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Christoph Daemondred
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D&D is not an Appliance

Fair Warning: Long Rant Ahead

I just finished watching this video. It confirms my fear that the top-level perspective of Wizards of the Coast is misguided. I first expressed concerns about this a few months ago in my much-reshared open letter to WotC that basically offered them a plan for moving forward with passion (

However, I still don't see that passion. I see people designing appliances.

Since January, we have seen tons and tons of poll questions. Many have questioned the strange nature of the answer choices and the wording of the questions. I won't follow down that path but just give a hat tip to those people because I share their concerns. The nature of the questions and the answers offered were... strange.

Because the totality of what we have seen so far, it appears that they are simply trying to sell next year's version of an appliance. Now with built-in ice crusher! The video attached to this post is simply the continuation of that function (especially the part near the end of the talk where Mike Mearls almost calls D&D the equivalent of a wireless router that you have to replace because it is wearing out).

All the blog posts and videos seems to have the same common theme.

We have been tasked with creating the next version and making everyone happy

And you can't do that. You simply cannot do that with a game. Because there is nothing in that mission statement that reflects PASSION about what you are doing. And nobody plays games because they have to. They play games because they WANT to.

I listen to a ton of gaming podcasts, especially those that interview game designers. When I hear game designers talk about their games, I don't hear them talk about how someone tasked them with it. They wrote the game because they had some crazy idea in their skull that was attacking them from the inside, punching them in the gut, screaming at them in the middle of the night to get out of bed and pound away at that keyboard.

Truly powerful game designs are not developed in committees. They are built by the passionate explosions of a few really empowered creative people. They are not really even made so much as they burst onto the scene of their own volition. They are kernels of ideas that cannot be ignored by their creator.

The great settings of D&D's past are filled to the brim with passion. The cup runneth over. Forgotten Realms is like the North Star that shines over the others, but there is Eberron, Dark Sun, Mystara, Birthright, Planescape, Al Qadim, Spelljammer, Ravenloft, and surely several others I am forgetting right now. They all burn bright in the night sky. Fantastic tales of adventure and magic and love and power. They each reach out to you with a beckoning hand and offer up something of value. Even those settings I don't personally like, I can still see very clearly what elements would appeal to other people. They have amazingly powerful ideas, passionate ends, that scream out from the designs and speak to people in a deep way.

When I see these kind of videos about how best to manage fiddly bits and how to decide upon a skill system that will satisfy all four editions of D&D fans, my heart just aches. The greatest challenge facing D&D Next is not fiddly bits. It is someone giving a damn about what you are doing. It is PASSION. You need passion!

I have yet to see anyone come out and say, "You should play D&D Next because we have this thing called X that is going to be AWESOME!". At least 4th edition, for all the problems I have with it, had some kind of passionate end. Skill challenges and healing surges and daily/encounter/at-will powers illustrate that clearly someone had passionate ideas about the direction the game should be taking. They had a direction they wanted to GO!

All I see for D&D Next is reasoning about how you will be satisfied if you are a fan of Edition X or Edition Y. I don't see anything like "You have to play this game as a Pub Crawler (a theme mentioned by Monte Cook in a previous talk) because it is a totally new experience". That would go against the whole idea of "one edition to rule them all".

I have one edition to rule them all. It's called my bookshelf. One, two, three, four. All there. In one place. I don't need one edition to rule them all.

So the big question I have to ask is WHY SHOULD I PLAY THIS GAME?

Not why I will find something familiar. Not why will my friend who likes to use battle grids be satisfied. Not why I can play with noobs.

Why should I care? What can I do? What are you offering me that my bookshelf of four editions + Pathfinder is not offering me. Because until you answer that question, your product has no passion and it has no soul.

And underneath that bookshelf with all my D&D books is a whole rack of stuff that DOES have a soul. That reaches out and screams play me, you can be a mouse with a sword living in a dangerous world and play me, you can be a mage trying to learn about magic in an alt-history Christendom where you are playing with forces believed to be legends and play me, you can be a powerful vampire trying to keep your existence secret from humans and play me, you can try to survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where scarcity drives conflict and so on and so on and so on.

