Burden of Knowledge Design

One of the common usages of “burden of knowledge” is describing a situation where you need in-depth exposure (often first-hand) to understand something. For you to perform something to the highest levels, others have to also attain a high level of mastery. Conversely, your mastery might be so thorough that no one can successfully compete against you. The knowledge base is so deep, or so well hidden, that there is never a really equal playing field.  There are many possible barriers to entry, but system mastery isn’t easily overcome. This is especially problematic when you are talking about things that are attempting to be easily accessible, as cooperative and competitive games often attempt to be. Let’s look at a timeless game—chess.

The Age of Retiarius

I had something else planned for this week, but then I read the July round of rules answers  in Sage Advice. One of the questions was about the net, and if attacks with the net were always made with disadvantage. The answer was the net was specifically designed so a net attack was always made with disadvantage, without an intervening factor, like a special feature, advantage to offset through something like faerie fire, or the net itself is special. Unfortunately, neither barbarian or fighter seems to have a special feature to offset this penalty in the core materials. Alas, it is up to all kind folk to make an impassioned defense of the retiarius, the net-fighter.

Five Essential Lessons for New DMs in D&D

Since the release of 5th Edition, I’ve run into many DMs trying their hand at D&D for the very first time. Some of these folks are coming to the table with previous experience in Pathfinder, Star Wars, Gurps, etc., but others are as green as it gets. With that in mind, I’d like to welcome the new DMs to the wonderful world created and maintained by Gygax, Greenwood, Salvatore, Elmore, Hickman, Weis, Easley, Perkins, and many, many more. I’d also like to impart some of my hard earned knowledge from 20 years as both a player and a DM with five essential do’s and don’ts that can easily make or break an adventure. Keep in mind that a lot of my advice is geared toward DMs running their own original homebrew material and not all of it may apply to pre-generated adventures.

4 Weird And Wonderful Homebrew Campaigns

It shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone that reads my stuff that I’m a huge fan of homebrew. Except for most of the things in the Players Handbook, I homebrew until the cows come home. The adventures, the campaign, the dungeons, the magic items, the cities and towns, and sometimes even the campaign world itself are all my own creations. Over the past twenty years I can count the number of pre-fab adventures I’ve run on two hands and I have no regrets.

5 Fantasy Series You Should Read If You Play D&D

Movies, television, and theatre are wonderful places to get ideas, concepts, and even plot-lines for great D&D campaigns. However, for true inspiration and a real feel for how adventures/characters should play out, nothing beats a good series of novels. When you have several volumes to work with and each one is hundreds of pages long, authors can really immerse you into their character’s world. This is exactly what DMs should do with their players and a really good fantasy series can show you how.

The Art of the Apocalypse – 5 Ways to Destroy Your Roleplaying World

One of my guilty pleasures is a love for the end of the world movies/television shows. I’m not sure why these have always fascinated me but I suppose they are a grim reminder that this world we’ve built is always just a few events away from total chaos.

Five 2nd Edition D&D Boxed Sets That Deserve 5th Edition Makeovers

Back in the eighties and early nineties, TSR decided to release 2nd Edition material in boxed sets. In my opinion, these sets were top notch and provided exactly what most DMs needed: playgrounds. They provided just enough information to get an adventure or a campaign started and left more than enough blank spaces for the DM and players to fill in with their own ideas and material. There was usually a fully developed pre-fab adventure to introduce the PCs to the location/setting and then the box was jammed full of extra goodies like NPC pre-gens, very high quality maps, and monster manual supplements. Aside from my core books, these boxed sets were the most used materials in my library by a very wide margin.

Home Console RPGs – The First Ten Years (Part 2)

Welcome to Part II of my examination of the first ten years of Home Video Game Console Role Playing Games, or HVGCRPGs. If you missed the first part, click here. We looked at the first five years of HVGCRPGs from the very humble beginnings of RPGs on the Atari 2600 in the early 80’s, up to The Legend of Zelda and Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1986. Now, in Part II, we move on into years six through ten and start off with perhaps the biggest year console RPG’s would ever have, 1987.

Home Console RPGs – The First Ten Years (Part 1)

Up until today, almost all of my studies and articles in roleplaying have focused on Tabletop RPGs such as D&D, Pathfinder, Star Wars, and so forth. But I believe that the time has come to branch out a bit further and so begins my two-part series on the early days of Home Video Game RPGs or HVGRPGs.

6 Real World Locations To Inspire Your Roleplaying

Every so often I get captivated by a beautiful piece of fantasy art work and some of my favorites are the ones that just show a massive landscape of epic proportions with usually a few characters or creatures in the foreground. There have also been dozens of movies in recent years that have provided inspiring backdrops and breathtaking locations including The Lord of The Rings Trilogy, Avatar, and The Harry Potter Series to name three. And every time I see something on this level I think to myself, “How do I make my campaigns look like that without ripping them off?”