Friday, May 24, 2019

Three Spells

These three spells were commissioned yesterday, by Giordanisti, which should be a familiar name to most of you.  The spells aren't new ~ but this particular trio has inspired a great many arguments at game tables and my personal take has accumulated over time in order to suspend misunderstandings.

In particular I have always hated the web spell as written.  Under the right circumstances it is effectively a death spell, which is ridiculous for 2nd level.  A 5% chance of dying outright per round, after ten rounds is effectively a 50% chance.  So I have rightly toned the spell down to the level of mirror image, audible glamer and rope trick.  Still useful, but not the devastating spell that it was.

As I wrote yesterday, to have me do some writing for you costs a $12 donation for 800+ words (I generally feel inclined to keep going once I open up a subject).  This can be done through Patreon or the donate button you'll find on my side bar.  Talk To Me First, however, to agree on material before you send me any money.  Do remember that you're not just buying something for yourself, but for hundreds, perhaps thousands of other readers.

WEB

Range: 1 hex per level
Duration: 20 rounds per level
Area of Effect: see below
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none
Level: mage (2nd)

Creates strong sticky strands that form a web curtain that is, at full extent, 40 ft. long, 15 ft. wide and 5 ft. deep. This may be attached to a vertical point or hung between vertical points, or doubled back on itself to create a thicker curtain. If sufficient surrounding structure exists, such as walls and a ceiling, the web will fill a space of 3,000 cubic feet. It is not strong enough to be climbed upon.

The web may be cast so that it passes through a combat hex with allies or opponents, so that creatures will be caught in the web. All caught persons will find themselves trapped, requiring effort to extricate themselves. Movement out of a webbed hex will cost 3 action points (AP) per hex. Attacking out of a webbed hex costs a penalty of -4 to hit.

A heated blade does not improve speed of movement, but the hex to which it is applied will be cleared of webs. Likewise, a torch and similar open flame will not set the entirety of the webs alight, but if it is applied while moving, again, the webs in that hex will be cleared.

See also,
Mage
Mage 2nd Level Spells



HASTE

Range: 60 ft.
Duration: 1 round per level
Area of Effect: one creature per three levels
Casting Time: 2 rounds
Saving Throw: none
Level: mage (3rd)

Advances the speed of movement for the recipient so that all actions require half the time they would normally require, while also doubling the recipient’s number of attacks. The recipient’s total action points per round are effectively doubled. Contrary to popular belief, the spell has no actual effect on time.

The spell has no effect upon a recipient’s armour class or ability to hit, though the probability of hitting is increased by the addition of more attacks. If the recipient normally has multiple attacks, these are doubled also: 5 attacks in 4 rounds would become 10 attacks in 4 rounds; 4 attacks in 3 rounds would become 8 attacks in 3 rounds, and so on.

Once a recipient has been affected by the spell, they need not remain inside the spell’s range.

Spellcasting is not, however, improved; while the caster may be able to perform the mental and physical actions of producing the spell more quickly, the actual coalescing of power, or the attentions of divine beings and such, cannot be adjusted.

The spell will counteract the effects of the 3rd level mage spell, slow.

See Also,
Mage 3rd Level Spells


LIGHTNING BOLT

Range: 40 ft. + 10 ft. per level
Duration: instantaneous
Area of Effect: up to three targets
Casting Time: 2 rounds
Saving Throw: ½ damage
Level: mage (3rd)

Evokes a powerful stroke of magical electricity that leaps out from the caster’s hands (both are required) as a bright flash. A crash of noise accompanies the bolt, but as it is about 110 decibels there is no affect on hearing. The lightning can be split so as to affect up to three targets; moreover, this targeting is accurate, so long as the caster has line of sight. Additionally, the course of the lightning outward allows pinpoint accuracy, so that friendly targets will be unaffected by the bolts created.

As the lightning is magical and not natural, it cannot be passed through a conductor, nor does the presence of water nor connection with the ground alter the spell’s effect in any way. Likewise, magical lightning will not rebound from mirrors or any other surfaces, contrary to popular belief.

Against living creatures, the spell causes 1d6 damage per level of the spellcaster, so that a 7th level lightning bolt will cause 7-42 damage. The damage is rolled individually for each target. Any struck individual is entitled to a saving throw against magic which, if successful, will half the amount of damage taken.

Whether a save against damage is made or not, from 5-20 random objects that are carried or worn by the target must make saving throws for items against lightning. Solid objects enclosed inside a container need not make a save, unless the container itself fails save. Liquids, such as potions, holy water and beverages, must make save regardless. A fail will spoil the magical effect; other liquids will merely acquire an unpleasant metallic taste but will be otherwise unharmed. Beverages should be counted as durables with regards to nutrition.


Post Script,

I have received a request for demon generation spells and demon monster descriptions, so that will be coming up on the wiki this next week.  To my American friends, have a pleasant Memorial Day weekend.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Evasion & Counter-tracking

The following exists because it was paid for by Silberman, who comments here regularly.  He donated $12 to my Patreon for the following content, in accordance with my recent policy.  A cost of about 1.25 cents a word.  I encourage other readers to commission work from me, just remember to communicate with me about what you'd like to see before sending a direct donation or contributing to my Patreon.  Let me just say that this is a great way to buy a gift for your fellow readers and to keep me working.

I'm afraid I don't have proper tracking rules as yet to compliment this work, but who does?  After the research that led me to create the sketch below, I have a better idea now of how I would design those tracking rules.  These are two sage abilities that would be found under the sage study, Scouting.

EVASION (sage ability)

Provides the character with skill at consciously avoiding detection by others who may be actively hunting the character, or in a position to witness traces left by the character. The measures taken will not fool another who has tracking ability, nor monsters with tracking abilities, but it will be sufficient to conceal the character’s movements with other beings, particularly humanoids.

The ability grants no benefits to others associated with the character, who will unavoidably make obvious tracks on trails, stamp vegetation, mark soft wet places as they walk, etcetera, even if counselled to do otherwise. For the possessor of the skill, however, evasion will include actively choosing routes that won’t reveal footprints, bending back grass and vegetation, selecting hard surface entry and exits onto trails, roads and river banks, the wisdom not to sit down upon halts, to listen automatically for movement of others who may be moving in the area, a heightened awareness of wet environments, knowledge not to cross open spaces, how to maintain one’s equipment to leave the least scent, the presence of scent with regards to air movement and wind direction, etc. All of these things provide a negligible chance that the character, acting alone in the wilderness, will leave any track that will be noticed or remotely followed by a creature other than than those gifted in tracking.