You don't just have to be better than Pathfinder and 4e. You have to be better than Star Wars, World of Darkness, Ars Magica, Burning Wheel, GURPS, Eclipse Phase, Apocalypse World, and dozens and dozens of other games that I see people playing in my Google+ feed every damn day.

Passion is what causes people to pick up games off the shelf. Not interoperability. Not the lowest common denominator. Nobody is going to buy D&D Next because you decided to make Turn Undead a Level 1 power instead of Level 2. Nobody is going to buy D&D Next because you reached a better equilibrium.

This talk is called the Future of D&D. But I don't see any future here. I see a whole lot of past.

Well... been there, done that, got the T-shirt

What I want to know is WHAT'S NEXT?

hat tip +Brent Stires for the video

My Tabletop Gaming circle so far. I'm always looking for more people to add to it so if you're interested feel free to drop me a message and I'll add you into it. And if by some chance you've been added to the circle incorrectly, let me know!

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"The Miracle of your Mind is that you can see the world as it isn't. We can imagine what it's like to be some other person in some other place..."
Have you seen TED2012, Auto-tuned? Read all about how John Boswell (of "Symphony of Science") made this mashup:

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I realized last night that it had been a few days since my last map update so I decided to crack the whip a bit and finish up another section for this morning.

Between this and the last two areas I've finally finished the overland maps for my most recent campaign which has centered around the fall and now rebuilding of the great city of Lotus. Next up will likely be a portion of the city map for the fallen town itself. As always, critique on either map or story are always happily welcomed, but without further ado:


For hundreds of years the great city of Lotus has been the primary trade center of the known world. Growing at an astounding rate it size often stunned newcomers and left them wondering it's streets, lost in it's immensity.

That has all changed now. With the release of the immortal Blood Empress the city's inhabitants were almost completely destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of people sacrificed in mere moments as the seal on her prison was shattered.

The war that followed her rise, as the nations gathered against her, scarred the landscape forever, leaving the lands to the north soaked in blood and darkness. A tear in the material realm directly into the hungering void beyond destroyed both armies, shattering the opposition's resolve and driving them back.

As with all things in Avalon however a group of Heroes finally arose. Gathering the nations again, renewing their determination against the armies of Blood as the Heroes themselves drove deep into the Heart of Lotus a strike that the Empress would not soon forget.

Sealing the Empress away once again, Lotus was now free of her reign. However the destruction left in her wake had left the once great city all but uninhabitable. Forsaking his hammer, one of the heroes rose and took up the scepter of Lord Magistrate and sent out a call to the surrounding nations. Lotus would be rebuilt, and any who would stake their claim or lend their hand would have welcome. Like a gold rush they came to the ruined city, pressing back the darkness that had come to fill it, driving back the hordes of monstrous creatures that now filled it's streets. A wedge of city was cleared. Enough to live by, to rebuild from, to take back the city. But even then only the smallest fraction of it's streets were free from danger.

Perhaps new heroes will rise to draw the great city of Lotus from her blood soaked ashes. We shall have to see...

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Oh, the number of people I know that need this shirt...

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Seuss Explains Why Computers Sometimes Crash

Here's an easy game to play.
Here's an easy thing to say:

If a packet hits a pocket on a socket on a port,
And the bus is interrupted as a very last resort,
And the address of the memory makes your floppy disk abort,
Then the socket packet pocket has an error to report!

If your cursor finds a menu item followed by a dash,
And the double-clicking icon puts your window in the trash,
And your data is corrupted 'cause the index doesn't hash,
Then your situation's hopeless, and your system's gonna crash!

You can't say this?
What a shame sir!
We'll find you
Another game sir.

