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January 1, 2017

[Questing's Musings] Gaming Quests for 2017

Questing's Musings is a column where I give my disorganised thoughts about gamemastering, timely topics happening in the gaming community and gaming in general. Part of my wish for this column is, at worst, for it to be a place for me to rant, rave or speak out my random thoughts, and ,at best, spark discussion and exploration of new discourses in gamemastering and gaming. Other than that, it is also most likely where I will put up posts that are not suited for any of the other columns on this blog. The posts here are mostly an unfiltered capture of my thoughts on the topic at hand and should be read as an opinionated soapbox, rather than one that tries to further any sort of agenda. As such, feel free to ignore this column if my personal thoughts on gaming does not interest you in the slightest.  




With the coming of the new year, resolutions are often the most appropriate thing to be talking about as we face the potential prospects of a fresh start. While I'm not the firmest believer of having any sort of resolutions (gaming or otherwise), I do like the idea of having a semblance of what to do in the coming year in terms of gaming. Rather than listing them out as resolutions and giving myself the unneeded pressures of sticking to them and completing them, I have gone the way of making them my gaming 'Quests' that I strive to complete as any good adventurer should.

So if you are interested in what I'm planning to do for 2017, here are my gaming quests for 2017!

Start running regular games again

I had ran through the Lost Mine of Phandelver twice since I bought it in 2015 and had taken a short break after my second run of it in 2016. The plan was to get back to running again shortly after that but then my life's routine took a turn and there were more important things to do than prepping and running games again. That's not to say that I haven't been gaming at all in the meantime (I was playing in 2 groups and had a weekly session of organised play), but it's about time that I get back on the saddle again for another rodeo. I am in the midst of re-prepping my notes Lost Mine of Phandelver, with some added personal mix to it for a more challenging experience, so it could be the start of my next campaign.

Then again, given my adult commitments and limited time, I have been entertaining the prospects of running regular one-shots for a regular group that is less straining than maintaining a long running campaign. I may delve a little deeper into why I think one-shots can be just as fun as a long term campaign (or even more so) in a future posts.

So those are my options at the moment, and I can't wait to start GMing again.

Find a new regular gaming group

2016 was a great year for me as far as meeting new players in the city where I'm living in at the moment. The growing numbers of the RPG community in this part of Malaysia has seen some very encouraging signs of new players being interested in RPGs and helping to connect older players who may not have otherwise known each other over the years.

I've had the privilege of playing in new groups and look forward to meeting more players from the community, but my ultimate goal is to find or form that perfect gaming group that suits me. I have my own criteria of what I'm looking for in a gaming group and there is so much I want to do to test out some ideas. But it all has to begin with finding the right people to game with, who share my enthusiasm and wavelength about gaming to improve as a GM and a gamer.

This would probably be my hardest quest to complete this year, but this is what I want to do and I hope I will find that group by the end of 2017.

Complete an RPG project

Since I have returned to gaming on a regular basis, I have been having new ideas and also revisiting some old projects of mine that I had worked on. Most of these projects are almost always daunting and time-consuming in nature, but they could have some long term benefits to my own gaming life and could benefit the community in some way.

The main trouble, of course, is having too much to do with too little time to complete it. Even by spending incremental amounts of time on each one would probably take too long to finish, so I have decided to select and focus on only one of these projects, in conjunction with my regular RPG-related works (this blog, running a campaign, and the other quests I'm planning) for the rest of 2017.

I may or may not reveal which project I will be working on eventually, but I will need to make a decision on what I want to do for the rest of the year. Hopefully by finishing just one of them this year will create some momentum for me to keep on doing more in the years to come.

Start making content for the DMG

With the proliferation of the Dungeon Masters Guild, I have started seeing it as an additional source of income to pay for my gaming habits. It's about time I learn to embrace the digital age of RPGs and accept the challenge of stepping up my game. This is probably my most ambitious quest to attempt in 2017. but hopefully it is the first step into becoming a game writer in the future.

