D&D

You can’t take the system out of D&D

I don’t know why it’s taken so long for this thought to truly dawn on me: You can’t reproduce D&D if you take away the D&D system. Oh, you can make a fantasy roleplaying game or take your favorite character and port her to that other game, but it just won’t be D&D. Yes, it seems like an obvious DUH! thing to say. But gosh-darnit, I tried to do it anyway and no matter which way I spun it, it just didn’t work. You know what else? It’s entirely OK. I’m trying to come to grips with the fact that, try as I might, D&D just doesn’t scratch every roleplaying itch.

What’s the problem? OK, OK, I’ll come out and say it. D&D is not a good system for story-driven roleplaying. I used to believe that you can take any good story and slap any system on it and it’ll be good, but I recant. It’s just not true. D&D’s system does not lend to telling a story, it lends to rolling the dice and giving you a black and white, yes-no answer. It excels at group-based, tactical play — even when you’re not using mini’s and a map. This is its sweet spot, and it shines. I’ve seen tables of grown men & women leap to their feet with cries of pure delight at the mere site of a well-timed critical hit (that’s a nat 20 for you D&D n00bs). I’ve lost count of how many stories my group has that revolved around the result of a dice roll, whether it be a critical failure or success. That’s the problem, the dice take center stage and steal the show. Ergo, D&D is not a good system for telling a story.

Now, you can try and smear around those skill checks and sort of make it work. But, it’s hard, and frankly, just not very satisfying. It feels tacked on. Some of you are now saying things like “house-rules” and “modify the system” or “lies!”. But, I don’t want to modify my D&D system. I like it vanilla, and if I modify it … it’s not D&D anymore, it’s some other Franken-system. Plus, that just proves my point, it’s not a good system for telling stories if you have to change it when it comes to the portion where the combat ends and the story starts up again. I’ve never once sat a D&D convention and had my table say “More story, less stabby-stabby!” Never. One. Time. But, I repeat, that’s OK. I still love it for what it is.

So, I find myself realizing that I should just enjoy my D&D time when I get it and be satisfied because it is satisfying. But, like most things in life, there is no one answer that fits all questions. I’m normally a one system kind of guy, but alas, that has now changed and I’ve left some room on that nostalgic shelf of D&D books for another game to fill the story-lover in me.

(P.S. I currently play 5E, but these comments apply to every edition I’ve played. Yes, I’ve played every edition … even 3.0 ;p)

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Dresden Files Accelerated

Dresden Files Accelerated

EvilHat is getting ready to ship out the new Dresden Files Accelerated RPG this June. It is no secret that I’m in love with the Fate system for roleplaying, and this game has not dulled that feeling one bit. In fact, I’m stoked. Big time. Here are a few reasons why.

Stress

They made a small, but I think important, change to the stress track. All characters now have 6 stress boxes, but each box is only worth 1 point. However, you can also check as many of those stress boxes as you want to soak up damage.

I’ve been catching up on my Dresden-verse and I’ve noticed something about the books that stand out to me: Combat is brutal and ends quickly. I think having only 1 point stress boxes helps to give you the feeling of being in mortal danger relatively quickly.

Scale

They used the alternate rules for scale from the Fate System Toolkit and I think it goes a long way in allowing characters of vastly different power levels to operate in the game at the same time. It makes the humans feel small but doesn’t mean they can’t be effective given the right circumstances. They even go so far as to allow scale to come into play when you use some stunts, so characters can temporarily increase their scale when it’s appropriate to the narrative. Fuego!

Conditions

I. Love. Conditions. They essentially reskinned consequences and turned them into a much more narratively interesting resource. They are named appropriately to help carry the universe into the characters.

Instead of a Minor Consequence, you are In Peril and when you take a Serious Consequence you are instead Doomed. And they did not forget my favorite condition, Indebted, which they use to account for trading in the currency of favors. Watch out for those tricksy Fae.

Mantles

Mantles are like archetypes and they describe additional conditions that your character has access too. Lest you be too quick to judge though, conditions are not always a bad thing. They can be very good, too. Exhausted, for example, is a common condition for magic-wielding folk who want to push themselves to the limit and gives a nice scene-long bonus. Afterward, however, it’s time to pay the piper.

All in all, this game has me super excited to play in the Dresden-verse and I’m already stealing ideas for my D&D-esque fate game with regard to mantels and conditions.

In the immortal words of Harry Dresden, “Stars and stones!”