Saturday, 26 February 2011

Double D&D: New Campaign & Dungeons & Dice App Review

A little bit on my new campaign I'll be starting this Tuesday for 5 new players and a review of the iPhone game Dungeons & Dice.

 New Campaign: Being at University I don't have access to all of my D&D books, minis, dry wipe maps etc and I'll be running my up and coming game pretty low-tech and with the minimum amount of rules check-ups. Hand drawn maps and tokens with simplified character sheets and printed power cards; the only piece of technology I'll be using is my Obsidian Portal campaign wiki.
I did look into some iPhone apps to aid me; but what is on the market is neither particularly useful nor innovative. An app that tracks Initiative is all well and good, but if I have to input all the characters and monsters manually before hand the time this takes offsets its usefulness when in play. If only I had my Paizo dry wipe initiative marker. Sometimes simple, is best.

So my new campaign will start Tuesday for 5 new players, all new to D&D and tabletop role playing as a whole. I don't know what to expect and neither do they. I don't think they even have an idea what actually playing D&D is like, most questions they've asked have been along the lines of "Is it like Warhammer or Fallout or Lord of the Rings etc etc?" And all I could answer was "All that and more." Being the joker of the group, and having a great fondness for partying; they really didn't imagine me to be the D&D sort, or rather didn't the D&D sort could be me. They're definitely going to learn a thing or two about appearances and misconceptions, but more than anything I want them to have fun. And from their comments I think I've learned a little something; every book or game mentioned has been very iconic and had a very distinct flavour, something I'll need to work into my campaign from the get go.

As a DM I like to start small, cliches are cliches because they work and whilst for a regular D&Der goblins and the like may grow tiresome, I really want to drill home the 'Points of Light' idea. Fallcrest is constantly at ends with monsters, they are every bit as much a part of daily life as farming or going to market. But where I want my game to stand out from their experiences with high fantasy movies or narrativless war games they may have played; I want to show that whilst these creatures are evil they don't solely exist to destroy the civilised world, some are simply to lazy or cowardly to make this their primary concern and have their own agendas. It takes a particularly exceptional monster to lead the forces of evil like it takes a particularly exceptional hero to defeat them.   I'll definitely be mixing it up with the more bizarre monsters as things move on, those that are iconic to D&D not just fantasy as a whole. I'd describe the feel as slightly more swashbuckling and mundane than your typical high fantasy but with both the grit and humor that say the Fallout universe nails perfectly when the need arises. I want the world to seem both fantastic and ordinary at the same, this may seem like an odd choice of words but I want my players to know no matter how fantastic a creature or situation is there will be; perhaps a strained logic or realism, but logic and realism all the same. As fellow scientists they should appreciate this! I also want to apply this mantra to the actions of the players also, the hope is to get them into good role playing  habits from the start, get them to see their Fighters mark as more than just a mechanic and to have them bring it to life. Sadly at the moment this all just good intentions, so far I have little to no knowledge of player motivations or needs beyond what I can gather from their character preferences. Wish me luck...

Back to Apps: While I didn't find any that will aid in my gaming, I certainly found one that will distract from it. Dungeons & Dice is a RPG board game hybrid. You roll a die to move around the board in a linear way, you can go up or down, left or right but can't change direction unless you hit a cross roads, and cannot back track.  The RPG elements come in the form of leveling up, completing quests acquiring magic items and spells. The nicest touch I felt was the inclusion of a rulebook, a players handbook of sorts that describes the strengths of each of the four classes; Paladin, Fighter, Cleric and Wizard. Paladins gain a bonus when using shields, ignoring damage more easily as their Dexterity increases rather than on a roll of a 6 only. Fighters get a double attack feat which adds 2 to all attack rolls and Clerics can banish spirits, the effectiveness of which like the Paladin use of their shield is based on their Wisdom. Finally Wizards can use Magic Arrow to attack with their Intelligence instead of Strength. That brings us to the actual mechanics of combat, if your fighting a monster you roll a dice and add it to the attack of your weapon, your Strength added as a bonus, you then subtract the dice roll of the monster and its defense value. Fighting spirits works the same way except you only add the magic level of your weapon and the bonuses to attacks are based on Intelligence for attacks and Wisdom for defense. Note Charisma determines the number of NPCs you can hire who also boost you stats.

Whilst the game and the mechanics themselves may seem quite simple, there is a significant level of depth with the number of spells and random events. However coupled with this is a level of tedium. The problem lies first and foremost in the linear movement, it is determined by a die roll and you can only travel in one direction, no back tracking and the full amount of your roll. This can make in infuriatingly time consuming to land on the square you want. Doubly so that the event on the square is often random, and penalties include stat reduction, forcing you to leave to level and return. Whilst there is a double roll ability, based on Wisdom, where you can roll twice and pick the value you want, this is only wholly effective in in combat and movement. In event it simply takes the highest number which is not always the best outcome in all circumstances. Level grinding as always in RPG's is effective but given this is an iPhone game, you would expect a more easy pick up and play experience.

Overall: a 17 out of 20, definitely one of the deepest iPhone gaming experiences I've had, and I've still yet to play it as a competitive multi-player. So despite a number of infuriating design choices and initial difficulty, the idea alone of a cute mini D&D is enough to make me smile.

Dungeons & Dice in iTunes