Interlude: Pre-Rolling

The author, Brent, a large blonde beardy man with glasses, wearing a grey wizard's hat.

A cunning new hat appears!

Back when I ran a whole lot of Pathfinder on a regular basis, I got in the habit of pre-rolling a bunch of d20 rolls. Before a session I would roll the d20 a bunch of times, say twenty or thirty, and record those numbers in order. Then when I needed a roll for an NPC or a monster, I would simply use the number at the top of the list, cross it off, and carry on. Because I wasn’t stopping to make dice rolls all the time it gave me a certain flow in my GMing; I could glance down, see if something was going to succeed or fail, and continue on without breaking my description. If I started to run out of numbers I would simply roll some more during breaks or when the players were discussing their plans.

I don’t run a bunch of d20 based games these days, but I was thinking about this the other day and wondered if it could be applied to players. What if players pre-rolled a bunch of d20 rolls at the start of their Pathfinder 2e/D&D 5e session? Then as the session goes on, whenever the GM asks for a saving throw, skill check, attack roll, and so on, the player can just pick a number out of their pool. And at the end of a session any unused numbers are tossed, players re-rolling new numbers at the start of each session.

All the elements of a “traditional” check are still there: the player has rolled a d20 and applied modifiers to see if they beat a target number. But pre-rolling grants the player extra elements of choice and control. They can decide how important success is at any given moment. How badly do they want to pass this skill check? Or is more interesting to fail now, maybe preserving success for a future moment? Do they save that Nat20 for a saving throw or an attack roll, and do they use it early in case the session ends before you get the chance?

Added to this, what if you had them pre-roll a set number of times, say ten or fifteen. During play they get the choice: you can roll for this or use one of your pre-rolls. But, once all your pre-rolls are used up in a session, that’s it, you don’t get any more until next session. Do they take their chances or use a pre-roll for assured success? Suddenly that Nat20 pre-roll becomes a precious thing indeed, assuming you can use it before the end of session. And maybe that becomes a way for the GM to reward players, granting allowing them to take one or more pre-rolls into the next session.

Of course this can be done with other systems besides d20 Fantasy. Call of Cthulhu, Star Trek Adventures, Cypher System, for instance, could all use pre-rolls this way. It could also work with Powered by the Apocalypse systems, to a greater or lesser extent depending on the specific game.

I know one argument against this is the potential to lose those amazing moments of rolling a clutch Nat20 or the humorous Nat1 that comes at just the “wrong” time. I would say those moments are still possible, especially if the player chooses between rolling or not. And if you roll a Nat1 during pre-roll, now you can decide: am I going to leave that there and ignore it, or am I going to deploy that a narratively fun moment? A good GM could even make that the basis for allowing a player to carry a good pre-roll to the next session, rewarding the player for using a low roll in an interesting way.

This is something I’m mulling over, but what do you think? Drop a comment below or give me a shout on Twitter, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Let’s Stat at the Beginning, Part 2

20221029_142353Sometimes you plan to come back to something right away, only for life to decide, “Haha! Nope!” Sorry to be away so long folks, but I am back! If you are just joining us (welcome!) I am posting some ideas around a developmental edit of D&D 5e, as if I had been engaged to give feedback to a client. Last time I posted we talked about the six stats, a bit about why they exist and how they are used, and discussed whether they were truly useful as is. Today in Part 2 we’re going to look at some alternatives to the stats as they currently exist. I’m pushing ahead without a recap so please read Part 1 before proceeding.

As this is also meant to model how I would work with a client in search of developmental editing for their game, let me talk about two important things from the start: talking with my client and ensuring I give my client options. Talking with my client ahead of doing any work will help me understand what they want for their game and identify anything which might prove to be a “pain point”, something they really want left intact or are unsure of changing. Since WotC has made some changes in the past but has also tried to maintain a legacy feel to their game for older players, I’m going to pretend my imaginary client has the same concerns. Since the ability scores have remained in place through all editions of D&D including the three-ish editions WotC published, I’m guessing any major changes to these might prove to be a pain point.