If the label on the cable on the table at your house,
Says the network is connected to the button on your mouse,
But your packets want to tunnel on another protocol,
That's repeatedly rejected by the printer down the hall,

And your screen is all distorted by the side effects of gauss
So your icons in the window are as wavy as a souse,
Then you may as well reboot and go out with a bang,
'Cause as sure as I'm a poet, the sucker's gonna hang!

When the copy of your floppy's getting sloppy on the disk,
And the microcode instructions cause unnecessary risc,
Then you have to flash your memory and you'll want to RAM your ROM.
Quickly turn off the computer and be sure to tell your mom!

- Gene Ziegler (

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Continuing the process of detailing my campaign as well as exploring my artistic side and some map making techniques, I present more of my world below.

Any questions, critique, or commentary are more than welcome whether it concern the snippet of background or the attached map section. I'm eager to start making more of my experience here on G+ and as such have actually been considering the prospect of running a campaign hangout sometime in the near future

Mountain Home and the Valley of Thepcthza

The group of settlers that founded Mountain Home were fleeing the upheaval to the west and trying to get as far away from the misery that their civilization had become. Far from the anger of men and the wrath of the gods they searched for peace. They build their lives in the earth and stone of the mountains, carving out a place where they would always be safe from the wars and persecutions of the world they once knew.

During the persecution against magic users that followed the War of the Gods many fled to Mountain Home seeking refuge and were welcomed with open arms. Their abilities helped to shape and grow the city into a bastion of knowledge that even the destructive armies of Gholm to the north could not penetrate.

Hundreds of years of peace passed, before the citizens began to realize where they had built their perfect home. Deep within the mountains, shielded from the outside world for good reason, rested the twisting Valley of Thepcthza.

Born from an ancient seed of chaos sown by one of the immortal Lost Dreams long before the war, the valley had twisted in on itself. Twisted beyond itself, beyond it's existence on the mortal plane and became a thing of utter chaos and madness in and of itself driving any who would enter, and seek to navigate it's ever shifting passages, deep into a spiral of darkness and insanity.

Whispers echo from it's core, calling out to the mages of Mountain Home, speaking of power and knowledge, of dreams and of madness. And of the ever illusive Dark Market.

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After becoming more and more addicted to the wonderful thing that is G+ over the last few weeks and watching project after game project pass through my stream I've become inspired to push forward on "finishing" my magnum opus.

For a little over 10 years I've been running campaigns out of a custom setting which has slowly and steadily grown and thrived, becoming filled with not only my histories but the stories of countless player characters as they guided the flow of fate and the world itself.

I feel the time has finally come to start cracking the whip and make my dreams a reality. As part of that effort I've begun detailing my rough maps in an attempt to get them closer to production status or at least practice and develop my map making skills. So, here is my first real attempt at digital map making (or at least a small part of it).

The Dracoban Shard.
A sharp cluster of jagged spires which divide the nations above and below it. As the only route of trade between the lands of Gholm to the north and Lotus to the south the difficult mountain passes are frequently filled with bandits and thieves ready to jump unwary travelers. Deep within the center of the shard lies Araduin, the isolated kingdom of the Dvergar whom some call dwarves. And buried deep beneath the stone a secret lost to even time itself.

Comments not only welcomed, but happily encouraged!

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It really puts those stat blocks in the Monster Manuals into perspective

Thanks to +Greg Christopher
Why we shoot deer in the wild. (A letter from someone who wants to remain anonymous, who farms, writes well and actually tried this)

I had this idea that I could rope a deer, put it in a stall, feed it up on corn for a couple of weeks, then kill it and eat it. The first step in this adventure was getting a deer. I figured that, since they congregate at my cattle feeder and do not seem to have much fear of me when we are there (a bold one will sometimes come right up and sniff at the bags of feed while I am in the back of the truck not 4 feet away), it should not be difficult to rope one, get up to it and toss a bag over its head (to calm it down) then hog tie it and transport it home.

I filled the cattle feeder then hid down at the end with my rope. The cattle, having seen the roping thing before, stayed well back. They were not having any of it. After about 20 minutes, my deer showed up - 3 of them. I picked out a likely looking one, stepped out from the end of the feeder, and threw my rope.