Start new columns on the Questing GM

As far as the number of attempted blog revivals I have done since I started this blog, this is probably the proudest achievement I've had so far in 2016; I'm finally able to return to a regular blogging schedule about my gaming life. To make things better, I am now able to share it with an audience much closer to home. Although according to my statistics, most of my readership is composed of those outside my home country (which I am very thankful for, for giving me reason to keep on blogging), but I have finally found a reason to share my gaming thoughts and revisit those that I have collected over year of absence on this blog.

I want to continue making a more consistent presence in the RPG blogging scene again. I already have seeds for new columns and content (including this new column) that would hopefully make this blog an enjoyable and helpful resource to GMs, players and gamers alike in enjoying RPGs. 

Learn to change my gaming mindset

Gaming can easily be a personal thing. It is easy to identify what we like and dislike about certain gaming styles and stick to the ones we like for the rest of our gaming life. However with the growth spurt in my local gaming scene, I think it would be a disservice to only stick to one gaming style without even trying to explore what is out there and help grow a healthier community.

For this reason, I'm challenging myself to be more open to adapt and adopt new horizons of gaming, and hopefully by doing so will help me to be a better GM. Being open and receptive to various gaming styles of different players and GMs alike could change how I have always thought about gaming all these years. It's not going to be easy, but I think it's worth for growing to be a better GM.

Try a new game every month

Even after years of being a gamer, I can safely say that D&D and its iterations have predominantly been the game that I have played and run, and loved (and hated). But the truth is, there is a whole world of different RPGs out there and I want to finally spread my wings to go and find them and run a game with them. I don't see any of these games replacing D&D as my go-to system any time soon, but I certainly would need the exposure to improve my understandings of game design and my work. 

If things go well in this department, it could be the basis for another column on this blog.



These are all the quest I'm setting myself on to complete and frankly, some of them are overly ambitious to be done within a year. I don't think I can really accomplish them all, but the experience points for completing some of them could help. Still, hopefully this would be a reminder for me as the year goes by, and I could start a new column for tracing my progress if you are interested in following them.

So what are your own gaming quests for 2017? 




Last Updated: 01/01/17

December 20, 2016

[Unearthing the Arcana] Paladin: Sacred Oaths

Unearthing the Arcana is a column for me to study the design and thought process of the latest Unearthed Arcana rules put out by Wizards of the Coast. This column aims for me to point out some observations I've made on the rules, imagine its impact at the table and raise discussions of how it would be used or played if it becomes official.


Coming down from the monastery of the new Monastic Traditions in the last Unearthing the Arcana, it is time to take new Sacred Oaths as Paladins for this week's Unearthed Arcana. Instead of giving us new oaths that would help banish evil, the designers have decided to turn a little to the dark side by giving us Oaths for evil-based paladins that I wouldn't be surprised that it is one of the most often requested subclass.

Let terror reign as new agents who have taken the Oath of Conquest and Oath of Treachery bring the darkness to all who would stand against them.

Oath of Conquest



  • On a flavor level, I can also see this being the Paladin equivalent for the War Domain of Clerics, so they may not necessarily bend towards evil per se. However, its tenets seem to remind me of tyranny since it considers holding the reins of power as important as defeating ones enemies. 
  • Most of the Oath Spells seem appropriate except for some odd choices like Blight and Insect Plague that could have been swapped with Compulsion and Planar Binding respectively.
  • While Conquering Strike works similarly to the Oath of Vengeance's Abjure Enemy, I like that it has a different means of ending the Frightened condition.
  • Guided Strike is the same feature as the War Domain Cleric's, which is a good place for both classes to have an overlap.
  • Aura of Conquest seems pretty standard in the base Paladin's design, but causing Disadvantage to Frightened means it has synergy with its Conquering Strike.
  • Not as powerful as the Devotion Paladin's Aura of Devotion but Implacable Spirit might be stepping into too much toes of other Sacred Oaths.
  • Invincible Conqueror can seem overpowered when compared to what the other 20th level Sacred Oath features can do in terms of combat, but somehow I feel that it fits with this Sacred Oath. If I had to adjust it, I might just reduce the Resistance to be similar with the Barbarian's normal resistances for Rage than getting the full package. 



