Domain Rulership, Part Eight

Last time in the Domain Rulership series, I talked about some of the relatively rules-light approaches to domain and stronghold play, in the form of 13th Age and Dungeon World. Now I’m turning back toward more involved systems: Fields of Blood by Eden Studios, given to me by a generous reader; and Kingmaker/Ultimate Campaign by Paizo, given to me by… a more different generous reader. The point is, my readers are the best. They are discerning and witty and almost assuredly 10% more appealing to members of their preferred gender than people who do not read my column. Look at you, reading this, getting better-looking every second. I mean, not to me, I’m married. But still.

(Image: The Magna Carta. One of the original system documents defining domain rulership as something other than, “it’s good to be the king.”)

Domain Rulership, Part Six

Two weeks ago, I talked about the Stronghold Builder’s Guidebook, the “main” 3.x-based book for stronghold construction and domains. I also mentioned a third-party product, A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe, by Expeditious Retreat Press. In the comments, alert reader Charles Geringer brought up Power of Faerûn. Because irony is the only cosmic balance to entropy, I have a copy of that very incunabulum on the shelf behind me. This is me, in my customary writing chair, looking as dashing as ever.

Domain Rulership, Part Five

Last time in the Domain Management series, we discussed my personal high-water mark for domain-level rules, known in the tongues of gods and men as the Birthright Campaign Setting. We continue therefore to Third Edition. The Dungeon Master’s Guide has nothing on this topic, signaling the total difference in the game’s assumptions about what characters do with their money at mid-to-high levels. The Stronghold Builder’s Guidebook fills in with domain rules, and I’ll get to that in a bit.

The Rogue Class, Part Four

At last we come to the watershed moment of the Thief’s Rogue’s development, and I don’t just mean the name change. Up to this point, thieves have a role in combat, but that role is “mostly try to stay away, you’re terrible at combat unless you’re backstabbing.” That approach didn’t fit the source fiction when it was first implemented (cf. Gray Mouser); I’d argue that the thieves who were terrible at combat in the source fiction were terrible for reasons other than being thieves, such as hobbits being too small to be effective fighters until and unless there’s some sort of Witch-King emergency. I can’t back this up with, you know, data, but I suspect that the 90s saw a lot of new finesse-based knaves who can hold up their end of a fight, and this inspired the 3.0 designers to make the Rogue into something much more potent and varied than its predecessor.

In Defense of Skill Challenges

This article was referenced recently on the Talking TableTop podcast and originally appeared on I’ve overhauled the original 4th ed version for 5th edition to showcase the many ways skills, tool kits, spells, and even backgrounds can be used to encourage a cooperative and narrative non-combat chase scene.

A common complaint about 4th edition DnD was that it reduced all roleplaying opportunities to skill checks via the Skill Challenge mechanic. We all know you should never let a game tell you that you can’t roleplay, but I understand where the concern comes from because I felt the same way. Mechanics should encourage roleplaying, not stifle it. As I believe you can’t truly understand a mechanic until you get it on the table, I folded a skill challenge into my 4th ed game. What I discovered was that when properly used, skill challenges enhanced roleplaying while keeping high-stress non-combat situations stressful. 

The Ranger Class, Part Five

The Ranger Class, Part Five

After a week off to write some creepy spells, I’m back to talking about rangers here in History of the Classes. This time around, I’m looking at the Scout class of 3.5’s Complete Adventurer and the ranger class of Pathfinder. The former is a related concept with very different mechanics and combat role, while the latter is a conscious effort to fix the problems of the 3.5 Ranger class, within the mechanically dense Pathfinder design environment.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five


Jeremy Crawford Interview – Gen Con 2015

The four days at Gen Con started off great! On the first day, I was able to sit down and speak with Jeremy Crawford. Jeremy is one of the lead designers of D&D 5th edition. Tribality readers should also recognized Jeremy Crawford with his great efforts on Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition and Blue Rose.

We met in the Gen Con Hall D Dungeons & Dragons game area, and we were surrounded by people that were playing D&D Adventurers League games through Baldman Games, and Jeremy had just completed a meet & greet with Mike Mearls for D&D players.  We were joined by Matt Lemke of Through Gamer Goggles.

Psionics, Part Six

In last week’s History of the Classes, I looked at the Psionics Handbook and the Expanded Psionics Handbook, the core psionics rules for 3.0 and 3.5, respectively. This week I’m moving on to later developments within 3.x: one official WotC expansion, Complete Psionic; and one third-party alternate vision, The Psychic’s Handbook. (Yes, there’s a lot more psionic content for 3.x than that in circulation. I have to draw the line somewhere, and this arbitrary line is as good as any.)

Psionics, Part Five

Welcome back to History of the Classes, after a week of ridiculous polling and a week off. We return to the history of psionics in D&D, already in progress. This article discusses psionics in Third Edition D&D. I think I can fairly sum up the approach as making psionic classes as close to pre-existing classes and mechanics as possible – it’s a spell point system with some weird parapsychology mixed in.

(Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Dark Sun)

4 Ideas for Fixing the Alignment Problem

Wait, I didn’t know there is an alignment problem?” or “Alignment ruins every game. Die alignment, die.

No other item on a character sheet is as controversial as alignment. Since the release of AD&D a two-axis alignment system has been used to categorize the ethical (Law/Chaos axis) and moral (Good/Evil axis) perspective of characters, creatures and societies. Player and DM feelings on alignment even fall on an axis (Love, Neutral, Hate). This article looks at four other ways to deal with alignment in your game.