Which brings me to options. It is easy to decide on a single idea and bank on convincing the client of how cool it is. And you should always put forward the cool idea, no question. But I think it’s important to suggest options for my client. I never want them to feel like I’m trying to write their game for them, and going hard on one idea can come across that way. I would rather give them 2-3 options on any major change I suggest, and then discuss those to get a more specific sense of what they want.

In this case, I’m giving three options, what I would consider a mild, moderate, and extreme change to how stats work. Having defined boundaries, my hope is the client and I can find a place within those bounds which works for them. Let’s start with:

Mild – As I mentioned back in Part 1, I had previously written articles discussing changes to D&D’s stats (here’s the link relevant to this idea). So my mild suggestion is, keep stat generation as it currently stands, but lose the bonus mechanic and use a simple “roll under” mechanic. This will make the stats relevant again as they actually get used during gameplay, as well as eliminating a great deal of math for both players and DMs. In the linked article I mention eliminating skills and saving throws as well, and while I still think that’s the way to go with this option, we’ll discuss those details further in future posts.

While I consider this the mildest change I’m suggesting, it will still have an effect on overall gameplay. The character with an 18 ability score is going to succeed on anything related to it more often than not. Which isn’t an issue, really, characters should succeed at what they are good at. Conversely, any “dump stats” are going bite that character a bit harder, but the successes are going to feel amazing when they happen. I consider this an overall pro, along with eliminating some math from gameplay. For me, one of the cons of this change is that it keeps the bioessentialist ability score names in place, but if it’s adopted that’s a discussion I can have with the client then.

Moderate – This suggestion is related to another idea I wrote about previously, and while it isn’t a larger change mechanically, it does stray into “this doesn’t look like D&D anymore!” territory. Basically, since the stats as rolled don’t ever get used again, ditch the stats and just record the modifiers. Generating those modifiers can be done using random generation or point buy, much as the ability scores are generated now. Going forward, anytime something gives you a positive or negative modifier to a stat, you increase the modifier instead. So instead of having an 18 Strength, you have a +4 Strength; instead of an 8 Charisma, you have a -1 Charisma, and so on. When you level, instead of increasing the nonexistent ability score, you increase the stat. Same for any other modifier which would normally hit the ability.

Over time your character gets incrementally stronger, more so than a character under current rules. Previously it required a 2-point bump to an ability to equal a +1 bonus from that ability, now it’s one for one. However, unlike the Mild suggestion this effect comes in over time, as opposed to characters starting more powerful off the jump. A potential pro is that this represents the least change to actual gameplay, as rolling your d20 and adding modifiers is still the basis. And there is still some simplification for the player, as you are removing a potentially distracting set of numbers from the character sheet. This may be seen as a con, though, if the client is determined to hold on to ability scores as a way to keep older players. This also shares the same bioessentialist con as the Mild suggestion, and will require a similar discussion.

Extreme – The Three Pillars of the D&D game are Exploration, Social Interaction, and Combat. In Part 1 we discussed how the existing ability scores slant heavily to support Combat, while only supporting the other two Pillars situationally or not at all. If these three aspects are integral to the core of D&D, why not make them the ability scores? This suggestion is going to have the biggest ripple effect on the rest of the game from a legacy design standpoint. With this “simple” change, things like Classes, Skills, Feats, and so on will have to change or be replaced. But I think it solves a number of issues already pointed out, and allows the client to incorporate some aspects of the previous suggestions.

Things I see as positives:

  • It offers the chance to play a broader range of character concepts from the start, as abilities are no longer tied to reductive physical characteristics
  • This eliminates the bioessentialist ability scores, focusing instead on the core gameplay experience.
  • Three ability scores are easier to track than six, regardless of what specific mechanics are put in place to use them.
  • From character creation, the player has a better understanding of what the game is about and is able to choose their approach to it.

Potential negatives:

  • As stated, this change is going to ripple through the rest of the game and require other equally big changes. The client may not have the time or resources to do this, though hopefully if they’ve engaged me for developmental editing this won’t be the case.
  • This change and the other ones required will substantially alter how the game looks and plays, and this may not  appeal to the large (but ever shrinking, let’s be brutally honest) number of legacy players. It’s possible the company might alienate a percentage of its existing market with sweeping changes like this. While it’s tempting to look at it strictly from the perspective of design and art, a game publisher is a business and you can’t ignore those considerations. If the client is definitely interested in a change, however, they might decide the risk is worth it.