Oath of Treachery



  • While the flavor strongly reads to be an alternative to the Oathbreaker in the Dungeon Master's Guide, the features of both Oaths could not be any different. I'm guessing they wanted to make a subclass similar to the College of Whispers for Bards for paladins, but reading the gods that are worshiped by these Paladins doesn't seem to support that idea as well.
  • The Oath of Treachery has an interesting choice of Oath Spells. None that I would replace though but it certainly seem to encourage a more stealthy and less combative style of play for a Paladin.
  • Conjure Duplicate has many similarities with the Trickery Domain Cleric's Invoke Duplicity, but it has a few nuances in the wording, which generally favors the Cleric's version more, since the Paladin's version has more limitations.
  • I'm not sure what the designers are trying to do with Poison Strike. Even though it requires a use of Channel Divinity, other Sacred Oaths do not deal as much damage as Poison Strike. I would have preferred if it stuck to the similar design with the other Sacred Oaths, causing the Poisoned condition and adding just extra damage according to the Paladin's Charisma modifier.
  • Another unorthodox design in the Aura of Treachery which has 2 features but can only affect creatures within 5 feet instead of the usual 10 feet. Cull the Herd would be deadly powerful if used in conjunction with Poison Strike. I might have been alright with this aura if it only had the Treacherous Strike ability, which might be something that you will see very often in future supplements or feats. Again, not a fan of a fixed number times of use.
  • Blackguard's Escape seems to do as much as other 15th level Sacred Oath features, but it could be considered one of the weaker ones.
  • I guess looking at what prior Sacred Oath features are doing, it should be no surprise of what Icon of Deceit can do, which is effectively a Greater Invisibility without having to Concentrate. With the Invisible condition, it deals maximum damage for Poison Strike and the doubles the Paladin's level (which is 60 damage in total). 

On a design perspective, I much prefer the Oath of Conquest but I can easily see how most people would want to play as an Oath of Treachery. However, while the Oath of Conquest does not require a strictly evil alignment, I can't say if DMs would appreciate having the Oath of Treachery being allowed on the table without requiring the DM's permission like the Oathbreaker. While I don't really care for imagining its impact on the Adventurer's League, but I probably wouldn't allow it on my table as it is now since I have more mechanic concerns. Even so, I don't think the Oath of Treachery would fit very well in most of my campaign ideas, which means I have to specifically design a campaign around this Oath, which is generally problematic in my eyes.

Wizards would be taking a break from their usual schedule for the next couple of weeks and so will I. I'm looking forward to see what would be introduced for the Ranger since the last Unearthed Arcana which I had covered. This could be my last post for the year, so I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! And see you in the next Unearthing the Arcana!






Last Updated: 20/12/16

December 13, 2016

[Unearthing the Arcana] Monk: Monastic Traditions

Unearthing the Arcana is a column for me to study the design and thought process of the latest Unearthed Arcana rules put out by Wizards of the Coast. This column aims for me to point out some observations I've made on the rules, imagine its impact at the table and raise discussions of how it would be used or played if it becomes official.



Graduating from the fighters' school in last week's Unearthing the Arcana, it is time to meditate and learn about the new monastic traditions for this week's Unearthed Arcana with 2 new Monastic Traditions. I have often seen Monks being complained as one of the classes with some of the less attractive sub-classes compared to other classes, so let's see if these new Monastic Traditions could make Monks great again. Although, I have to say that I was a little surprised that we are only getting 2 new Monastic Traditions.

With study and practice, let's look into the Path of the Kensei and the Path of Tranquility to see if there is any enlightenment to be found from them.