The skill does not offer any special benefits to not being seen or improvement in the character’s stealth ability.

See Scouting


COUNTER-TRACKING (sage ability)

An advanced skill similar to evasion, providing the character with techniques that will mislead or delay those with tracking ability, particularly confounding tracking monsters and animals such as dogs or familiars. These measures have the potential for shaking off pursuit by enabling the tracked character to outdistance a tracker; or, in certain conditions, to obscure the trail so that it cannot be followed at all.

The ability will grant some benefit to others associated with the counter-tracking character, in that false tracks can be created so that up to four others besides the skilled character can be potentially shepherded away from trackers. The ability does not allow the number of those in flight to be hidden, but by directing others to take specific actions and movements, the counter-tracker can have the tracker moving in circles that will waste time.

This technique includes laying false trails and backtracking around objects, having a group “jump off” a trail at different points, creating deception tracks, shepherding groups to enter stream banks and exit in ways that will leave confusing evidence of movement, various use of water to break tracks, creating boxes and figure eights with movement both on land and in water, leading trackers to probable spot-points for the best effects from snares and traps, varying direction of march and using vegetation to foul leashed animals and their handlers, forcing them to untangle themselves before continuing pursuit.

Speed of Flight

Laying false tracks requires time and careful effort ~ others with a minimum 13 intelligence and 14 wisdom can give aid. Note that enemy trackers can anticipate counter efforts if a team’s movements are sloppy, allowing them to leapfrog the apparent tracks and close distance with the pursued.

Counter-tracking reduces forward movement for the pursued by 25% and for the pursuers by 30-35% (d6+29). A leashed dog adds +4% movement speed to the pursuers. An unleashed dog will move faster, gaining a +5/6% benefit, depending on the training of the dog. Shepherded characters with less than 13 intelligence should make an intelligence check each hour. Each failure will “speed up” the pursuer by 3%.

The DM should determine the actual distance separating the pursued from their pursuers, then keep track of this distance accordingly.

Pursued characters should decide each hour if they intend to move their best normal movement or if they wish to counter-track. Normal movement, during which the pursued will move at 100% speed in that environment, will leave blatant tracks that can be followed. The delay of the enemy tracker to begin moving at full speed as well may count as distance gained, but that distance will be lost again if the character acts again to counter-track.

Any of the following will add 1-2% to the speed of pursuers who are employing an animal to track:
A pleasant or warm day.
A wind speed of calm or light air.
Flat open ground under a canopy of trees, slowing evaporation and wind dispersal of scent.
Any member of the pursued has less than a 11 constitution, meaning they’ve gained a heavy body odour from sweating while in flight.
Frozen or thawing ground, which retains scent better and longer.
Two hours after sunrise or two hours before sunset.
Items dropped or left on the trail, including pepper and like products, which in fact will not affect a animal trained to track. These items confirm the pursuer’s belief of being on the right track.

Any of the following will allow the tracks of a counter-tracker to eliminate further pursuit:
Rainfall equal to 30 mm over a three-hour period.
Any rainfall followed by a warm or hotter temperature.
A wind force of 6 or greater.
Populated, crowded areas where foot traffic will obscure sign and scent.
Fast running water.
Moving at night.

Sightings

Note that trackers and pursued may, if coming close enough, gain a visual sight of each other, not only across open ground but perhaps for brief moments as elevation allows line of sight into a valley, up at higher ground or potentially across a large body of water. A wisdom check is needed to determine if either group catches sight of the other; the lowest roll against wisdom determines who sees first. If the d20 rolls are equal, both pursued and pursuer see each other at approximately the same time.

See Scouting

Post Script:

Most of the material above was extracted from this linked document on military counter-tracking techniques.  A very interesting read.

An Explanation and an Apology

The mandate of this blog is to express what I do and what I believe as a DM, in order that others will learn from my experience and my research how to better run their game worlds.  This presupposes that as a DM and a player, I've tried all sorts of things.  Many of those things didn't work.  Some of them did.  Through the years, I have discarded notions and ideas that didn't work, putting all my energies into things that did.

It would be stupid at this time to take a supportive position on some element of D&D that, in my opinion, doesn't work.

For example, alignment doesn't work because the definitions are so squidgy that they can't be applied properly, while players deliberately squidge the lines further because, conciously or unconsciously, they don't like having their actions judged and limited by arbitrary and ill-defined guidelines.

Point buy systems don't work because the players are endlessly channelled into seeking the biggest bang for their buck, or deliberately not doing so in order to be "individualists," resulting in the individualists having crappier characters and then harping on the inbalance that's created by some players willingly trashing character for the sake of power.  The system creates two camps of players that pursue two philosophies that run directly contrary to each other, splitting parties and ending with DMs who cannot provide adventures that will suit the prejudices of both camps at the same time.

Pre-made modules are counter-educational in that they encourage laziness in DMs (who think modifying a pre-made adventure is "work"), encourage blandness in campaign design and subsidize a game industry that has money and not game experience as it's agenda ... while supporting a media-consumption culture, who follow the cultural passive wasteland of "shared experience" instead of the active, vital possibility of shared skillsets and inventiveness.  The fact that thousands of DMs "like" modules is, in fact, the problem, in the same way that millions of people waste trillions of life years in the pursuit of drunkedness, drug use, gambling and other self-destructive behaviour ~ because it is a "quick fix" for the problem of obtaining a skillset that would make one a good DM.

I'm used to it.
I'm not going to change my opinions on these things because others think I'm wrong.  If someone will create an alignment system that players will not chafe against and DOES provide absolutely defined lines of what is what, I'll consider it.  If someone does create a point-buy system that doesn't create munchkins and those that hate them, I'll consider it.  If someone creates a module that teaches a DM how to create their own adventures and ends the dependency on modules, Hell, I'll pay the WOTC money for it.

Been 40 years of trying the first two.  And dead ignorance about any need for the third.  So I don't think it is going to happen.

The result of these positions I have, and many, many others, is a motivation on my part to say the sooth as plainly and bluntly as I'm able, because I don't want anyone to misunderstand.  I hate these things with the burning heat of a thousand suns.  And I'm going to keep saying so.

But I'll be honest.  After 2,900 posts, finding a pathway to addressing a specific subject can be trying.  I will often tour around other blogs, seeking an example of someone supporting an element of game play that I've discarded, and build a post around it.  I did this yesterday with the quote from ruprecht.

