Dungeons & Dragons Online has released its 40th update. There’s no anniversary or special holiday connected to the Cloaked in Darkness update. It’s a perfectly fine MMO content patch. It features the return of an annual festival event, balances some player abilities, adds cosmetic cloaks, and launches the Wood Elves race which can be purchased by players if they don’t already pay for VIP access. If none of that sounds exciting to you, then you’ve probably been playing games with cloaks and wood elves for the past decade. For longtime Dungeons & Dragons Online folks, Update 40 is a time to celebrate.
It’s a good reminder that MMO’s that you don’t hear much about still have communities of players, dedicated support staff, and a measure of success despite not having headline-grabbing news. The game’s been banging around since 2006, so bravo to players that stuck with it since its Stormreach days.
Thanks to the number-crunching wizards at FiveThirtyEight, we now have scientific proof that Dungeons & Dragons players are a mostly uncreative lot, preferring to stay as close to the mundane as possible. By partnering with D&D Beyond, FiveThirtyEight was able to look at the data of over 100,000 players and see what they liked. Surprise! They like the safe and familiar. The most popular character race and class combination is the dull human fighter. The old sword and board, hacking away like a lumberjack at a log pile. The next most popular character type is, of course, the elf ranger. Lots of Drizzt and Legolas out there.
Pity the poor Aasimar or Aarakocra as the least popular races. Presumably, they hold that dubious honor because no one even knows what they are.
Waypoint, VICE’s entertainment reporting arm, has a couple of reports on gaming in prison. Not like Prison Architect. We’re talking about how actual inmates play games while incarcerated. According to the guards and prisoners Waypoint talked to, Dungeons & Dragons is pretty popular in The Big House despite most facilities’ rules against contraband. Because dice is usually a no-no as they can be used for gambling, prisoners have had to get creative about random number generation.
“You don’t even need glue, just toilet paper,” he says, “The way I did it is just by folding it into very thick square, wetting it, and then shoving it into a square corner, say a window sill. You do this over and over again, applying water when it starts to dry out, alternating corners. Eventually you have nicely shaped square. You have to continue shaping it as it dries with your makeshift corner jig. It shrinks a bit and gets quite hard.”
Other techniques included creating dice out of paper templates and sticker glue, marking a piece of pencil to use as a 6-sided roller, and the perennial favorite of jail movies – soap carvings. The next time you’re annoyed by a lopsided die coming up with ones all the time, remember that someone is using dried toilet paper cubes to get his critical hits.
If you’ve played Dungeons & Dragons or any pen and paper role-playing game, you’ve experienced the catharsis of being a fantasy version of yourself in a group social setting. What do sour looks or polite disapproval matter to Thangar the Foul-Mouthed? He enjoys life to the fullest, whether that be with a sword or a mug of ale in his hand!
Kotaku notes that this kind of gaming is of interest to therapists as a tool for emotional exploration. They talked to groups that use Dungeons & Dragons to help teens express themselves and noted some examples of gaming going above and beyond the die roll.
“For someone who never leaves their house except for school, to have a peer say, ‘I need your help picking a lock’ makes a huge difference.”
It’s a good thing they use Dungeons & Dragons and not something like GURPS or Champions. They’d need a week of sessions just to get their characters created.
When D&D Fourth Edition was released, there was a huge backlash from the player community. The game that they had known and played for years had been changed completely, and there was no denying that it shared a lot mechanically with modern video games. In an attempt to gain new players, Wizards had alienated a portion of their player base; never a good idea in the niche hobby market. Paizo Publishing – a former partner of WotC – even went so far as to continue adding rules and modules for D&D 3.5 under the name Pathfinder, and it’s still one of the most popular RPGs being played today.
But as I went to bed that night, so very alone, I couldn’t help but think that D&D Next might bring a lot of those die-hard 3.5ers back into the fold while keeping their 4th edition audience as well. Is WotC having their cake and eating it too?
After the jump, more food metaphors Continue reading →
With the intro fight thugs dead, James got the pre-written adventure provided by Wizards of the Coast into full swing. The mayor told us how his town had been harassed by a Medusa and her loyal band of kobolds, but it had recently stopped (which was great!). Unfortunately, it had been replaced by a evil cult who had been uniting all types of baddies in a uneasy alliance with the goal of destroying the town outright (which was not great!). They also want to bring doom to the world because blah blah evil cult blah.
The point being: we had to stop them. With murder.
After the jump, how it went down Continue reading →
“Roll initiative?” Vegas asked. “But we aren’t even fighting!”
“Yes, you are,” James corrected him. “You’re all in a tavern having a drink when a group of thugs bust down the door. ‘Give us all your gold,’ they sneer.”
James is big into voices. One time we played a game online through Google Hangout, which allows you to put silly effects on yourself that sync up to your face on your webcam. He also downloaded a program that alters the pitch of his voice. For every NPC we encountered, he put on a virtual mask he had drawn and used a different voice. It was both really cool and incredibly surreal.
“I draw my sword!” Vegas exclaimed. “Let’s fight!”
After the jump, fighting! Continue reading →
“I’ve never played D&D with a girl before,” James confessed when I first told him that Audrey would be joining us. “I don’t want her to feel uncomfortable or anything; it can get kind of juvenile.”
“Are you talking about that one time you farted?” I asked. “You apologized like twenty times.”
“I, uh, well, we do other guy things.”
“You mean when Alex and I talk about UFC? You always tell us to be quiet and focus. One time you threw pretzels at us.”
“Yeah, well, good. Who wants to hear about dudes just laying on each other?”
“Listen,” I said, plopping a bag of dice on the table. “It shouldn’t be an issue at all. She owns a 360 and has a Live account. She even asked me if I play Call of Duty.”
“Yeah, I know, but still. It doesn’t sound like she’ll be the judging type.”
“Fine. But she better bring snacks.”
After the jump, oh she brought snacks Continue reading →
I dig tabletop RPGs. More specifically, I dig the tabletop RPG: Dungeons and Dragons. Yeah. So? I like D&D. Don’t look at me that way. Unless you want a fight on your hands. Brah.
Honestly, most people are more curious than dismissive when I mention playing D&D. I always explain it as an interactive story that you tell with your friends, but with rules for combat. And when your friends are actors, or improv comedians, or writers, you can tell a pretty neat story.
Recently, Wizards of the Coast released their newest iteration of the rules (called D&D Next) for public playtesting. Over the years, countless Nerds have attempted to court Nerdesses while using this ever-evolving social game as a backdrop. Last weekend, I joined those hallowed ranks. Jealous? Cause you, uh, totally should be. Seriously though: I will fight you.
After the jump, an explanation Continue reading →