Way of the Kensei

  • It was quite surprising to see the Kensei being made into a Monastic Tradition when I would expect to see it as a Martial Archetype as it has been for previous editions. Still if done right, the concept of the Kensei can fit right into the building blocks of the Monk class and give make it a little more attractive from the Fighter players to try out the Monk instead.
  • Path of the Kensei: I'm not sure what is the reason for the distinction between Monk weapons and Kensei weapons, on the surface it looks perfectly fine to make the martial weapons that the Kensei picks for his proficiencies to be considered as Monk weapons, since they share the same benefits of the Monk's Martial Arts feature. The versatility to use the Kensei weapon to attack or to defend for the +2 AC bonus is a nice touch. The wording on the pummel ability might need better rewording, as by written it doesn't mention the range of the weapon, meaning it could be used for polearms or ranged weapons.  
  • One with the Blade let's the Monk's base feature Ki-Empowered Strike apply to their weapons, but it is the Precise Strike ability that seems interesting. I couldn't find any other class feature (not just the Monk) that let's it double the proficiency bonus to an attack, so this could be a huge boon to this Tradition. Instead of only allowing for one use per rest, I would have liked it to spent Ki points instead, as that is almost never used by this Tradition.
  • Sharpen the Blade is also another solid feature to give the Kensei, it's simple but does quite a lot. I wouldn't mind if the Ki point cost was a little higher depending on how much bonus is given, perhaps something similar to the Way of the Four Element's Elemental Disciplines, since it lasts for 1 minute.
  • Unerring Accuracy stands as one of the better 17th Tradition features compared to the other Monastic Traditions go, and the flexibility to select which attack to re-roll is appreciated.  
  • As it is right now, the basic flavors delivered through the mechanics of these features have not much to complain about, but the mechanics themselves feel like they could be fleshed out a little more. I would have liked to see more usage of Ki points in some of the features, and also wondered if there are any goodies for players who decide to go for a ranged Kensei build. 



Way of Tranquility

  • An 8 hour long Sanctuary spell that doesn't require a material component that can be cast again after 1 minute. Either I would put a Ki cost to Path of Tranquility or let it only be regained with a Long Rest. Even having the Way of the Open Hand's Tranquility feature at 3rd level instead of 11th level is already a considerably improvement from the other Monastic Traditions. 
  • Healing Hands works also exactly as the Paladin's Lay on Hands, except that the Monk gets a healing pool multiplier of 10, compared to the Paladin's 5. This significantly makes the Monk a better healer than the Paladin, though it might done this way to offset the Monk's lack of spellcasting abilities. I'm not quite sure why one would replace one of its Flurry of Blows Unarmed Strikes with this feature, unless it is properly worded that it can be used on the Monk or someone else. 
  • Emissary of Peace seems like an interesting way to make a social character out of the Monk, though the wording for the advantage might be a little too specific. Turning someone from Indifferent to Friendly might do a better trick.
  • Being able to Douse the Flames of War without spending any resources on the part of the Monk, despite the limitations of it not working and ending still seems a little too handy for my taste. I would have preferred something like a more enhanced version of the Calm Emotion spell that is more rigid and structured in its application, at a cost (since the Monk is probably not going to be spending a lot of Ki points anyway).
  • Anger of a Gentle Soul could deliver up to 68 additional damage alone at 17th with Flurry of Blows (assuming all of them hit) on the next round, or up to 80 damage at 20th level. I'm not sure if there is any other class that can match that amount of damage with class features alone, ironically making this sub-class the most damage dealing of them all. It's triggering point of seeing a creature (note not only allies) reduced to 0 hit points could be prone to abuse too. 
  • Outside of features like Douse the Flames of War and Path of Tranquility, I've never really liked the idea of this concept, which reminds me of the Disciple of Peace from the Book of Exalted Deed in 3.5 Edition. It could make the DM's job harder to plan their encounters when peace is always a very viable option that could end any sense of conflict, unless that is the sort of direction that the campaign was designed for. 

While I can say that I'm pretty stoked to see the Way of the Kensei within the design framework of the Monk class, I feel like it could use more bite to make feel more than a straight-up Fighter in a Monk's clothing. I'm struggling to like the Way of Tranquility both in flavor and mechanics, but would still like to hear how excited (if they are) about the latter Monastic Tradition.

Next up on the line would most probably be the Paladin, and we could see the designers going with similarly flavored Oaths that they did for the Cleric. Until then, see you in the next Unearthing the Arcana. 