Then a thing happens.  Almost always, the person quoted discovers my use within a few hours ... even if I haven't linked to their name or their site.  In ruprecht's case, he was commenting on a blog that wasn't his ... so while Venger might have noticed a boost in page views from my blog, ruprecht wouldn't have had that notification.  Yet ruprecht's first comment arrived about an hour after I posted.  How did he know?

I have to assume that these people, the ones I strongly disagree with, read me daily.  And naturally, most take offense.  I can't blame them.  After all, I'm pissed at them, so why shouldn't they be pissed at me?

And yet, in being pissed at ruprecht, I didn't discuss it on Venger's blog.  So why does ruprecht feel perfectly justified in a confronting me on my blog?  Why doesn't ruprecht get pissed off at me on his own blog, where I can't moderate him?

It is because the audience is here.

Indulge me a moment.  I want to talk about moderation.  I still have a heading above my comments box, which ~ to remind the gentle reader, who likely ignores it every time they comment ~ says:
"Comments that quibble, derail with minutia, argue semantics, insult, ask excessive questions relating to non-post topics, waffle on without addressing the content of the post or fail to make sense, attempt to criticize the philosophy or legitimacy of this blog or its author, or otherwise fail to include a positive, friendly, useful or compassionate message, will be deleted without remorse."

When I think about it, my biggest failing as a blogger is not that commenters don't respect the above warning, but that I don't.  I don't.  Almost every time I draw out someone like ruprecht, I feel duty bound to give them an opportunity to plead their case, on my blog ~ and in the process, I utterly suspend my own warning.

Ruprecht's first two comments yesterday morning were attempts to argue semantics, quibble about what I meant and then ~ by implication ~ criticize this author with an argument that I "admit to doing the work" then "parse what is meant by work."

Plainly, infractions of the rules.  But did I uphold the rules?  No.  No, instead, I tried to define my viewpoint further, which I shouldn't have bothered doing, since he obviously didn't read the whole post.  None of his quibbles were about my statements about improvising my sessions, which de facto put me outside the box he was trying to shove me into.  An oversight I should have pointed out, instead of allowing myself to be drawn into his semantic bullshit.

It is a weakness of mine.  And every time it happens, I get pissed at myself.  And then I realize afterwards that the first damn comment should have been deleted and the whole thread nipped in the bud.

See, the problem is that every time I let myself get drawn into one of these back-and-forth contests, everyone else stops commenting.  No one wants to get involved and they don't want their thoughts lost in the peevishness that's ongoing and to which I'm contributing.  I really need to prepare myself better.  When I post one of these things, I have to take a good, hard look at the first response from the quoted individual and think, "Is this a legitimate attempt at discussion, or is this a fellow flying at me because he's pissed?"

Ruprecht could have addressed the whole post, not just his semantic definition of "preparation."  He could have recognized that defining 11 years of my posting and arguing about D&D in 16 words, given that since he appeared in my comments roll about four months ago he's nitted and picked with every phrase he's written, that I might have something to say about it.  He might have been more careful.  And I might have stomped on his troubled comments harder right from the start.

JB, Ozymandias, kimbo and about 90 other regulars have no problem having a back and forth with me, without accusations about my motivations or my delusions.  These back-and-forths are not chance, they're not accidental ... and I'm getting to the point where, from the first comment from a previously-unseen reader, I can see this one is going to be trouble.

It is something about the choice of words, or the order of sentences, or the general feel of how they're not getting the point, or what parts of the post they seem to focus on in exclusion to all else.  Most of my posts are about five or six different things ... but guys like ruprecht or Venger always wind up picking and choosing one particular thing that bites at them, personally.  And I can feel the "personal" in the way they word their sentences.

Hey, look, I don't care what horrible things people want to write about me on the internet.  Ruprecht is invited, with my full approval and encouragement, to write long, abusive posts about me ... as long as he does them on his space in front of his readers.  But I have to curtail that shit here; because honestly, I owe an apology to every regular of mine for not deleting ruprecht's first two comments right out of the gate.

I'm sorry, Dear Readers.  I am sorry.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Excuse Culture

"And here came Wellard onto the quarter deck.  'Reporting for duty, sir,' he said.
"The boy's face was white, set in a strange rigidity.  And [Lieutenant] Bush, looking keenly at him, saw that there was a hint of moisture in his eyes.  He was walking stiffly, too, holding himself inflexibly.  Pride might be holding back his shoulders and holding up his head, but there was some other reason for his not bending at the hips.
" 'Very good, Mr. Wellard," said Bush.  He remembered those knots on Booth's cane.  He'd known injustice, often enough.  Not only boys, but grown men were beaten without cause on occasions.  And Bush had nodded sagely when it happened.  Thinking that contact with injustice in a world that was essentially unjust was part of everyone's education.  And grown men smiled to each other when boys were beaten, agreeing that it did all parties good.  Boys had been beaten since history began, and it would be a bad day if ever, inconceivably, boys should cease to be beaten.  This was all very true, and yet in spite of it, Bush felt sorry for Wellard."
C.S. Forester, Lieutenant Hornblower, pub. 1952

In the above passage, Forester is describing events aboard Her Majesty's Ship Renown, circa 1800, during the first phase of the Napoleanic Wars.  It is an inconceivable passage to be reading in this day and age ~ though I do remember being in school when the strap was still a real possibility and was in fact used on others, but not me.  So I have perhaps a different perspective than later readers.

I don't advocate the strap ~ but I do think that an immersion in icy water of brutal reality is an essential part of a person's education.  In the case above, the "boy" is a midshipman, with very serious responsibilities aboard a ship, the duty of which might have meant the death of a sailor if not carried out correctly ~ and yet in the British Navy of the time, a midshipman could have been as young as 12.  That is truly out of our conceptions, now ~ as is the discipline that was needed to master these ships upon a dangerous and truly obscure open sea, where death was common.  Our soft sensibilities of the present age would make no sense under such circumstances ... and it does us well to remember that we have the luxury to assauge our sensibilities because of the time we dwell in.

I heard the passage yesterday on the audiobook linked, and wanted to fit it into a blog post immediately.  I've been rather enjoying listening to Forester's Hornblower character recently, having never had the opportunity of reading them as a boy ~ though I did read other things written by Forester as early as elementary school.  As books, I'd recommend them; the whole series, starting with Midshipman Hornblower, appears to be on youtube at present.

Earlier today in a comment, JB answered my postulation that there were good DMs and "everyone else."  JB wanted me to be sure I understood that some not-good DMs deserved to be noted as, "getting better."