There you have it, three suggestions on how to move forward with changes to D&D’s ability scores. These are obviously just the bare bones and this all would require further discussions with the client. But they give a framework for those discussions and the client reaction to them gives me an idea of where my client might be prepared to go with future changes. What if the client goes “nope” to all three? Then I ask if there are aspects of the suggestions they liked and absolutely hated and use that to calibrate my next series of suggestions, assuming they still want me working on things.

For the purposes of moving forward on future articles I need to have my imaginary client choose one of these. Since the client exists in my head and I think extremes are the most fun: my client has decided that, with a truly interesting game they will more than make up the loss of legacy players with new players, and they are willing to put their resources to a true overhaul. Extreme option it is!

With that direction from my client, we can explore how the mechanics of our three new ability scores might work, and how their changes will ripple through the rest of the game. Stay tuned next week for Part 3 of Let’s Stat at the Beginning. And if you have anything you want to ask or discuss, find me on Twitter or drop a comment below.

Updates and News

The author, Brent, a large blonde beardy man with glasses, wearing a grey wizard's hat.

A cunning new hat appears!

Hello! I plan to get posts out every Wednesday minimum, so sorry for the silence. The time since my last post was rough, but things are back on track so look for me to come back to regular posts starting next week, with the second part of “Let’s Stat at the Beginning“.

This week I wanted to give some updates and news that might have got lost in the Twitter flotsam and jetsam. I’ve been quiet but still hard at work setting up for the things I want to create in 2023. So let’s talk about that.

  • I have a newsletter! I’m starting out monthly on the fifteenth; if folks are receptive it may go bi-weekly but for right now I’m starting where I know I can do the work. I’m talking about the games I think are cool, summing up the stuff I’m doing, sharing cool TTRPG news, and giving away monthly prizes. If that sounds like your flavour of whiskey, please drop your email at the link. Needless to say, I don’t share this info with 3rd parties.
  • Streaming resumes in March! I’m starting back on Wednesday nights at 6pm MST, 8pm EST. I’m staying on with solo TTRPGs for these streams, and I’ll update this post with a list of what I’m playing soon! I’m also looking at doing some early morning coffee hangouts, likely on Thursdays and Fridays, just to enjoy my morning coffee and chat with folks to help start your day and mine. Stay tuned for the detailed schedule, and if you can drop a follow on Twitch in the meantime, that would be swell.
  • YouTube videos are coming back! I’m working on some pre-recorded and edited stuff right now, and will expand that work once my shiny new camera gets here and expands my tech capabilities. I want to highlight the work of marginalized creators in the space, with deep dives into their work and maybe interviews if I can swing it. So these videos will be shorter and more heavily edited, which is a new direction for me and I’m excited to keep learning how. If you haven’t, please give me a follow on YouTube and keep your eyes pealed.

Those are the highlights for what’s coming. I hope you’ll stick around and come along for the ride, it’s going to be a good time! And I’ll see you next week with Part 2 of Let’s Stat at the Beginning!

Let’s Stat at the Beginning, Part One

20230118_113939Back in the Before Times (2022) I talked about taking on a little personal project, to approach D&D 5e as if I were doing a developmental edit on a manuscript. Basically, taking the “just house rule it!” advice we’re barraged with on social media whenever a problem with the game is brought up, and going full out. And given the latest business with the OGL I would be lying if I’m not now approaching this project with a certain amount of glee.

There are a number of places in the rules I could start my revamp. In fact, today I was originally going to revisit two previous articles I wrote about keeping the Stats versus ditching the Stats. But I think a better place to start is with the Stats or Ability Scores themselves, and ask some questions.