Last Updated: 13/12/16

December 6, 2016

[Unearthing the Arcana] Fighter: Martial Archetypes

Unearthing the Arcana is a column for me to study the design and thought process of the latest Unearthed Arcana rules put out by Wizards of the Coast. This column aims for me to point out some observations I've made on the rules, imagine its impact at the table and raise discussions of how it would be used or played if it becomes official.


Coming off from last week's Unearthed Arcana for Druids, this week we go into the pit with new Martial Archetypes for the Fighter. Fighters have been one of the few classes in 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons that I find to have endless possibilities. With the amount of ideas and concept that could fit into a Fighter's definition, it is one class that could benefit from having many different subtypes for players to find one that fits them. I think this is something that the designers realised and that is why we have 4 new Martial Archetypes for this class that feel a little more specialised.

So let's draw steel and find out more about the Arcane Archer, Knight, Samurai and Sharpshooter archetypes.

Arcane Archer

  • An old favourite of mine back in the 3.x days, and it is quite surprising to see it again given that it could have been replicated somewhat with the Eldritch Knight archetype. I wouldn't have complained if it had a racial restriction like the Battlerager had in Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, but having it opened to other races doesn't feel too bad.
  • I would have preferred a more tiered progression to the number of uses of Arcane Arrows that an Arcane Archer can use, rather than a fixed number of twice per rest which can feel too little in the long run. Maybe something structured to the Battle Master's Superiority Dice could work better and have something to look forward to. 
  • Archer's Lore seems a little too generous to give 2 skill proficiency when compared to the Battle Master's Student of War only grants proficiency to 1 tool. The selection for Archer's Lore is also too good since it also allows for the Fighter to pick some of the skills they didn't pick at 1st level.
  • Conjure Arrows make it imperative that players and DMs are tracking the number of ammunition they have left on the table - which is not something every table will do. Might have preferred a feature that allows for something more magical to be done on the arrows.
  • Ever-Ready Arrow has an effect that is supposed to feel like the Battle Master's Relentless, and it could use a different mechanic to regain a use of Arcane Arrow, rather than tracking for 1 minute. 
  • Dealing 4d6 Force damage at 18th level with Deadly Arrow doesn't feel like too much to ask. No worries on that.
  • I'm generally alright with most of the Arcane Shots, with some slight concern for Grasping Arrow being a little overpowered and Seeking Arrow having some complications with Invisible/Hiding and line of sight rules. 



Knight

  • Born to the Saddle looks natural to have for a mount-based archetype.
  • Implacable Mark reads like a combination of the Mark variant of combat rules from the Dungeon Master's Guide and the Sentinel feat. I wasn't a biggest fan of the Marking mechanic from 4th Edition because of the additional tracking in combat, but I guess it is an acceptable feature to differentiate it from the other Martial Archetypes.
  • Noble Calvary is a strange feature to be getting at 7th level. I would have liked to see it at 3rd level, and only granting one skill proficiency.
  • Hold the Line combined with Implacable Mark is almost effectively the Sentinel feat with some extra bonuses. This is an interesting design approach to the features, though I'm not sure if players are willing to wait 7 levels to get a free complete feat.
  • Some might think that Rapid Strike can be used together with Implacable Mark's Advantage on Opportunity Attacks, but it requires a Bonus Action and not a Reaction, so it will need to gain Advantage from another source.
  • In the end, I might have been hoping the Knight archetype to be more of a mounted combat-based archetype, but instead what it looks like is a Defender type that is very good and tying enemies down. If the designers were looking to achieve that with the features, this archetype could easily be its own archetype without using the name of the Knight.


