Tag Archives: design

D&D Attack Wing: Unique vs. Generic Creatures

One of the more interesting aspects of the D&D Attack Wing game is the difference between the Unique and the Generic versions of the available figures. In my opinion, it was a very smart strategy with the game, as it encourages purchasing multiples of certain figures and it provides multiple play options right out of the box. I’m not really sure what the official name for these generic versions is (calling them generic seems to imply they are somehow boring options) but it fits and is less awkward than calling the versions Named and Unnamed (which makes them sound like Cthulhoid monstrosities – and we don’t have the mind flayer in the game yet). So I’ll be sticking with Unique and Generic as I discuss the game.

This is to be the first in a series of posts discussing the generic creature options in DDAW. I want to explore their differences from their Unique counterparts, but really, more importantly, I want to discuss how I see them fitting into the scheme of the game overall and where some strong options exist for the generic figures which might help flesh out a team. Before discussing specific creatures though, I thought it might be useful to just look at the state of the generic options as a whole – and maybe by category. I’m feeling my way through this as I go, in a game that is still evolving, so I’ll do my best to make it coherent. I encourage other players out there to chime in and let me know your experience with the generic versions of the figures and how they’ve played out for you.

General Notes
The generic creatures are always weaker than their unique counterparts. This usually shows up in four forms.
1. They lack the special power of the Unique Creature. Balagos, for example, gets an attack bonus when he is more wounded than his target. The Adult Red Dragon does not.
2. They have weaker stat lines. This can vary quite a bit, with some generic creatures very similar to their unique versions and some losing a little more of their punch.
3. They have fewer upgrade slots. The impact of this also varies. Some creatures, such as dragons, lose all options except Dragon slots as generics. Other creatures simply have less of the only type of slot they’d possess anyway (usually the case with Monster slots).
4. They are of lower level. Again, the range of difference varies. With some creatures the change can almost seem negligible when considering how play might go on the table.

While these changes are important, don’t forget that some aspects of the two versions of a creature stay the same.
1. Their type remains the same – so they are eligible for the same types of upgrades as before (though again, their options may be constricted).
2. They also – at least so far – maintain the same important designations such as “Shadow” and “Incorporeal” as their base creatures. These are usually fundamental to the type of creature it is so that certainly helps.
3. The most obvious similarity, of course, is that they share the same maneuver dial. This means that the transition from playing a unique to a generic version of the same creature still allows for the same understanding of positioning you have with the unique, so you don’t have to retrain your brain for each version.
4. A specific benefit of the generic version of creatures not related to their unique versions… You can play multiple of the same generic figure. This should not be underestimated for utility.

My plan is to go from here and explore the various generic versions of the creatures in the game but I’m still struggling with the best way to do that. When I consider them in my own head, I am constantly weighing them against other options, Unique and Generic, and thinking of them as creatures in their own right as opposed to the lesser version of a Unique. This makes it somewhat harder to review them in isolation. So I’ll probably try a middle road, if I can. For my first follow up to this, I’ll explore the generic options in the Starter set and then move out from there.

If any readers are into D&D Attack Wing, I’d love to hear about your experiences with the Generic options so far.

Thanks for reading.

Deities and Design

I used to worry a lot about domains. When doing world building or even just character creation, I often found myself thinking about deities in terms dictated by their portfolios more than their personalities. And by their portfolios, I mean their domains. This is an affliction tied very much to the concept of domains as mechanical effects used in 3rd and 4th edition D&D (and Pathfinder) but I can see its influence in many types of design and even fiction. It’s important to have boxes we can put ideas in. Portfolios for gods serve many purposes in design and discussion.

Creating a very defined portfolio for our fictional deities is useful because it provides clear talking points for the faith. When I explain my storm god to a gamer trying to make a cleric it is pretty easy to say, “well – just imaging Thor and that’s a good place to start.” But as I mentioned in my last post, expectations can be fluid between my image of Thor and my player’s image of Thor. I mean, I might have read a lot of Thor comics and the old Deities and Demigods entry about Thor but my player might actually read Norse mythology… Turns out Thor was associated with a lot more than storms. Hold that thought… I’ll be coming back to it.

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5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons Review, Part Three

Whew. Been sick as a dog for going on two weeks now. It’s been unpleasant. Finally, here is the last part of my ruminations on the new, 5th Edition Player’s Handbook.

PART THREE: Magic!
As I mentioned in my other posts, I’m a huge fan of what I’m seeing from 5e. I’ve also alluded to the fact that some of my favorite changes are in the way magic works. I finally get to talk about why.

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5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons Review, Part Two

My continuing exploration of the 5th Edition Player’s Handbook. As you know from Part One, I’m a fan. I really enjoyed what I saw in Character Creation with the variety of options, the balance of simple choices against more fiddly choices to appeal to a broader range of players and the addition of the backgrounds which add without creating weird pigeonholes. Now I want to look at Part Two of the book.

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Star Wars Quirks

Anyone familiar with Fantasy Flight RPGs knows that while they are pretty good at making good games… the Force is not particularly strong with their editorial teams. The more I run my Age of Rebellion game (and my experiences with Edge of the Empire added on) I realize that while many things about the system are very well done, the core rulebooks have some… quirks. I thought I’d touch on a few of these today and see how others are addressing these things in their games or what suggestions those familiar with the system might have.

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Today, I wanted to write about the 5e D&D Player’s Handbook. But something else has a hold of me and I need to start getting it out of my system.