Well, sure.  Of course.  Good DMs get better also.  But merely wanting to get better, or trying to get better, but not yet being "good," does not in itself earn respect.  Which again, is part of the excuse culture we live in.  Too often, people feel that trying to get the brass ring, or nearly getting it, deserves all the plaudits and rewards of actually getting it.  And this is so pervasive in our culture that many such persons receive those plaudits because, hey, it really sucks to try and fail.  All of which leaves the chum with the actual brass ring in hand asking, "Hey, I actually got the thing.  What gives?"

This is a shortcoming of empathy.  I consider empathy to be a daily necessity, for myself and others, and many's a time I've reproached someone who refused to give it to a co-worker or a friend.  Empathy can build support and the resolve in others to succeed, but it can't bestow that success.  We do no one a favour when we tell them, "Sure you failed, but at least you tried, and that makes you a good person."  Nonsense.  If we want to do someone a favour, we tell them, "Okay, you failed.  Let's figure out a strategy that will help you succeed."

As a teacher, I don't have to worry about students who want to be a good DM and haven't done it yet.  If they want it, they'll get it.  They don't need to be patted on the head until they get it.  And those that will make the best DMs don't want to be patted on the head, because they know that's just a fucking sham.  Give me my sheepskin when I've earned it, thank you.  Stuff your participation ribbon up your ass.

Those who want special consideration because they're "trying" won't ever be a good DM.  They're not in it for the effort or the success, they're in it for the status.  They want to call themselves DMs because the title makes them feel special ~ and they want others to fall in line recognizing how special they are.

Every officer aboard an H.M.S. navy ship knew the cane from both ends.  The cane is a metaphor for the unjust world.  No one likes the unjust world.  But those who focus on the unjust world, who treat every misery of their day with a need to be mollified by that misery, who need to make victories out of attempts and expertise out of half-hearted effort are sad, sad creatures, who don't deserve notice.  We make our way despite the injustice, despite the cane, despite the hurt and the abuse. We hold up our chins and hold back our shoulders, whatever the pain, bearing it for the sake of ourselves.  We don't dwell on what's happened, we dwell on what we're going to do now.  We pick up our feet and become good DMs.

We don't waste time approving ourselves, or asking for approval.  We're busy working.  We're flogging ourselves.







I am Not in Your Box

Of late, I found the following description of me by Ruprecht on Venger Satanis' blog (found while ego surfing ~ how else?).  He's defining a "Law DM":
"Works hard to develop and codify every possible aspect of the world prior to the game. Example The Tao of D&D who wrote a book about how much hard work should go into preparation."

Wrong.  Completely wrong.

Inevitably, when someone describes what I'm doing with my wiki, they oversimplify to the point of error.  I am not working hard to develop and codify every possible aspect of my game world.  That would be a very stupid thing to do.  Had I a thousand years to do nothing but add to my wiki, from awaking to sleeping, I would not be able to codify "every" aspect of even a small part of my game world.  I don't remotely imagine doing any such thing.

I am codifying aspects of play that are like to give rise to argument or boredom.  That is all.

People argue about how combat works and why it works.  So I'm codifying that.  People argue how abilities and skills work.  So I'm codifying that.  People argue about where monsters come from or what they're capable of doing.  People are vague and frustrated when they don't know where they are or what they can do once they're located there.  People view the world as a gray sludge if every town is the same.  People get bored if the character they're running is exactly like their former three characters.  So where these issues arise, as part of game play, I am codifying in order to heighten and strengthen the game experience, while ridding the moment-to-moment play of as much conflict as is possible with the few decades I have left.

Ruprecht also gives this definition, for a "Chaos DM":
"Appears to do minimal work prior to the game preferring seat of the pants play at the table. Example D&D With Pornstars who wrote more than one module based on tables and things to do at the table to keep things moving."

I guess it's okay to continue to use a liar, a braggart, an apparent abuser and user of women and an internet troll as an example of "chaos."  I can't let that ride.  But ...

As far as I'm concerned, I do "minimal work" when I am DMing.  It is just that I hold myself to a higher standard than the kind of ass-crack product that other so-called lazy self-justifying sluff-merchants consider "minimal."

95% of my game play in any given session is fully and completely by the seat of my pants.  I don't know what any of my NPCs are going to say, because I don't know what questions the players are going to ask.  I don't know what the monsters are going to do when a fight breaks out, because I don't know where the players are going to stand or how they're going to approach.  Just as the players have to play by the seat of their pants because they have no idea what's happening next, I have to play by the seat of my pants because I don't know where the players are going to go or what they're going to decide to do.

Since I play a completely open, non-structured form of play, in any given moment I don't know if a group of players in a town are going to gear up and head for the hills, attack a small crew on the dockside and steal a boat, hammer on the door of an apothecary and ask for information about some concept they heard from some other game that I've never considered, or what.  It stuns me that other DMs don't get this.  I don't know what the players will do next.  How can I know?  I can't read minds, they're not pre-sharing information with me and most of the time, a plan gets presented to me five minutes after the player has concocted it.

Does that mean, because I'm a "Law DM," which is a total bullshit term, that I can tell the players, "Oops, I never thought you would do that, let's adjourn for the night and I'll have something ready for you next week"?

NO, it does not.  It means I've got to dig in and have about twenty logical and rational answers to their rapid-fire questions RIGHT NOW, no waiting, not if I want to keep my game going, and whatever people think, the time I've spent making rules for nutritious food just isn't going to help.  There are too many things that can happen at a game table for anyone to account for them all ahead of time, and that is always the way it is going to be, no matter how many decades I spend writing rules.

And still, people who want to oversimplify DMing, just don't GET that.  And I don't know why.

Or perhaps it is because guys like Venger, a self-declared "Chaos DM," immediately rush to some tiny-brained pre-moduled piece of shit no matter what the players say or do or ask or want information for.  I think that's it, personally, and the reason I think so is because I have played as well as DMed, and I got very, very tired of asking questions that didn't get me answers, or information that wasn't forthcoming, or actions that I tried to take that were stymied by a great fat module that got stuck in my face by a DM who was playing by "the seat of the pants."