From the start Dungeons & Dragons as a game had two big influences: wargaming and bioessentialism. Unsurprising when one of the game’s creators, Gary Gygax, was both a wargamer and a bioessentialist. This isn’t a primer so I will leave it to you to go look up terms which might be unfamiliar. Suffice to say, both of these things contributed to the Ability Scores as we know them today, with all the inherit problems therein. Couple that with multi-edition design choices favoring nostalgia over an honest look at whether these abilities are still useful as they are (spoiler, they aren’t), and right from character creation we are saddled with problems.

Because ability scores are the first thing players generate for their characters in most games, those scores set the tone as far as what type of game can be expected. They signal to players what the game considers important; simply put, if it isn’t important a game doesn’t stat it. By asking you to generate a Strength score, for instance, the game signals that raw strength will be important or useful in the game. So let’s look at what 5e considers important:

  • Strength: raw physical prowess
  • Dexterity: agility as well as hand-eye coordination
  • Constitution: physical endurance, mechanically it also affects hit points (a topic for another article)
  • Intelligence: supposed to indicate memory and reasoning ability, but often defaults to a nebulous idea of how “smart” a character is
  • Wisdom: they don’t really talk about what Wisdom is in the game, jumping almost immediately to the skills and other things it affects
  • Charisma: meant to measure force of personality, but in practice often tied to physical beauty and “sexiness”

Before we look at anything else, we can see that based on solely what D&D does as a game, the first three Ability Scores fit. As the game focuses primarily on combat, for instance, it makes sense you would need to know how hard a character can hit (Strength), whether they can avoid a hit or hit at range (Dexterity), and if they are struck, how well they weather that hit (Constitution).

The remaining three Ability Scores are almost specific to particular character types, as opposed to being generally useful in the same way as the first three. Intelligence is of primary use to wizards and other skill-focused characters, but lies flat on the page for anyone else. Similarly, Wisdom is ill-defined except as the province of the religious folk in the game and otherwise doesn’t come into play except to punish physical-type characters. Charisma could be an Ability of use to everyone, and given how hard folks argue that D&D “does emphasize roleplaying, actually!” you might be forgiven for thinking its presence supports this. But I would argue that, when a particular ability is almost universally considered a “dump stat”, you might need to revisit whether it is working as intended.

So basically we have three Ability Scores which are of vital importance to every character, and three which are situationally important but depending on party build, may not be important to everyone, or even anyone. And yet, every character has to generate these scores, useful or not. Seems like a bit of a time waster, huh? Especially when you consider that, having rolled up these numbers, you never use them again. Oh, you use the bonuses they represent, but the Ability Scores themselves are never rolled against or have any effect on gameplay.

So why have them? And if we’re going to keep them, do we need to keep these ones, or are there better ways to start building a character for the game 5e says it is? What type of game does D&D 5e say it is, anyway?

You have probably heard of the Three Pillars of the D&D game: Exploration, Social Interaction, and Combat. These three pillars are meant to be the focus of gameplay, and there is an expectation good designers and GMs will incorporate all three in a balanced fashion into their designs. In reality, 5e strongly supports the Combat pillar with the bulk of the ruleset dedicated to how that works, allocating only a fraction of its total page count to the other two pillars. When someone is telling you to “just houserule it!” or “make up something that works at your table!”, it’s almost a guarantee it relates to the Exploration or Social Interaction “pillars”.

But what if we took the game at its word, that these Three Pillars are actually equally important? What Ability Scores would we develop to drive home that importance and balance right from character creation?

Come back next week for Part Two, and we’ll look at some options.

Dungeon23 and Me

The Crossroads

The Crossroads

If you’re hanging around TTRPG twitter, chances are good you’ve seen the hashtag “dungeon23” about, along with its companions “city23”, “setting23”, and so on. Search those hashtags and you’ll find all sorts of settings, locations, monsters, magic items, created by the folks taking part, as well as discussion about the ideas behind the projects. But in short, the initial idea was to create a dungeon room a day for 2023 and by the end you would then have a Megadungeon of 365 rooms in which to play. There are variations on this initial idea, thus the extra hashtags, but the overarching goal is simply to create a little bit every day, whatever that looks like. Some folks are using dayplanners to track their progress, others are using journals at hand.

