Ready To Roll
Prepare for evil vs Plotting evil
Welcome to the new Ready To Roll column, gamers! From here on in, we’ll be talking about the immortal table top RPG, Dungeons and Dragons, so you might as well turn off your geek-dar because it’ll be pinging all over the place.
I love D&D. There’s no two ways about it. I love playing. I love DMing (being the Dungeon Master, for the uninitiated). And that means I get to see two very different games; the one where I’m bumbling along with the rest of the Players trying to figure out what the hell is going on, and the one where I’m an all-powerful mastermind hell-bent on making the Player’s lives dangerously interesting.
Most DMs have been Players in the past, but some have forgotten the faces of their fathers and lost touch with what it’s like to be a player. On the flip-side, not a lot of players have DMed and so don’t understand what’s going on behind that screen.
Fear not, my friends, for Ready To Roll is here to assist you!
Each column will talk about an aspect of D&D, giving advice for both Player and DM. You can read your own section, you can read both. You can also ignore the damn thing and go back to Min-Maxing your level 12 Dwarvish Bard-barian who shreds on a lightning-powered war-lute. Life’s all about choices. Speaking of which…
Players! Prepare for evil!
You managed to find a DM with space for you in their campaign. You’re excited. Your dice hand is twitching. You need a character. Something good. Something different. Something that will make your fellow Players gasp with awe at your immense knowledge and imagination.
D&D is all about being what you want to be and doing what you want to do. But, just for a second, consider that if you choose a character combination that doesn’t fit the game you’re about to play, you could spend a lot of time not really enjoying yourself.
Ask your DM some questions.
What kind of game is it? Is it a Hack-and-Slash epic tale of bloody blades and quaffing ale? Is it a Survival-Horror setting where every piece of equipment you come across is hard won? Depending on the answer, you want your character to be ready for that kind of action. I’m not suggesting that, if you’ll be Resident Evilling your way through an imaginary world, you should tailor your stats to reflect that. Oh no, I suggest rolling your stats randomly like a boss and taking what you get. It’s more fun that way. But think about that Halfling Ranger specialising in long-range archery that you were planning on playing. Where’s he getting his arrows after he takes the first few shots? If your DM is inclined to ask that level of dedication from you, you need to know up front. Don’t paint yourself into a corner early on and have to cheer from the side-lines as the sword-wielders get their slash-on. The same goes for your Elven Bard who specialises in harmonica soloing his enemies to sleep; in a Hack-and Slash campaign where waves of goblins are going to be joyfully impaling themselves on your weaponry, his maxed out persuasion skills might not get a look-in if the other Players are bored by that kind of thing.
Don’t play a character you don’t want to be, but don’t stab yourself in the toe before you even leave the tavern.
DMs! Plotting evil!
You’ve got an idea for a campaign. You have a thousand years of history for your setting, and every NPC has a name and accent (that you can actually pull off, unlike some of mine). You’re waiting for the game to kick off kicks off (Sorry, that’s a sport analogy. I know we don’t use those). The Players are on their way, dice-rolling faces on, character sheets clutched in hand. But what about those characters? You know their level (level 1, if you’re like me and like to start at the start) and you know how many there are, so you’ve planned your encounters mathematically. But what about the CHARACTERS.
Have you let your Players in on enough of the story that they’re well equipped for the manure hitting the windmill? Are they going to want to talk their way out of things or fight their way out? Are they sneaky or smashy? You are there to help them have fun. So, although your beautiful plot might have to change a little, adapt.
Evil comes in many forms. What form have you chosen? It’s all well and good having a small town Hag who puts her enemies to sleep before gutting them, but ALL of your PCs are elvish, and so completely immune to magical sleep. If you were planning on surprising them, you’re bum out of luck. Or what if that one player you said could homebrew his Valewalker has the ability to step through walls? The intricate lock-picking Skill Challenge that you set up is…useless.
The flip-side is to make sure that you don’t meta-game. You tell your players off for it, so don’t be a douche. Don’t plot your diabolism specifically to counteract the Player’s abilities or there’s no point in them having any. Throw hurdles in their way, but make sure you aren’t surprised when one of them casts Fly and sails over them.
And you would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for that pesky Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, two humans and a dog!
Thanks for reading, fellow geeks.
See you next time when we’ll be discussing basic tips for surviving in a fantasy world, and tips to make sure you don’t TPK your munchkins at level 1.
Craig Hallam is an uber-geek and author from Yorkshire, UK
Find him at www.facebook.com/craighallamauthor or on twitter @craighallam84