Any idiot can run a game world this complicated by the
seat of their pants.
This "seat of the pants" bullshit is rife throughout the table-top game world and is always the go-to argument for every DM who hasn't got something prepared ~ but of course argues that this is fine, because they don't "need" preparation.  Except that they always have a module in front of them, or their world is so flimsy and ramshackle that if a town consists of more than two boards nailed together I haven't seen it yet.  It is easy to play by the "seat of the pants" if the game world is so mickey mouse that the DM thinks it's fine so long as all the merchants are long-winded bores who want to haggle over every product, while all the quest-givers are unbelievably powerful and insistent and won't be put off, no matter what the players want to do.

Yeah, because "seat of the pants" really means, "I haven't got something, so play this that I've got."

But take the time to create a substantive world, one that gives endless inspiration to the PLAYERS, so that they can make up their minds what to do from hundreds of potential choices, that I'm prepared to run no matter what, and right now, off the top of my head, because I live and breathe my world ever gawddamned day like it's a real place, rather than as a monopoly game that I put on the shelf for a week while I do some other fuck thing that has nothing to do with the game because "I don't prepare, I run by the seat of my pants," then clearly I'm the stiff, crusty, inflexible person who dimly thinks it's possible to make a rule about every detail in a world as big as the Actual Earth.

Excuse me if I call bullshit on this one.

Because bullshit is what it is.  Vengers site chews a bunch of shit about what kind of DMs there are, quoting Jeff Reints' old crappy post on the subject and other base theories.

Well I'll tell you what sorts of DMs there are.

Good ones.

And everyone else.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Why You Should Draw from the Deck of Many Things

Because Ozymandias, or Simon Jester (name that book), has written two posts on the Deck of Many Things (here and here), now I feel compelled.  For those not familiar with the deck, or have no copy of it, you can see it on this link, page 142.  On the right, you'll find a screen shot of the deck (the notes are from whomever put it on the web). Follow the link for the descriptions.

All told, there are 22 cards.  Gygax and party are playing off the Tarot Arcana, which I posted just a couple days ago, but the names are, well, "creative."  The names don't matter.

Let's break this down a moment, because the most important thing when making a decision like this is to know the odds.

There are 6 very good possibilities: the sun, the moon, the star, the throne, the jester and the fates.  Arguably, depending on the DM, the two wishes may bite you on the ass, but then you should quit playing with assholes.

There are 5 okay possibilities: the comet, the key, the knight, the gem and the vizier.  These are all positive but, when compared with the six above, they're so-so.  Which would you prefer?  A magic item and 50,000 x.p. or a magic item and a treasure map?

There are 6 cards that will make you go ouch: the talons, the ruin, the euryale, the rogue, the balance and the idiot.  True, the "ouch" is relative, depending on what magic items you have and how much property you can lose.  And hey, you'll survive with 4 less intelligence.

Arguably, you can include the void here, as well.  I mean, what's a soul?  It really depends on how the DM plays it.  Chances are, your DM never brought up your soul before, so why does it suddenly matter now?

And equally arguably, the fool only makes you lose 10,000 x.p.;  AND then you get the same odds as before.  Slightly if your DM discards the fool card from the pack as dictated.

That leaves only 3 truly bad cards: the flames, the skull and the donjon.  Everything else you recover from.

Out of 22 cards, half are perfectly good.  8 hurt, but you're basically fine.  There are only 3 bad cards.  That's only a 13.6% chance of pulling a truly bad card.  And what happens?  You maybe die and you maybe don't.  Ultimately, a devil is just a monster you fight.  The card implies that death might be defeated ~ and hey, what does that mean exactly, hm?  None of us actually defeat death, but it takes a long time to lose.  And however we might get imprisoned, we've got these great adventurers who just love rescuing people from prison.

With these odds, you'd be NUTS not to play.  If gambling worked on these odds, Las Vegas would be a flat empty plain in Nevada.


Sunday, May 19, 2019

At Last, Nutrition Rules

I have Sterling to thank for much of the content below.  He sent me a system in January 2018 that I thought was simple and brilliant.  I have adjusted it, of course.  That is the nature of these things.  But I want to stress that the organization and the ground work is essentially Sterling's and he deserves much applause for it.

I'll be posting this on the wiki in a few days, but in the meantime I'm going to preview it here on the blog.  Poke holes in it if you can (with purpose, please) ~ it will make the wiki post better for it.

NUTRITION

In addition to the amount of food that characters must consume, another consideration is the nutritional value of that food. Characters cannot simply live on bread and water, but should eat the best of possible foods. This isn’t always easy when adventuring, particularly when we consider how this food is to be prepared and cooked.

Each ½-day period follows the meal prior, either the breakfast/early day meal and the evening/late day meal. Bonuses and penalties therefore apply to either the day or the night, following the early or late meals.

Food Quality

Foods are rated in “quality” according to their durability and nature of ingredients. There are five standards of quality: durables, staples, fresh, selective and premium:

Durables include preserved meats such as jerky, dry sausage, salt-pork, sauerkraut and dried fish; potable plant products such as polished rice and dried pulses; and durable forage such as dried mushrooms, grains, wild nuts, seeds and dried fruits. Food that is foraged falls into this category. These are products that have a shelf-life of months, even years.

Staples include foodstuffs such as flour, salt, honey, cheese, butter and biscuits; root vegetables and tubers; and beverages such as beer, mead, wine or distilled drink. The weight of these latter beverages will raise the quality of the meal, but do not count towards the weight of food that must be consumed daily. These are products that typically have a shelf-life of 2-8 months.

Fresh foods include leafy vegetables, fresh fruits, fresh meats, milk and cream ~ products with a shelf-life of 2-12 days. Longer shelf-life products include common herbs such as basil, chamomile, cumin, dill, rosemary, parsley and sage are included, as are dried tea leaves and roasted coffee beans.

Selective foods include fresh foods that have been collected in the last 24 hours, including butchered meats ~ all of which are of the highest standard, lacking bruised fruits, discoloured vegetables or meats that have been improperly butchered. Selective quality reduces to fresh after a day (unless somehow preserved).

Premium foods include items that are of the most distinct imaginable: caviar, foie gras, bird’s nest soup, eels, turtle, cabrito, suckling pig, unusual distilled spirits or wine, kumiss, cicitt and so on. These are of variable shelf life, and are often transported great distance (magically or otherwise).

Preparation

There are six “standards” of preparation, requiring utensils and space that varies from nothing but the cook’s hands to a fully equipped kitchen. How foods are readied, cooked or blended can adjust the experience of eating, which subsequently affects the diners’ health and mood.