Even though I don’t normally take part in year long challenges like this, I’ve decided to do #dungeon23. It’s been a while since I have sat down and created dungeons, encounters, anything like that, and I like the idea of a quick, simple bit of daily creation. I have been at it since December 28 and so far none of this has taken me more than five minutes each day. But even now, just eight days in, I have an encounter area I could easily set before some players and give them a fun, challenging bit of mystery, horror, and combat.

I’m not creating a dungeon per se, though I’m sure a dungeon will come into it at some point. I actually started with a crossroads, and after populating that with various encounter sites I then detailed one of those sites, The Boggin’s Bottom. From there…we’ll see. But it’s been interesting to write this in snippets and discover connections between sites, and create potential avenues for expanding out of the crossroads as I go.

In order to keep things simple and to use up materials that have been living in storage, I am using only the following items:

  • four Pilot Fineliner pens in red, green, black, and blue
  • a leftover three-ring binder from college
  • various pages of scrap graph paper, punched and put in the binder
  • various mapping aids at hand (a ruler, bottlecaps, etc)

I could get fancy and put in all sorts of highlighted texts, use nicely formatted pages, all that. But I enjoy the concept of using aJan 4 dayplanner, even if I’m going another route. So I wanted something simple like that, but would help me use up some of my large stock of old stationary. Seriously, I have graph paper older than a lot of folks playing in TTRPGs right now, so it needs to get used.

As to how I’m doing this, I am sticking to some simple “rules” for myself:

  • One room, encounter area, or unique location each day, no more
  • Simple map drawing and two lines of description, at most.
  • Colour coded writing: Black for general descriptions, Green for items and treasure, Red for encounters/monsters, Blue for any in-game text (writing on walls, contents of letters, etc)
  • Colour coded mapping: Black for man-made structures, Blue and Green for natural items/formations, Red for traps or dangerous spots.
  • Once I’ve filled a page, that specific location is done, move on.
  • Roughly every week, I can include a page of additional items, encounters, etc. The daily encounters cover the obvious, surface things about a location. But I wanted some options in case the players decide to dig deeper into something, so I or any other GM wasn’s caught flat footed.
  • System neutral, but with an eye toward usefulness with systems like Trophy Gold, Mörk Borg, and so on.

But that’s just how I’m approaching this. If you search any of the hashtags you’ll see a variety of approaches and takes on the initial concept. Frankly, I’m as excited to see what comes out of this from other folks as from myself. I’ll admit to a certain curiosity about who will still be doing this by next December. But there shouldn’t be any judgement attached if someone starts and then stops it. These types of things aren’t for everyone; frankly I’m not sure it’s for me. But I am enjoying it so far and it is just enough forward momentum each day to keep me interested and thinking about the next bit, so far without anxiety. So I’m hopeful I can keep going and I look forward to seeing where things take me.

Looking Forward

Dorklord_Canada_Logo_Wht_BG_Lo-Res.jpg-01This past year was a hell of a ride, and almost nothing about it I would have seen coming from where I was in January 2022. I had just cleared 2000 followers on Twitter, there were so many friends I hadn’t met yet, so many projects coming that weren’t even on my radar. And so many hills to climb that I couldn’t have foreseen; health issues for myself, a cancer scare in the family, going suddenly viral on Twitter. Safe to say, 2022 did not at all go how I figured it might at the start of the year. And as you would expect, that brought both the good and bad.

But rather than linger on all of that, I want to look forward to 2023. After the chaos and derailment of much of the past year, my overarching goal for 2023 is consistency. Achieving that is going to require two things from me: a) doing the thing when I say I’m doing the thing, and b) knowing when not to agree to or take on the thing, so that a) stays achievable. Or more simply put, I have to manage my time and effort so when I say I’m doing something, it gets done.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to stay huddled in a corner not doing anything. Over at The Rat Hole I outlined some of my plans for my articles there. Some of that work is going to overlap with projects I already have in mind, because one of the ways I’m going to achieve a) and b) is by using any particular project in as many places as I can. As I said in yesterday’s post, expect a lot more crossover between The Rat Hole and here, but also on my YouTube and Twitch channels.

So what do I have planned? Right now, I have two projects and a more general goal set.

