Tag: Exploration

Back or Brick: Lost Ones

Back or Brick: Lost Ones

You’ve been taken to the lands of the fae, will you be able to find a portal and escape in this narrative and exploration game by Greenbrier Games? Pros Solo game play Theme Not a campaign Story elements Price for Retail Established Company Cons Shipping 

Pillars of D&D (Part 4 – Exploration)

Pillars of D&D (Part 4 – Exploration)

About a week ago, I started on a series talking about the three pillars of Dungeons and Dragons, Combat, Social Encounters and Exploration. I’ve talked about the first two, Combat and Social Encounters already and we’re onto the Pillar of Exploration Exploration might be considered 

The Pillars of D&D – Part 1

The Pillars of D&D – Part 1

When going through the Dungeon Masters Guide (DMG) you’ll find that they talk about three pillars of D&D. The idea is that you’re going to want to try and get all of the pillars into a game that you’re running, though fairly often the balance of those pillars leans more heavily on some of them than others. The pillars are Combat, Social Interaction, and Exploration. I want to cover each of them briefly here but then delve into ways that you can really utilize them in non-traditional ways in future articles.

Combat

Often this is the main pillar that a lot of D&D games rely on. If you are used to playing with a play grid and with minis, you’re going to have a lot of combat. Also, so much of the character sheet and skills you get from a class are built for combat as well. You’re casting fireball, that’s for combat. Critical hit on a 19 or 20, that’s for combat. Sneak Attack, that’s for a quick combat. But we have sections for hit points, armor class, weapons and spells, most of that is going to be used mainly in combat situations, now because we’re interacting with someone peacefully. And because of that, even if you aren’t trying to use minis on a grid, to fully use the character sheet, most sessions will have some combat in them.

Image Source: Encounter Roleplay

Social Interaction

Probably the next most used pillar. This can just be talking with the “quest giver” in the tavern before you go out to fight someone or something to get the MacGuffin back for the that NPC. However, you can set-up situations where social interaction is just digging for information from a lot of people. An example of this was the last session of Tower of the Gods (you can read about it here). In there, I presented the problem to the players, two of their classmates are spies put in by the school itself as part of a test. It’s the job of everyone in the class to figure out who the spies are or the spies to not to be found. That lead to the players interacting with almost all of their classmates. There wasn’t anything in particular that the players were trying to get out of it, they were just trying to trip up any of the other classmates to see if they could figure out anything that would give them information. So that’s another way that you can end up with social encounters as well.

Exploration

The hardest pillar to implement, going and exploring the world. It seems like it should be pretty easy, but walking across miles of wilderness looking for a long lost cave system where there’s allegedly treasure, that isn’t that exciting. The common answer is to drop in combat, so you “explore” for five minutes with a couple of dice rolls and then a random encounter happens, they come across a pack of wolves or a boar charges them or a group of goblins shoots arrows at them. But that’s not really part of the exploration, it’s part of the combat pillar. And if you spend twenty or thirty minutes of real time going through everything and having them roll for survival to navigate and explore and not get turned around every half hour of in world time, it’ll end up being a fairly dull twenty to thirty minutes because not much will have happened. Or they’ll end up frustrated because rolls haven’t gone well and now they are lost. Now, exploration could be exploring a dungeon as well, which would still lend itself to being combat a lot, but gives you a different sort of setting rather than wandering through a land.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

So, the upcoming articles, three of them, are going to be looking at the three pillars of Dungeons and Dragons. I’m going to tackle how you can make them work and what interesting twists you can put on them so that a combat doesn’t feel as static or so that your exploration has a sense of adventure to it more than just a random encounter waiting to pop up around the corner. With that, I’m going to try and create unique encounters that you’re able to use in your own game, or maybe I’ll drop into mine, that’ll give the players an interesting challenge.

But before we do that, I want to talk about how and if you should balance the pillars of Dungeons and Dragons so that they are even for your game. I think the idea that it’s three pillars that D&D is built upon would make you think they need to be even. They really don’t. The most important thing is to balance it to your group. If you think they are going to like to explore dungeons and solve the mysteries of them, lean on exploration, if they talk to everyone that they meet to see what information they might have, lean on social interaction. If they are built for fighting and everything is min-maxed, they probably want a lot of combat to show off their characters. You can easily have one be more important and take more of the weight than the others.