Cold camp fare describes eating in the outdoors, effectively cooking in one’s lap. This allows cleaning with water, peeling, the use of a knife or a scraping rock, mashing, pounding and mincing, but the food cannot be safely blanched or boiled, nor can it be browned and sweetened. Durables and staples are designed for cold camp rations. Fresh vegetables, fruits, beverages and spices can be used, but fresh meat would need to be eaten raw. Selective food is slightly better. Most premium foods are somewhat processed and can be eaten in a cold camp (caviar, for example), but without other viands it can be a dreadful waste.

Campfire fare describes the benefits of an open fire, the use of the open flame, boiling water, various means of wrapping foods to be cooked in coals and as much variety as a fire will allow. Most preparation is done on a rock or upon a board on the ground, cleaned with boiled water.

Galley fare describes the food that might be prepared around a rolling cookwagon or vardo, a kitchen or aboard ship. If there is a fire, it is built on a raised, open stone box, with a flue or opening above, or a campfire is employed. Ship’s galleys included a brick cook oven. Fresh and selective foods are rare aboard ship, due to the distance from land; but they were often procured for a few days.

Scullery fare describes food from a typical home kitchen, with small fireplace and chimney, counters, a large washbasin, bins for flour, grains and seeds, bottles, cold storage, a variety of utensils and space for large cooking pots. Typically a cook’s knife and a few cook’s tools would be all that a small house could afford. Many larger mansions include a scullery for secondary work, in addition to a guestkitchen.

Guestkitchen fare describes food that is cooked in a spacious and clean environment with excellent tools and good ventilation. A guestkitchen is designed to cook multiple meals at once for scores of people at one time. Typically the room has been seasoned by years of operation. A wide assortment of knives and other tools is available. Guestkitchens often have one or more sculleries attached, which may be used for baking or for washing up dishes.

Lord’s kitchen fare describes food that is typically prepared as a feast for hundreds of people at a time, from a massive stone building with a score of preparers working together and giving much attention to specific dishes. The knives are kept sharpened, the plates used for the elite diners are of high quality and even the barracks that are served from the kitchen gain the benefit of food grown on the property and stored in large amounts inside the kitchen. Resources to maintain the kitchen are plentiful. Enormous pots and continuous fires allow for long-term preparation that may stretch out over days.

Taste


Together, the food quality and preparation combine to produce an eating experience, as shown on the table.

In order, grub describes food that is hardly palatable but is choked down because it keeps us alive; chow is hardly better, but the diner can remain indifferent to the taste, enough that eating isn’t a chore; nosh is agreeable, encouraging the diner to scrape the remains from the plate; savory has a sharper taste gives a feeling of being content and wholesomely satisfied; tasty is distinctly pleasurable and almost always calls for seconds; flavorful causes the diner to cease conversation and actively enjoy the taste of the food; delicious calls for the diner to share aloud the eating experience, declaring its noteworthiness; piquant is distinct and memorable, the sort of meal that one would certainly recall weeks later; mouthwatering cries for the food to be gobbled, even protected from others, as the diner cannot get enough; and ambrosia is simply ecstasy, eaten with eyes closed and at one with one’s pleasure.

Effects

Depending on the taste of the food (coupled with its substantive healthiness), the effect upon the diner is organized on the included table below. Each result describes the health (mental and physical) of the character during the ½-day following either the breakfast or the evening meal.


Some of these effects will be severe if the character is already on half-rations or is somehow afflicted. The DM should treat such circumstances as increasing the effects of either half-rations or the disease accordingly.

Affliction: the character acquires an gastro-intestinal affliction, as described under disease.

Diarrhea: late in the ½-day period, the character will be struck with a round of violent bowel movements that will dehydrate the victim and force bed rest. They will receive a -3 penalty to strength and will have no appetite to eat the next meal, so that the penalty will last throughout the next ½-day.

Elated: the character is in such a fine frame of mind that they will display generosity (giving away gold coins to commoners and others, granting freedom to slaves, releasing persons from commitments) and uncommon bravery (a willingness to enter a joust or other combat, perform an act of risk for the pleasure of it). Treat them as if they are a full age younger with regards to their ability stats for the ½-day following the meal.

Grumpy: receive a -1 penalty to charisma and therefore to charisma checks as well. Lower the morale of hirelings when within two hexes of the character.

Happy: the character is in unusually good spirits, gaining a +1 saving throw generally, and a +2 save against charm and other mentally affecting attacks.

Misery: receive a -1 penalty to strength and dexterity, and therefore to checks as well. The character will be bad-tempered and moody; during the day, the character will demand a halt after half-a-day’s travel or labour, sullenly refusing to continue.

Sated: the character will rest especially well at night, gaining +1 hit point in healing without the need of a full day’s rest.

Tired: receive a -1 penalty to both intelligence and wisdom, and therefore to checks as well. The character will complain a great deal and be unable to push themselves to forced movement. Reduce daily movement by 10%.

Vomit: halfway through the ½-day period, the character will throw up a good portion of their dinner. They will receive a -1 penalty to constitution and will have little appetite until the next meal. Treat as being on half-rations (see food) until then.

Tarot Sheets

I've been meaning to get this work done for ages, since Pandred brought it up and Agravain found the images for me ~ thank you again, good sir!

These are my tarot card descriptions, which were first posted on my Same Universe Wiki back in 2011, before it collapsed and I eventually put together another wiki to survive it.  These images never made it, however, so this is the first time they've seen the internet in about seven years.

In my world, Tarot is an occult practice, which is deciphered by those links to my wiki.  The actual descriptions for the cards can be downloaded from my Google Drive.  I'll add to this by posting the images below, as well; though because it is blogger, it will make a mess of the website.




















Friday, May 17, 2019

A Little "Fun"


The above is a screen shot of the water use calculator (available for download) I've written to simplify the dehydration page of my wiki.  It simply shows how much water in fluid ounces, or pints, that a character needs to drink per day, based on their body weight, the ambient temperature and their food intake.  This is a job half done ~ it doesn't take into account what a character would need if they had a disease that caused diarrhea or vomiting, but those things can be calculated on a case by case basis.

The table on the left, labeled in green, is not part of the calculator, but is a simplification chart for quick reference if the DM would rather not use a calculator all the time.  It represents the typical amount of water a character drinks in cups (8 oz. or 237 ml) per half-day, when travelling or performing ordinary labor.  Do note that the food eaten is taken into account, so that 60 lb. creatures can get their water intake, most of the time, from the food they eat.

For ease, halve the amount if the character is resting and double it if they have fought a battle that day.  If the weather is hotter than sweltering, use the calculator.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

A Small Update

There, at last I've made these links all work.