  • Continue producing the Wanderhome Actual Play we presented this past December, whatever that looks like.
  • Revisit an idea I had a few years back called “The Back Catalogue”.
  • Continue to edit for Indie TTRPGs but also get some experience working on projects for larger companies

The Wanderhome AP is going to be the trickiest one to pull off as far as supporting everyone involved so they can do their best work. Put plainly, we need to raise money in order to make this the amazing project everyone involved knows it can be. So that will be a huge challenge. I’ve never crowdfunded anything before; forget learning curve, I may very well be scaling a learning cliff. It might not work, but it definitely won’t if we don’t try.

The Back Catalogue is an idea I had over a year ago and then promptly got too busy to work on. But my thought went something like this: Indie creators are sort of forced into a loop of creating and promoting The Next Thing if they want to gain and keep attention in the TTRPG space. That doesn’t give them much time to promote things they created even six months or a year ago, never mind further back. So what if I did a video every couple of weeks where I picked a creator, and instead of talking about their newest shiny, I do a deeper dive into their previous works, their back catalogue? That could help get their neglected gems out in the world again, and the video would stand as a great intro to their body of work. And if one of the creators I feature also has a new project coming out, I can pair this with an interview over at The Rat Hole to give them as much of a boost as I can.

And finally, more editing! This is more of a goal than a plan, but I feel the need to stretch some more as an editor. While I love working with Indie creators and plan to keep doing that, I plan to go after some freelance work from some larger companies. I want more experience working on larger projects, get a better sense of that entire process. The only way that’s going to happen is to go after it, so go after it I shall.

 There are some other projects I’m still planning out. I had talked about a project called TTRPGeneology which I was going to produce with a friend. Their schedule unfortunately doesn’t allow for working on it now, so I am taking some time to do more digging around and planning. During a hiatus we had taken I had already decided I wanted to fall back into a production role instead of on-screen talent, so that gives me the option to make this project much more inclusive than previously envisioned, which is all for the good. And I don’t mind the extra time; I think this is one of those things that needs to stick the landing from the first show so it’s worth taking the time to get it right.

But planning is downtime work. I’m going to focus on the three things above. I thing those, combined with my plans over at The Rat Hole, are going to yield some excellent things this year. Moreover, I’m excited! Like, “I can feel the excitement through my SAD” excited, which is a hell of a thing and does not manifest often.

In any case, that’s what 2023 is looking like around here. And of course, I want to play games with folks, run games for my friends, all that. So as I am so fond of saying on Twitter: Allons-y!

Wandering Grateful

01.Wanderhome_AdvertLast night we aired the second part of Ways and Wanderings: The Beginning, the Wanderhome RPG actual play that started planning back in June. I had mixed feeling as I watched it; proud to see the thing we had accomplished on screen and shared with people, but also sad as the project came to a close. Those feelings aren’t new, I’ve had them in different measure on every theatre production I’ve stage managed.

The next stage, where I take a good, hard, objective look at everything and see what could have worked better, is familiar as well.

But before I get there, I want to take the time to be grateful for this project and what it brought back into my life. So a bit of backstory.

As I mention above I used to be a professional stage manager, something I have also mentioned in the occasional tweet. I loved theatre and I loved the work. Moreover I was good at it, like just obscenely stinking good at it, which gave me the confidence to keep being good. What I don’t talk about a lot is why I was a stage manager and not am a stage manager. I’m not going to go into details, but the last production I worked on was a snarling ball of jealousy, spite, gaslighting, and anger, which I probably could have weathered if it hadn’t come at a time of great betrayal and turmoil in my personal life. Simply put I was professionally cut off at the knees while at the same time any personal supports I could expect crumbled. That production was the last I ever worked on professionally.

So as I say thank you to the folks who worked with me below, I’m not just thanking them for this production. I’m also thanking them for restoring something I thought was dead and gone from my life. Through actual play production I’ve re-discovered a set of skills and a love of bringing together disparate pieces to form a greater whole. As I need words they fail me, and I can never express how this whole process has restored me. All I can do is say thank you.