Samurai

  • Fighting Spirit seems a little too great to grant both benefits of Advantage and Resistance, and regained after a short rest. I would have preferred if it only grants one of the benefits or is only regained after a long rest. 
  • Despite being able to add their Wisdom modifier to a specific Charisma check, Elegant Courtier only allows the Samurai to learn one skill proficiency or language. 
  • No comments on Unbreakable Will except it is an interesting proficiency to give for Fighters, since they are not proficient with any of the 3 saving throws. 
  • Again with Rapid Strike, but this one being able to benefit from the free Advantage it gains from Fighting Spirit.
  • Strength Before Death is an interesting feature that lets the Samurai almost become a raging barbarian with Relentless Rage. A planned player might reserve an Action Surge to go with this feature, effectively giving the character two bonus turns. The calculation of damage after the end of the bonus turn might be a hassle afterwards, so it might benefit from having the effects made clearer.


Sharpshooter

  • Steady Aim has a component of the Sharpshooter feat and deals additional damage on each hit rather than the first attack, which can come in handy when the Fighter gets Extra Attack later on. Again, not in favour of having a fixed number of use and would preferred a tiered progression.
  • Careful Eyes is an interesting feature that might be overlooked by many DMs. Not sure why Survival is among the selection though.
  • Close-Quarters Shooting is another feature that is based on the Crossbow Expert feat with additional effects.
  •  I'm not entirely sure why Rapid Strike is here again, but the Sharpshooter doesn't have a self sustaining means of granting itself Advantage.
  • Snap Shot looks like an interesting feature that would amount up to 4 attacks with the Attack action on the Sharpshooter's first turn in combat at 18th level. 
  • As much as I like the archetype, I'm not sure if I would enjoy the mini versions of Sharpshooter and Crossbow Expert, which doesn't give the full benefits of those feats. It could be quite a dilemma to decide whether to take those feats on top of the features, because there aren't a lot of other ranged related feats to take other than those two. 

While I was most excited to see new Martial Archetypes, these 4 have only given me a mixed reaction. Some like the Arcane Archer and Samurai could use a little more thought and work put into them to make them more attractive, but others like the Knight and Sharpshooter just seemed more confused in the design. I would definitely expect to see more iterations of these archetypes and here's to hoping that other players feel the same when the next survey comes about.

Up next is the class that some have considered to have some of the most under-powered subclasses, so it would be interesting to see what the designers have come up with for the Monk.






Last Updated: 6/12/16

December 1, 2016

[Unearthing the Arcana] Druid Circles and Wild Shape, Part 2

Unearthing the Arcana is a column for me to study the design and thought process of the latest Unearthed Arcana rules put out by Wizards of the Coast. This column aims for me to point out some observations I've made on the rules, imagine its impact at the table and raise discussions of how it would be used or played if it becomes official.


My last post on the new Unearthed Arcana for druids covered the new Druid Circles that were introduced. That wasn't the only new things that were introduced in the Unearthed Arcana, however, as it also included an optional rule for druids to select their Wild Shape forms.

Initially I had thought it was going to be a variant of the Wild Shape feature, but after reading it through it was more of a codified way for DMs and players to decide on what Wild Shape forms that the Druid can have starting at 2nd level.

In the Player's Handbook, Druids were expected to seek out the beast form that they want to be able to Wild Shape into. In this optional rule, Druids can decide which beast forms they can wild shape into based on the terrain that the Druid is living in.

Without looking too deeply into the selection of beasts that the Druid can select from, I think this would be welcomed by any DM who wants to bypass the nitty gritty details of the Druid being able to wild shape into a certain beast or not. Not saying that some DMs or players would not find the original ruling in the Player's Handbook to be of less opportunity, but it's a fair alternative to have.

The rule that I appreciate more is how to gain extra beast shapes, which might not sit well with some players. Having to make an Intelligence (Nature) or Wisdom (Animal Handling) may seem to control the Challenge Rating of beasts that the Druid can take shape of, but also bear in mind that the highest Challenge Rating they can take is CR 1, so the highest DC that the Druid can shape into is 11. And for beasts with lower CR than 1, like 1/2 or 1/4, what should the DC be exactly?

So that's all I have to say about the new Druid Circle and the optional rules for Wild Shape. I'm already looking forward to the next Unearthed Arcana, which is for one of my favourite class.

See you in the next Unearthing the Arcana.





Last Updated: 1/12/16

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