The deer just stood there and stared at me. I wrapped the rope around my waist and twisted the end so I would have a good hold. The deer still just stood and stared at me, but you could tell it was mildly concerned about the whole rope situation. I took a step towards it, it took a step away. I put a little tension on the rope, and then received an education.

The first thing that I learned is that, while a deer may just stand there looking at you funny while you rope it, they are spurred to action when you start pulling on that rope.

That deer EXPLODED. The second thing I learned is that pound for pound, a deer is a LOT stronger than a cow or a colt. A cow or a colt in that weight range I could fight down with a rope and with some dignity. A deer-- no Chance. That thing ran and bucked and twisted and pulled.

There was no controlling it and certainly no getting close to it. As it jerked me off my feet and started dragging me across the ground, it occurred to me that having a deer on a rope was not nearly as good an idea as I had originally imagined. The only upside is that they do not have as much stamina as many other animals.

A brief 10 minutes later, it was tired and not nearly as quick to jerk me off my feet and drag me when I managed to get up. It took me a few minutes to realize this, since I was mostly blinded by the blood flowing out of the big gash in my head. At that point, I had lost my taste for corn-fed venison. I just wanted to get that devil creature off the end of that rope! .

I figured if I just let it go with the rope hanging around its neck, it would likely die slow and painfully somewhere. At the time, there was no love at all between me and that deer. At that moment, I hated the thing, and I would venture a guess that the feeling was mutual.

Despite the gash in my head and the several large knots where I had cleverly arrested the deer's momentum by bracing my head against various large rocks as it dragged me across the ground, I could still think clearly enough to recognize that there was a small chance that I shared some tiny amount of responsibility for the situation we were in. I didn't want the deer to have to suffer a slow death, so I managed to get it lined back up in between my truck and the feeder - a little trap I had set before hand... Kind of like a squeeze chute. I got it to back in there and I started moving up so I could get my rope back.

Did you know that deer bite?

They do! I never in a million years would have thought that a deer would bite somebody, so I was very surprised when ...... I reached up there to grab that rope and the deer grabbed hold of my wrist. Now, when a deer bites you, it is not like being bit by a horse where they just bite you and slide off to then let go. A deer bites you and shakes its head--almost like a pit bull. They bite HARD and it hurts.

The proper thing to do when a deer bites you is probably to freeze and draw back slowly.. I tried screaming and shaking instead. My method was ineffective.

It seems like the deer was biting and shaking for several minutes, but it was likely only several seconds. I, being smarter than a deer (though you may be questioning that claim by now), tricked it. While I kept it busy tearing the tendons out of my right arm, I reached up with my left hand and pulled that rope loose.

That was when I got my final lesson in deer behavior for the day.

Deer will strike at you with their front feet. They rear right up on their back feet and strike right about head and shoulder level, and their hooves are surprisingly sharp ... I learned a long time ago that, when an animal - like a horse - strikes at you with their hooves and you can't get away easily, the best thing to do is try to make a loud noise and make an aggressive move towards the animal. This will usually cause them to back down a bit so you can escape.

This was not a horse. This was a deer, so obviously, such trickery would not work. In the course of a millisecond, I devised a different strategy. I screamed like a woman and tried to turn and run. The reason I had always been told NOT to try to turn and run from a horse that paws at you is that there is a good chance that it will hit you in the back of the head.
Deer may not be so different from horses after all, besides being twice as strong and 3 times as evil, because the second I turned to run, it hit me right in the back of the head and knocked me down..

Now, when a deer paws at you and knocks you down, it does not immediately leave. I suspect it does not recognize that the danger has passed. What they do instead is paw your back and jump up and down on you while you are laying there crying like a little girl and covering your head.

I finally managed to crawl under the truck and the deer went away.

So now I know why when people go deer hunting they bring a rifle with a sort of even the odds!!

All these events are true so help me God... An Educated Farmer.
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