So let me do that thing! Immeasurable thanks to Anne, Abadonne, Jes, Krissy, and Wowzerz for saying yes and coming on this journey. I loved every moment, I hope it isn’t the last we all take together. You’ve all given me a gift I will work to deserve.

Thanks to the visual artists who gave so much, Allie and Lukas! Both of you made us look professional and pretty, you’ll be my first calls if (when) we do this again.

A huge thank you to Danielle, without their technical expertise recording these sessions we literally wouldn’t be here. And for stepping up when it was time to air, making sure we looked good on the day. An absolute joy to work with.

And thank you to our show sponsors, their support was instrumental in bringing this production together:

Please go show them some love on socials if you can.

Thank you to the two third-party creators who helped bring to life two of our characters. Please go check out Matthew Gravelyn and Philippa Mort and shower them with support!

Lastly, thank you to anyone who came out and watched our shows, or shared our Tweets, or plan to watch the VODs by and by. We hope you loved what we put out in the world; moreover, I hope you’ll join us for what we are planning for 2023. Plenty of Wanderhome journeys left to take and we would love you along for all of them.

I’ll post later about things I would have done differently or changed. For now I want to sit in gratitude and pride for a while. Both have been in short supply for a time and I find them pleasant.

Solo Saturday Part Two!

Dorklord_Canada_Logo_Wht_BG_Lo-Res.jpg-01This past Saturday was Solo Saturday the First! By every metric I care about it was a rousing success: folks came by and engaged, I had returning viewers, some of the creators dropped by at various points, money was donated to Extra Life, I got new followers, and I played four excellent games. It was a great day!

It was also my first stream as a newly minted Twitch Affiliate, which was fun. I still have to poke around my channel and figure out all the bells and whistles. But that’s something for me to pull together over the next several weeks.

But it definitely went well enough that I’m going ahead with Part Two this coming Saturday, November 26, at 10am MST/Noon EST.


Finishing out my Extra Life Game Day line-up, I have four games on the schedule (all times MST):

In between games I’ll also talk about Extra Life, chat about TTRPGs in general, and talk with chat. But while I am talking with chat there will also be…


This is the one thing I forgot to do last Saturday! Every two-hour block I’ll run a giveaway for a $10 gift card for DriveThruRPG. You must be in chat to win, and if there is no winner in a block, I’ll add $10 to the next block’s gift card. No purchase or donation necessary, just be in chat and be willing to share your email address with me so I can send your gift card.

That’s it! Swing by and enjoy some great games next Saturday, follow the links and pick up the games and play along!

Solo Saturday!

Tomorrow, starting at 10am MST/Noon EST, I am playing eight hours of Solo TTRPGs in support of Extra Life! There will also be chatting, and prize giveaways, and stuff.

“Oo, stuff! Tell us more about the Stuff, Brent!” I will, I promise, but let’s take things in order.


Picking up from where I left off in my Extra Life Game Day line-up, I have four games on the schedule for tomorrow (all times MST):

In between games I’ll also be talking about Extra Life, chatting about TTRPGs in general, and talking with chat. But while I am talking with chat there will also be…


Every two-hour block I’ll run a giveaway for a $10 gift card for DriveThruRPG. You must be in chat to win, and if there is no winner in a block, I’ll add $10 to the next block’s gift card. No purchase or donation necessary, just be in chat and be willing to share your email address with me so I can send your gift card.

“But Brent, what about the Stuff? We want the STUFF!”


20221029_142353As promised, let’s talk about The Stuff. A few weeks ago I cleaned up all of my loose dice and put them back in a large candy jar I use to store them, pictured here. There are a lot of dice in there, in fact there are…actually, why don’t you tell me? Check out this post on Twitter for entry details and the Prize pack. Some pretty sweet indie TTRPGs up for grabs, so don’t miss out!

That’s it! I hope to see you tomorrow on stream and as always, feel free to drop an Extra Life donation if you are so inclined.

