full skill list for a shortened fill-in-the-blank one. It also includes two sections called "Things You Should Do" and "Things You Shouldn't Do" to help the players take notes on good and bad idea.

Under "Things You Shouldn't Do" it should have listed "Buy these character sheets" as the first entry. These newbie sheets are not a terrible redesign, but they don't really bring anything new to the table.

Where is the Value?

Is a glossy folder with an ampersand logo really worth the $10?

If you want a fancy folder, buy a 3-ring binder. Print out your own custom artwork for the cover sleeve. even provides the same artwork on their folio as a wallpaper… but you can also just search “D&D wallpaper” on Google image search and find all kinds of awesome imagery... many of which actually contains characters doing character-y things.

Want help making your own character sheet folio with a player reference? Try these links:

Final Thoughts

If you really want to waste $10, go for it... but this just encourages Wizards of the Coast to put out crappy products when they should be focusing resources somewhere else. If they had come up with some interesting character sheet designs that weren't available online, then maybe this might have been worth a look... but as a product, this whole thing is an underwhelming money grab.

If you want a truly useful character sheet, download  MPMB's fully-automated printer friendly character generator (mobile link) which is Pay What You Want from This sheet is truly worth $10, but all that is asked is a voluntary donation.
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