Fake Chinese New Year’s Eve

My D&D group had our hangout with our friend in San Jose this weekend. Someone suggested naming the event, “Fake Chinese New Year’s,” because its an additional party after the official Fake New Year’s, just like Chinese New Year’s is in the USA.

I picked up my spy partner from the previous post and we went to our San Jose friend’s house together. After catching up a little we started the gaming off with a few rounds of Three Dragon Ante.

Three Dragon Ante is a game made by Wizards of the Coast for D&D. It’s meant to be a card game that the people play in D&D worlds. It’s a bit like poker with a three card hand, but with tons of other rules and suits thrown in. Each suit has a special effect when you put it into your flight (the hands are called flights because they cards are all dragons). The special effect only activates if your card is weaker than the one your opponent played previously. The person with the highest hand at the end of the round wins the pot. You can see that you have to balance between activating your effects or playing high cards to win the pot.

Three Dragon Ante has a nice flow to it and we played two games of it. After that we went to pick up some pizza and talked about which roleplaying system we’ll be using for my next campaign. I and a few other group member have gotten tired of playing D&D 3.5. We feel we’ve explored everything we can with the system. The new systems I’ve looked at are D&D 4E and Hackmaster. Hackmaster has a lot more appeal within my group so we discussed a few of the benefits of that system.

Our next game was Samurai, an old card game where each player is a samurai in feudal Japan. You attempt to gain honor by faithfully serving a respectable daimyo. The daimyos fight each other and there’s a lot of espionage and backroom deals to gain more power as well. I won that one, but just barely.

Another of our buddies showed up at that point. We switched to playing a new card game I’d gotten for Christmas, Villainy. Villainy is all about completing your villainous schemes as a super-villain like Lex Luthor. You have to gather a team of loyal henchman, commit nefarious crimes, complete your master plan, and finally defeat Fantastiman, Defender of Good and Justice. I played the nefarious Frog Tamer and attempted to decaffeinate the world’s coffee supply. Unfortunately, Master Asaurus Pain completed his vile scheme to release Fantastiman’s browser history before me, thus winning the game.

We went out for dinner at a Filipino place that served exclusively dishes with meat and eggs. We watched the final quarter of a football game between the Ravens and some other team. After that I had to head out. I dropped my friend off back at his house. On the drive home I listened to part of a Hardcore History on World War 1 that described what the USA was doing prior to entering the war.

And that’s the word on Fake Chinese New Year’s! I have yet to talk about Christmas stuff yet, but I’ll be getting there soon.

-Mister Ed

How D&D Works Part 2

These are my personal dice that I use when I play D&D.
These are my personal dice that I use when I play D&D.

The imagination aspects of D&D set it apart from most other games, but the dice do that as well.

D&D uses dice all the time to decide what happens in the game. Dice are rolled when you talk to other characters, when you try to hit something with a sword, and when you try to figure out what a magic potion does.

D&D has many different types of dice, all of which you can see here. And in case you were wondering dice is the plural. The singular of the noun is die.

The seven types are 4-sided dice, 6-sided dice, 8-sided dice, 10-sided dice, 12-sided dice, and 20-sided dice. In D&D these are abbreviated to just d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, and d20.

When you roll a certain number of dice there’s an additional abbreviation. If you roll two 6-sided dice then you are rolling 2d6. If you’re rolling two 8-sided dice and adding 5 then you are rolling 2d8+5.

Owning and rolling the dice becomes fun for its own sake the more you play the game. The dice in the picture are just all my personal sets in a pile. I have loads more that I loan out to other people when I play with them. I keep those dice in a wooden box that looks like a d6.

When you roll the dice in D&D you’re always trying to get high numbers. The most often rolled die is the d20. The d20 is used for all of the activities I listed above and many more. It’s used when you swim, when you climb, and when you listen at a door to see what’s behind it.

When you roll a 20 on a d20, you celebrate! You rolled a natural 20 or  a critical hit (often abbreviated as a crit). A crit lets your character perform whatever task he was attempting to the best of his ability. If he was debating someone, he utterly defeats them. If he was swimming, he sets a new personal record. If he was making a cake, he bakes an amazing cake that everyone loves to eat.

Similarly, if you roll a 1 on a d20, it’s called a fumble. When you fumble, something bad happens. The most common result is that your shoelace comes untied and you trip on it.

The dice are used to resolve all but the simplest actions in the game. It’s fun for me to trudge into a dragon’s lair and not know exactly whether my character will come out alive or not. I hope he does, but victory is never assured. In our last session the dragon toasted and burned two of us!

That’s all for now.

-Mister Ed

How Dungeons and Dragons Works Part 1

Sunday is the day I typically play D&D with my friends, so I am thinking about making Mondays into my “talk about D&D days.”

Last week I talked about the history of D&D and said a little about how I feel when I play D&D in contrast to video games. Today I’ll be talking about how D&D and other pen and paper roleplaying games work in practice.

First, a group of friends get together and decide they want to play. Typical group sizes range from four people to as large as eight. Most groups meet in person. My group meets on the internet using a program called Roll20 which I’ll talk about another time.

My group has six people in it including me. Out of the six players, only one is the Dungeon Master (DM). The other five are Player Characters (PCs). The PCs usually form a team while the DM plays against them. If D&D were a typical competitive game like Scrabble or Monopoly, then the PCs would cooperate to beat the DM.

Each PC designs one character to represent themselves in the D&D world. There are essentially no limitations in what you can design. When I first started playing I wanted to be a talking bat that cast spells. D&D does allow for this option, but my dad eventually convinced my nine year-old self to play a delinquent elf teenager. I’ve since played hobbit gladiators, dwarven drunks, and elf pirates among many others.

So the PCs each create a hero to play. The PCs control every aspect of that hero, how old he is, what his hair color is, how tall he is, how he fights, how he talks. Everything. But that’s only five people, what about all the others that inhabit the fantasy world that the heroes live in?

The DM creates and plays everything else in the world. If the PCs go to a city, the DM decides what that city looks like and what businesses are there and it is the DM’s responsibility to tell the players that information. The DM creates challenges for the PCs, the traditional challenge being a dungeon with a dragon at the bottom of it (The game is called Dungeons and Dragons for a reason).

The PCs could do anything they wanted. They could open a T-shirt shop together if they wanted to; however, most don’t open shops. D&D is most fun when fighting monsters or overcoming other violent challenges. My villains in my current world are vampires. There are also zombies, dragons, giants, ogres, evil wizards, and many other evil threats to the imaginary innocent people in my world. The PCs try to make the world a better place through their actions. The fun comes from how they decide to do that and the choices they have to make along the way as well as the thrilling action scenes that we play out.

That’s all for now, but more to come next week!

-Mister Ed