Retooling the Draconic Ampersand

Dorklord_Canada_Logo_Wht_BG_Lo-Res.jpg-01I have been playing roleplaying games for most of my life. It’s been my passion and my inspiration since I was ten years old, dreaming of dragons and the deeps of space. Unsurprisingly, I have played a LOT of Dungeons & Dragons in that time. It was my first TTRPG, for a while my only TTRPG. It has sat in the tabletop space, its gravitational force at times waning but never absent. I have at times loved the game and hated the game, and sometimes those times were the same session of D&D. I’ve played it, I’ve DMed it, I’ve organized game days and cons around it. I’ve used it to draw folks into the hobby and I’ve seen it become the vehicle which drove some people out.

“It’s Complicated” doesn’t begin to touch how I feel about Dungeons & Dragons.

One thing that has come up in discussions around D&D’s unsquared corners and oddly built steps, though, is the common refrain from many of the game’s stalwarts whenever someone brings up an issue with the game rules.

“Well, if you don’t like it you can house rule it!”

Now, I’m not opposed to house ruling in principle. In fact it’s been part of the hobby since there was a hobby. I don’t even think I was six months into playing Basic D&D before I was suggesting ways we could do what I considered cool new things in the game. Of course, back then we house ruled not so much to change rules as add to them; the environment was not as supplement rich as it is these days, so we often had to build out aspects of the games we were playing ahead of any “official” expansions, if they ever came. So we love a good house rule around these parts.

I do think there is a discussion worth having about whether I should have to house rule a game for which I paid fifty dollars a book, but that lies outside the scope of this post. Consider a pin firmly stuck in it, we will return in a future article.

So no, I don’t oppose the idea of house ruling per se. But I was giving this a good think the other day and it niggled at me that so much of the house ruling going on is piecemeal in nature. And I mean, of course it would be. It’s happening at individual tables, as differing mixes of player and DM come up with their personal blend called “D&D”. I’ve even done it myself, both at the table and in one-off articles on bits and pieces I would change in the rules.

So all of this is to say, I got to thinking what if. What if someone (spoilers, dear reader, that someone will be me) treated D&D 5e like a broken down classic car. You haul it into your garage and look it over. All the parts are there and more or less functional, and in its current state it is certainly fun to drive. But what if someone…okay, fine, I…took it and instead of fixing a tire here or and a door there, I overhauled it from top to bottom? Just dove in, pulled it all apart, and rebuilt it from the ground up. What would that look like?

“But Brent,” I hear you say, “Why wouldn’t you just write your own fantasy TTRPG? Then you could make it however you want.” And you’re not wrong. But in my heart I know this about myself. I am maybe a second tier writer, and on really good days I have flashes of first tier writing. But I am a first rate editor. There is nothing I love more than digging into a big old pile of words and figuring out how to make them better than they were before. Basically I want to take the D&D books, starting with the PHB, and treat them as something I have been asked to developmentally edit.

Because lets face it, there are so many parts of D&D 5e that exist solely as artifacts to keep older players happy with the game. Let’s take an example I talked about in an article on The Rat Hole years ago: Ability Scores. As I opined then, they serve no purpose in and of themselves. You generate them when making your character, the ability score tells you the bonus you get in that ability, and then you never use the ability score you generated ever again. Sure, the game tells you to raise your ability scores at certain levels, magic items can raise them, etc. So then you blow the dust off this unused bit of crockery, quickly calculate your new bonus (ie, the thing you actually use during play), and toss the ability score back in the cupboard until you need it again.

So why have them in the game? Because so many old gamers would get grumpy if you took them away, it “wouldn’t be D&D anymore!”

I’m proposing to go ahead with this little project under the belief that: a) keeping old gamers from getting grumpy should never be part of a healthy design philosophy, and b) it not being D&D anymore might not be the worst thing.

Keeping the classic car analogy going, this is something I’m going to tinker with in my spare time. Of course I’m going to talk about it here and likely over at The Rat Hole as well. And when I have something in a readable form, I’ll post up a design doc so folks can watch as I add, remove, and flat out redesign all the parts to this classic.

I know other folks have looked at D&D and made their version of a “fantasy heartbreaker” inspired or in spite of it. Maybe this will come to nothing in the end. But from where I’m sitting now it looks and sounds like fun, so I’m going to give it a go. Stick around to see how it all works out.