Give Proficiency: grants possible skill with an instructor’s weapon proficiency.
Give Secondary Skill: grants an ability acquired by the instructor from his or her progenitor.
Harden Commoner: lessens the experience needed for a commoner to become hardened as a combatant.
Reading & Letters: provides skill in teaching others how to read & write.
Train Man-at-Arms: provides the training needed for a comrade to become a man-at-arms.

I meant to have that done Tuesday, but I got hung up with the progenitor's list, which is an upgrade of the secondary skills post I added in April.

Lots done, lots to do.


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

A Desert Island

"What this means ... is that you don't have to learn the rules about how long your character is stunned, about what you are or aren't allowed to do, while you're in a certain mode, or if you're poisoned by a power-up or whatever the case.  You don't have to learn those rules.  The game knows and keeps track of it for you ~ and you can just test the limits of what you've got.  And if you can do it, it'll allow you to do it."
(compared to rules in traditional games)

Rather than talk more about rules, let's talk about game-play itself.  To elaborate on this, let's say that you and I are playing in a game called "Desert Island."  This is a real life game that begins with fourteen men, with guns, seizing us both, putting us in restraints, flying us to an island in the Pacific and abandoning us there, with not so much as a film crew.  The "rules" are clear.  After an unspecified amount of time, we will either be found and rescued (we may assume the kidnappers plan to tell no one of our existence), or we will die. In most aspects, not a very fun game.

There are many other rules which we are subject to.  We need to eat.  We need to avoid injuring ourselves or each other.  We need to learn everything about our island, so that "being found and rescued" might include putting ourselves off the island and reaching a more inhabited place.  The point is, we have no control over how to change the rules, because the rules are set by nature.

The game-play, then, is the thing.  We have a myriad of possible approaches to the game ~ and a great deal about our approach is going to be caught up with how we approach ourselves within our approach to the game.  How long will it take to emotionally get over our situation?  How long will it take before we trust one another?  How innovative can we be?  Are we going to give up and die in just a few days?  No one can tell.

The game play is entirely, completely, at our discretion.  No matter what the island is, how threatening it is or how weak we are, the situation in no way limits our innovation.  We are always hearing that this or that sort of rule-set "limits" our innovation or encourages it.  This is nonsense.  We limit our innovation.  Either by who we are before the game starts, our approach to the game, our willingness to accept the consequences of our approach and ~ in the end ~ if we're biologically able, through mental or physical prowess, to BE innovative once we're forced to be.

In this game, there are no do-overs, no hard barriers that can be wished past and no hope that something will fudge us out of this.  This is real ... but it is immaterial that this is real.  The only material thing that matters is do you want, and are you capable of, living long enough to be found?

I don't want to get into that aspect.  I want to emphasize that game play, no matter what the game, is always up to us.  This is true whether we're on a desert island or if we're playing Pacman.  Our approach to the rules of the game defines the quality, the level of fun we have, the passion we feel or the innovative behaviour we apply.  If we are not fun people, every game will effectively suck and we will make other people feel that.  If we aren't capable of passion, we will bury everything in a wet blanket.  If we are unable or unwilling to be innovative, we will resist expectations to do so.  If we're the wrong person to be left on a desert island, we will die.  Some, pretty quickly.

It is ridiculous to blame the rules for an attitude problem that affects the way we play.  If you have a player who hasn't got a girlfriend, has trouble making a shower work, grunts at moments that call for empathy, constantly leaves the seat of your toilet up, no matter how many times you tell him not to, never cleans up his garbage, works a job you wouldn't take if it paid double the income you're earning now and so on, don't be surprised that this same person chafes at the rules, hates any moment that turns serious, derails the game, kills NPCs randomly, has to be told the purpose of the quest every session and uses every opportunity to steal from or kill other player characters.  This person is losing at the BIG GAME, the life on a desert island game.  Your game world is just the corner of the player's particular desert island being used as a convenient gong pit.  You should not redesign the rules of your game world, make concessions, fudge the dice, give extra treasure or retcon events in order to make this person "happy."

Though arguably, you're doing it because this is the level of friend that YOU have, and perhaps need, because this is the last apple in the bottom of your barrel.  And what does that say about you?

Let's come back to the quote at the top of the post.

Most of us have played more hours of video games than we have played D&D.  If you're on the Steam platform, you are regularly and uncomfortably reminded how much time this really is.  When you play a computer game, knowing you won't be able to change the rules, and that you don't even have to know the rules, you train yourself to reflexively resist the concept of having to actual learn and memorize rules for a non-video game, particularly if the rules are as extensive as they are in D&D.

Moreover, you've trained yourself to regard any resistance in a game that you can push or press against as a fair way to manage your game experience.  Your "innovation" in a video game consists of testing absolutely everything, until you come to that sweet spot that Ian Danskin mentioned in the video I embedded on my last post.


The desert island will do all sorts of things to kill us.  But it won't stop us from doing something we can find a way of doing, because the island isn't sentient.  It is nature, but it is no more than nature.

The computer game is built in such a way that you can find elements of the system that will let you squeeze out some sort of action that gives you more power than the designer's intended.

But D&D is made so that the thing you push and press against isn't the rules, it's the Dungeon Master.  And if the Dungeon Master is weaker emotionally than you are, or needs you enough as a friend, or has some measure of empathy that you can bend to your will, or can be manipulated in a way that forces a decision between the rule and you're affectation of unhappiness, then the DM because the system that can't stop you from what you're doing.

And the DM is way, way, way easier to compromise than a desert island or a computer game.

I believe that there's an argument to be made that video games are training untold numbers of people to treat the DM as the obstacle and not the DM's setting.  And justifying it under the rubric that it is legitimate to wreck anything that is wreckable.  And in fact, to do so because it is wreckable.  So that every DM who feels at all ashamed or doubtful of their power, or their potential to kill a player, or the conscious fear that a player will disapprove, or a weakness of heart that someone's fun might be compromised by a die roll, that the DM views as a responsibility not wanted, is utterly, completely, mercilessly at the beck and call of the wreckers.  And more to the point, the new D&D has been designed to both incentivize the process and mock any other process.

The game the wreckers are playing is not D&D.  The game being played is how to wreck D&D.

You, as DM, shouldn't be playing with these people.  Not if a game experience really is what you're searching for.  The phrases you're being told, and the rhetoric being hurled against you, isn't about improving game play; it's about circumventing it.  And that's not the game.

