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Howling Tower: Off-the-Cuff Adventures

My first efforts as a DM were with published D&D adventures: D1–3, Descent Into the Depths of the Earth, Shrine of the Kuo-Toa, and Vault of the Drow. We bombed through the series in two marathon sessions. Those adventures produced great moments and great memories. I still shudder, however, when I think about some of …

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Delving into the Caves of Chaos with a New Iteration of D&D

Meatspray. That is the nickname my fighter earned within the first hour of playtesting D&D Next. Granted, as a player I naturally lean toward exploiting the rules—ever play Street Fighter 2 and get pinned in the corner by Ken or Ryu and then subsequently kicked over and over again into oblivion? Yeah, I am that …

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D&D Next: Shaping up to be a cookbook full of recipes for “Awesome”

My experience with the D&D Next playtest process over the past few months has been nothing short of amazing. My players and I have really come out of our shells, so to speak. Characters are developing more than ever, emergent storytelling is at the forefront of our games, and—most importantly—referencing game materials and rules has …

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Howling Tower: When Heroes Meet Horror

When swords & sorcery heroes come up against cosmic horror, there is a chance that the characters themselves will catch a whiff of the universe beyond, whether or not they want to. Most horror games deal with that corrupting influence through some type of psychic decay or sanity countdown. Such mechanisms aren’t well suited to …

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Howling Tower: Dragons—A Soar Spot

Dragons are the most iconic creatures in fantasy RPGs, for obvious reasons. They ought to be among the most impressive and frightening, too, but that isn’t always the case. It’s not because dragons don’t have the chops; on a stat-by-stat basis, your average dragon is terrifying. Yet player characters bring them down with shocking regularity. …

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Howling Tower: The Case for Random Encounters

Once upon a time, random encounters were standard fare in roleplaying games. Somewhere along the way, they fell out of fashion. Players, DMs, and game designers decided that random encounters embodied the worst of lazy DMing. They were indiscriminate party killers. Most of all, they were dumped because they were irrelevant to the ongoing story. …

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Your Whispering Homunculus, Now In The Kobold Store

Curse that Whispering Homunculus! Yesterday he took over Kobold World Headquarters and wreaked all sorts of havoc online. We finally got control back, only to find out today that while the Homunculus was in charge, he used the Kobold presses to publish his own book. Yes, you can now buy Your Whispering Homunculus in the …

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Howling Tower: The Road from Dullsville to Thrilltown

Journeys are part of the myths we try to capture in RPGs. From the Odyssey and Anabasis of the Greeks, to Huck and Jim’s trip down the Mississippi, to films such as The Hidden Fortress and Saving Private Ryan, journeys serve as both vehicles for adventure and as metaphors for the heroes’ movement toward self-discovery. …

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Howling Tower: Respect the Lowly Dungeon

It’s taken as gospel by many fantasy roleplayers that in the bad old days, all campaigns were about dungeons. Characters left the dungeon and returned to town only for healing and to replenish supplies. They might have a few random encounters between the town and the dungeon, but those were nothing more than distractions from …

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Howling Tower: Complexity and Option Fatigue

By now, everyone has had time to settle into the idea that D&D is getting another revision. I’m using this week to look at some D&D history, what revisions mean, and their effects. Today’s episode concerns complexity and option fatigue. Every revision of D&D has made the game more complex somehow. Complexity comes in different …

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Howling Tower: Racial Discrimination

No, not that type of discrimination. Fantasy roleplayers love their nonhuman races. What started in AD&D with elves, dwarves, halflings, half-elves, and half-orcs has mushroomed into dozens of player-character races in RPGs. Players seem to have an inexhaustible appetite for more races to dabble with. The choices have expanded from humans through the so-called demihumans …

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Howling Tower: Magic is Changing My World

Last week, we looked at three groups of spells that cause headaches for DMs. The first contains spells that let characters get from here to there without dealing with what’s in between. The second lets players see what’s over there, know what’s going on, or glimpse what lies ahead when that knowledge would otherwise be …

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Howling Tower: Magic is Ruining My Game

Magic is all about warping reality to do the wizard’s bidding. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Drawmij, Harry Dresden, or Isaac Bonewits. The wizard wants or needs the world to be different from how it is and has the supernatural juice to make it so. The power to shape reality is what makes magic-users in …

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