On Identity in Roleplaying: A Rumination on the Self, the Other and Socially Mediated Ethics

How much does one play oneself in a roleplaying game? In my experience I have come to understand that the answer is “quite a lot.” For the majority of characters, there are identifiable bits of your inner self which you bring out and play with. This is the kind of thing which happens when your friends around the gaming table begin to notice you playing the same type of characters over and over again. Continue reading

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D&D: Shaking bad habits out of new players

dungeons_and_dragons_40_ampersand_flat_thumb.pngI’ve been running a game where all the players are D&D noobs. But most of them have played MMOs, other computer RPGs, or even have read D&D novels, and some of this comes with some bad habits that need shaking once they play the real thing. So what are some of the more problematic bad habits that you will encounter?

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[Modern] Budget Boros (~$40 Magic: the Gathering deck)

SilenceWoah, there, wooooooah. Slow down. That’s better. Much better.

Lately, I’ve been playing against a lot of fairly quick decks filled with enchantments/instants/sorceries and getting swarmed with 4/4 angels (Luminarch Ascension). While I would normally just exile or destroy the enchantment, they protect them with shroud (Greater Auramancy) – making it impossible to target or remove the spell. How, then can I slow my opponent down enough to get fatal damage through? By slowing down their spellcasting! I’ve chosen to use Boros for this, rather than a Blue/Red counterspell/control/burn theme.

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10 Fates worse than Death in D&D

GravestoneDeath in D&D is pretty cheap. Literally. The cost of diamonds for a Revivify or Raise Dead spell is nothing to high level adventurers. But there are so many fates a character can suffer that are worse than death, and, I dare say, even worse than having to read and understand the grapple rules…

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The “Turn 3” Standard

Satyr HopliteOnce again I find myself turning to cheap and fun ways to annoy my friends by smashing them with very cheap decks – in this case, less than $20!!! And, if your card draw is good, and they decide not to play any creatures for 3 turns, game over!

The strategy in this deck involves using a combination of the haste, tokens, buff, heroic and prowess mechanics to ensure your creatures are buffed enough to inflict 20 or more damage by the end of turn three. At a very minimum, you’ll have your opponent on their back foot in the first 5 turns of the game – and hopefully by then the game will be yours.

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Roleplaying Evil Characters

dr-evil-austin-powersIn our new D&D 5e campaign I have been playing a character named Hamilcar the Unintended, a Warlock. Now, it wasn’t really necessary for me to choose to be evil – one could always choose to be tied to a Fey creature, or one could postulate that, while you have an unbreakable bond with a creature of evil, you do not share its aims – however, in our circumstance, we thought it would be interesting to choose evil as an alignment.

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Roleplaying through Backgrounds in 5E D&D

SailorA player asked me a question the other day during a gaming session. “Do we know how to tie ropes?” Thinking of all the nonsense of Use Rope in Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, I sighed, preparing to give an answer that I was going to be frustrated with. But a player suddenly spoke up: “Wait, my character background says that I was a sailor! I’d totally know how to tie knots!”

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Big Fatties for casual MtG matches

Pathrazer of UlamogOne of the simplest mechanics to abuse in MtG is to ‘ramp’ mana and then start casting  huge creatures with high costs.  My partner loves this mechanic and she is currently building a hydra deck around this concept (with a few other twists, of course).  In MtG-speak this is called a “Big Fatty” deck.  To illustrate this point we’ll take about my Modern Eldrazi deck.  Rules for Modern format can be found here:


I was playing my Eldrazi (big fatty) deck a few weeks ago when someone pointed out to me that Cloudpost is banned in the format.  Cloudpost is a ‘Locus’ land that gives 1 mana per Locus land in play.  I was using Cloudpost to ramp my mana exponentially – with 4 Cloudpost and 4 Glimmerpost (another Locus land), the mana potential is huge.  Example: 2 Cloudpost and 2 Glimmerpost will give me 10 mana, because each Cloudpost in this scenario gives me 4 mana and each Glimmerpost gives me 1 mana.  Hypothetically, if I had all my Locus lands in play, I could tap each Cloudpost for 8 mana + each Glimmerpost for 1 mana for a total of 36 mana, which would allow me to cast several very large and dangerous spells or creatures simultaneously.

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The Game Ahead: Catacombs

skellig-catacombs-dungeonThe Game Ahead is a weekly series designed to take some of the pain out preparing for the weekend’s game.

Quite recently I overheard two of the players in my group discussing how my dungeons seem to go on for ever without any connection or theme to them. While this didn’t surprise me greatly, I tend to plan my games as they are happening, it did concern me a bit. Making scenarios up on the fly works great for me, generally speaking. The majority of my games are politically focused, free form, and open world. I actually relish when players do something unexpected, go down the ‘other’ corridor, assassinate the wrong target, steal the wrong gem eyes from the statue. This way I am as surprised as my players are when we are around the table. The one place this free form games mastering style doesn’t work, it would seem, is when you’re battling through a dungeon.

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Creating Subtle Roleplaying Campaign Settings By Castle Building

tauntingOf the many different aspects of a roleplaying campaign that contribute to its “success”, or the overall enjoyment of the players, one which I have often found makes a huge difference is the richness of the setting. Now, I have talked before of trying to breathe life into the opponents through detailing their culture. But it is also important to detail the culture and society in which the players exist.

It’s funny that, in so many cases, GM’s rely on fantasy tropes and expect the players to know the basic way everything is situated, perhaps making a change here or there to give it something unique. But often these changes are without subtlety and break the player’s immersion. May I counsel against doing anything hugely weird like “The world is run by Dragons!” or “Wizards everywhere! Magic runs everything!” There is room for subtlety.

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