I’m still thinking about player skill vs. character skill but I want to take a slightly different tack with it. I want to take the “vs.” part out and replace it with something else – some way to join the two that makes the experience more seamless – perhaps player skill (+) character skill. Not quite there but getting there.

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Blind Difficulties and Hidden Trouble

I’ve been tinkering with Fantasy Flight’s newest takes on the Star Wars RPG quite a bit lately, transitioning from Edge of the Empire to Age of Rebellion with a group that ranges from fairly new roleplayers to old hands. We’ve been having fun and despite a few oddities, the game is well put together and fun to play. One of those quirks came up recently and I’ve been running over it in my mind a lot trying to think through my feelings on the issue. The issue of course is blind difficulties.

To try and explain what I mean, let me set the scene of what happened in game. So I was using an idea from an old SW adventure as a starting point for my new game and this involved a droid that the party meets who is in the employ of a really impressive slicer. The party’s computer expert (who is really good) wanted to check into transmissions being sent by the droid but these transmissions are being overseen by the droid’s employer (the slicer). So it’s an opposed roll. And I didn’t consider when planning things out that I was going to come to that moment when the PC looked at me and said that they wanted to check this out and I had to assign them a difficulty pool.

Of course, the whole point is that the droid is undercover so by assigning this huge difficulty pool (5 difficulty with 4 challenge dice), the party learns exactly what the computer skill of their opposition is. More than that, they learn – no matter what else happens – that the droid is definitely not what he seems. Not that they suspect it, they know it.

Admittedly, only the players know, not necessarily their characters, but it’s no longer a point of suspense or conflict – it’s clear knowledge.

And with this roll, I realized that in this system it is nearly impossible to “keep secrets.” This was such an odd moment for me that I actually did something I’m usually loathe to do and paused the game to discuss and consider the issue with my players.

We kicked around a few ideas – that the GM just make the difficulty pool and roll it “behind the screen” – and compared it to other games such that, “hey, I rolled a 30 and still failed, there must be something going on!” This was good brainstorming, and I’ve considered these ideas more fully since then but honestly, it’s still a difficult piece of design to navigate. Sure, in a game like a d20 system rpg, a roll like the one mentioned above does make a difference – but the player is still in the dark about the bits “under the hood” of that difficulty check. Why a 30 failed is a different question than, “why does this robot have a 5/4 stat/skill split when that doesn’t jive with his story at all?” It’s a different level of information being presented in a very straightforward manner. The other idea about hiding rolls is untenable as well – as the game engine is so built around the very transparent nature of dice pools and the resultant narrative-shaping symbols.

Information is powerful and shapes decision-making even when we try to ignore it. More importantly than metagaming, this type of information creates a situation where very straightforward revelations are made that do not exist in other aspects of the game. Combat, for example, uses standardized difficulties with upgrades for NPC qualities like “Adversary” but as my group has learned, combat is another quirky bit of the game where the margin between the PCs winning easily and the NPCs wiping the floor with them is very swingy. Even so, combat still contains surprises because even though you might suddenly learn who is a nemesis versus a rival… you probably already had some indication of that going into the fight from other in-game information that had little to do with stats. This same issue exists with any area of the game that could benefit from “hidden information” from Stealth rolls to Social Interaction rolls.

Of course, my last paragraph suggested a possible “halfway” solution to this. It is possible that I could just come up with a system of standardized difficulties – such as with combat – and then upgrade the dice (or use setback dice) as modifiers based on the opposition. While this still reveals the caliber of opposition, it is less directly revealing than providing the opposition’s dice pool exactly. So, creating a talent similar to Adversary for different types of NPC actions such as awareness or slicing, etc. It’s a step but not necessarily a solution.

I’d love to hear any thoughts about FF’s Star Wars games, the idea of blind difficulties, or navigating this terrain in game. I think my follow up post to this one will discuss how I let the PC’s set their own difficulties on a recent occasion and how ridiculous space flight is in this game. But all that is still to come.

As always, thanks for reading and comments are welcome.

D&D 5e, part one

Do I need anything else to the title of this post?

I’ve just had the chance to complete my first read through of the Starter Set box contents and the free D&D 5e PDF – which you should take a moment to download and read if you love RPGs and haven’t done so yet. Let’s not call what follows a review… let’s call it an exploration of my perceptions as I move through the material. I’m mainly going to focus on the Starter Set and occasionally reference the more complete PDF rules.

A disclaimer: I did not follow the playtest very closely. I kept it at the edge of my awareness but I did not play any games with rules, etc. I mention this only to say the new material was very new to me and not tempered by the playtest experience. Also, what follows is my own meandering ruminations and should be considered in that light…

The Short Version
If you just want the really short version… I like it. I enjoyed reading it and think that some of what has been done here is amazing, some of it is derivative, and some is “meh.” But overall, I really like what I’m seeing so far.

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Randomness, Niche Protection, and a little frustration

I have a friend who hates using the d20. He pretty much hates any version of the d20 system. His primary gripe – although there are many other well-founded ones – is rooted in the randomness of rolling a single d20 to determine outcomes. Basically, no matter how good he is, bad rolling can ruin that at any time.

My own gripes with the d20 system(s) trend toward a different direction but ultimately, the randomness of these activities really grates on me as well, sometimes doing a disservice to another convenient part of many d20 related games – Niche Protection.

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Skill vs. Skill (Part Two)

This is a follow up to my last post concerning the nature of character skill vs. player skill at the gaming table and the various interactions that entails. Several comments on my last post raised specific points I intend to address as I write this, Part Two, and I have some additional ideas I hope to develop here.

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