Your vulnerability to that rhetoric is the key to your game.  As a DM, you are charged with obeying the rules, carrying forward the rules, defending the rules and enforcing the rules.

If you doubt your resolve or responsibility to do this, then you shouldn't be DMing.

If your responsibility to take a hard line on the rules makes you feel uncomfortable and ashamed, then you shouldn't be DMing.

If you're willing to compromise your role, to sacrifice it, because you're unwilling to let a player dislike you for even a few minutes, because you desperately need to be liked, or can't stand not being liked, then you shouldn't be DMing.

If you see it as your job to carry the emotional baggage of other players, to ensure they have fun, instead of trusting them to take that responsibility onto themselves; or if you're prepared to innovate for them because they're unable to do so; or if you're going to empower them because you feel they can't do it without you; or if you're unable to make them accept the consequences of their actions, because YOU can't bear the consequences for their actions, then you shouldn't be DMing.

If you're willing to break a rule, so that others won't be held to the standard of the rules, then you shouldn't be DMing.

If you can't be a desert island, then I don't want to be trapped on you.

Allowed by the Rules

Since I have a good example of creating a rule to expand the game experience of the player, I'll use it.

Problem: the clerics and mages of the party want to use swords and bows.

Solution I:  eliminate the rule that bars the use of weapons, so that the new rule is that anyone can use any weapon.

Effect: momentary happiness, followed by all characters quickly adopting only the most obviously useful weapons.  This then results in a thin greyness of weapons use, adding to the ever growing ennui as every nuance of game play is steadily shellacked over until it is impossible to distinguish one characteristic from another.  Characters around the table eventually adopt the habit of dropping character names, replacing them with numbers, making it easier for the DM to remember that the first player on the left is always referred to as "number 1."

Less humorously, providing the players with easy access to whatever they want may temporarily please the DM's group, but it does little to add to the game experience, which relies upon the players feeling that they've produced a sort of achievement through innovation.  Answers like Solution I dispel the need for innovation, by simply handwaving the obstacle away.  There are dozens of examples like this that have been emerging in later editions, which some will insist are "advancements" but which are, instead, a call for conformity.  Without the need to innovate to overcome obstacles, we get the sort of rhetoric that argues that "rulings," rather than "rules," can produce innovation ... except that most rulings fall under the heading of solution I, which kills innovation to get around problems.

Another word for this conformity is the call for game "balance," where every player is given the same opportunities and privileges ... but again, that only eliminates the need for a player to find the quality in some character drawback and ~ through innovation ~ prove that it actually is an opportunity for gaining advantage.  I point the reader to the following video; I may have linked it before, but watch it again anyway.



But innovation isn't easy.  And most players will sit and pout and complain about limitations because they can't be motivated to innovate past them ~ they want and they want but they don't work, and they don't think that they should.  In fact, from the players point of view, rulings implies a possibility of massaging the DM into making a decision that will bypass the need to innovate, while rules put a bullet in the DM's gun when the player is being told, "No, I'm not giving you something for free."

Solution II: find a pathway that circumvents a hard rule and make the pathway a new hard rule.  Ensure the pathway is possible and perhaps not even hard to accomplish, but ensure it is time consuming and contains elements of hard obstructions.

Effect: some players will advantage the rule, though not all.  Some players will despise the rule, but not all.  Some players will complain and rail as they go through the motions of the rule, eventually emerging on the other side with success that they will, at first, view with suspicion.  And then, steadily, they will begin to comprehend two things.

First, that they earned this change.  At first, it will simply seem like a bunch of needless hoop jumping that could be waved away by the DM, but once they've accumulated the time they will see themselves as entitled to that change whereas others are not.  This will mean that others can't just co-opt what they have earned and they ~ the players ~ will argue very strongly that the rule should not be hand-waved.

Second, the players will become more conscious that the mage or the cleric they have now, that is able to use a sword, will not be as easily replaceable as mages and clerics once were.  If the character dies, yes, they'll be able to go through the hoops again ~ but it will require going through the hoops again, which means a clear understanding that a character is not just what we roll up at the start of the game, but is something we obtain through work.

I cannot remotely begin to express the importance of this.  A huge failing of 5e is that no matter how much time you put into your character, it doesn't feel like you're achieving anything of real importance.  Another player joins the game and is automatically given what you've just taken a year to accumulate.  Your character dies and you're automatically given what you took a year to create the first time.  At no time do you feel that anything matters, not to you, not to the other players, and certainly not to the DM.  There are no pathways that you can take in the game that give you any sense of real acquisition.

Because treasure, magic items, extra skills, even levels ~ these things are not "real."  They are elements of the game.  Referring to the video above, if your fox character dies, you can have another fox. The only thing that makes it "real" is the creation of the tournament, which means you're losing ~ and something more meaningful than just another set.  The tournament becomes the achievement.  Playing the game without keeping track of your wins doesn't provide enough meat to keep playing.  You've got to play towards a purpose, towards something that you can feel passionate about ... or else you really are just going through the emotions.  And however much fun that was at the start, after a while, it's not fun any more.

Players create all sorts of side games to give a particular game session meaning to them.  It ceases to be about the character and what the character can do, or the achievement of the quest, or even the storyline of the DM's imagination.  More and more it becomes the jokes that you can tell, or the opportunities to prove you're clever with a phrase that will humiliate a fellow player or make the DM blush.  After a while, you're settling in to take advantage that there are four or five people contained inside a room doing anything, so that you can be sharp-witted as you jump your brain ahead of your neighbour in making the best possible joke in the least amount of time.  The jokes are real.  The jokes aren't pretend events, they're actual demonstrations of your personal ability to innovate successfully.

This is what the game is meant to provide.  But if the game won't, then real life, and real human relations, will step up.

The rules of D&D have to be more than just boundaries and barriers.  They have to be building blocks and pathways and full of complex perspectives that, employed just so, will produce a new combination of tactics that one player, and only one player, will invent on the spur of the moment.  Which, in turn, the DM has to allow because the rules provide the player the power to say, "I'm doing this, and you can't fairly make a ruling that stops me."

This, I know, scares a lot of DMs.  But me, I love it.  I absolutely love it.

"I just hope you see how it's even possible for something so weird and seemingly innocuous to inspire so much passion.  How a party game that's basically the [pretend game] equivalent of a twelve-year-old smashing their toys together can be fun, hilarious, freakishly complex and, from the right vantage point, even ... beautiful."
~ Ian Danskin, Innuendo Studios