Now, with that said, don’t only rely on a single pillar. If all you’re really doing is marching from combat to combat and it isn’t a war based story where the players are part of the army so of course just going from battle, you’re going to want to change it up. Throw in a little bit of role playing and some social interactions so that there’s something between the combats. Or send them off on a mission that requires them to explore and figure out a cave system that might lead underneath the city that they are about to lay siege to. It pushes the players to fully engage with the game, even for the people who love an epic social interaction, if that’s all that any of the sessions are, it’s going to end up being monotonous, so don’t over use the party’s favorite thing.

Which of the pillars do you find easiest to use in your games? Is there one that you prefer or your players prefer, if you’re running the game?

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TableTopTakes: Tainted Grail

TableTopTakes: Tainted Grail

Let me start out by saying that rarely do I back a Kickstarter on the first day, and I hemmed and hawed over whether or not I would with Tainted Grail. In the end, because of the feeling I got from the setting, this dark 

TableTopTakes: Pandemic Legacy Season 2

TableTopTakes: Pandemic Legacy Season 2

If you’ve been keeping track of this site for a while, you’ve seen me talk a lot about Pandemic Legacy Season 1, and play through Season 1 on Malts and Meeples. I haven’t talked as much about Pandemic Legacy Season 2 and my experience with 

TableTopTakes: Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate

TableTopTakes: Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate

You’ve been out adventuring for a long time and you’ve finally made it back to Baldur’s Gate and you’re going to explore the town to see what relaxing things you can find to do there. But every turn you make, something is nagging at you, something seems off about the city, and then, without warning, one of your own party members turns on you.

Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate is a semi-cooperative to fully cooperative board game. In the first part of the game, players are going around the city of Baldur’s Gate, flipping over tiles, finding shops, dark alleys, and more. During this time, they are collecting items when they are told to, but also finding omens of what might be happening in the town. Eventually an omen will trigger what is known as the haunt. Players then compare to the omen to the room it was found in to find out who the betrayer might be, if there is one. This then tells the players how they are actually going to win the game, whether they are the betrayer or the good adventurers.

Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate is a re-implementation of Betrayal at House on the Hill, a horror based game where you are exploring a creepy old house and eventually, based off of room and omen again, a haunt happens. Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate fixes, a little bit, how you determine if the haunt happens so that it can’t happen quite as quickly. There were times in the original that the haunt would happen very quickly. Otherwise, most of the game feels the same with just a fantasy, D&D, skin put on it. I personally don’t like this skin as well. I have no connection tot he Baldur’s Gate video games however, and the people I’ve played with who do, like those nods in the game, something that I can’t appreciate. With that said, I still think that the campy horror style of Betrayal at House on the Hill is more enjoyable, though Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate has a better rule set.

What I do like about this game over Betrayal at House on the Hill is t he fact that each character has a special power to go along with special stats. A barbarian in this game or jock in the other, might have more speed and strength, but in this game the barbarian also has a special power. I feel like all the powers seem thematic to the game and give each character a unique feel. I feel like I generally end up playing a magic user and there are things that make them feel more like a magic user in what they can do. I also don’t feel like any of these abilities are unbalanced in the game.

The components in this game are solid for the most part, there is a ton of cardboard that you have to punch out. The minis in the game are good, however, there are a few parts of them that are too thin and the plastic doesn’t hold up, so it isn’t brittle and it doesn’t snap, it is just that things like the wizards staff sag. I also wish that this game, like the other, came with a better storage solution or at least a lot of little baggies. There are so many tokens that without little baggies, it can take a long time to dig through them and find everything.

But, let’s talk more about the core mechanics, I compared it to Betrayal at House on the Hill, but I haven’t delved into what the game is really like. Like I said above, the game is split into two halves. In the first half you are exploring and in the second half the haunt happens. The exploring part might be the best part of the game because you really don’t know what you’re going to find next. You might be collecting omens because that is what on the different rooms and buildings you are flipping, or you might be loaded down with items and ready to take on the betrayer. While I think that it makes more sense for this random flipping in Betrayal at House on the Hill, it works well as a mechanic, so I understand why they kept it the same way in the Baldur’s Gate version of the game. It just doesn’t feel quite as thematic in this game.

The haunt, however, I like better. I think that they got better at how they’ve written out the betrayer and good players parts of the haunt so you can more clearly understand what you need to do. Now, I don’t think that it’s perfect, but it’s better than it was in the original game. I also really like how there are 10 haunts that do not have a betrayer. You all end up working together and take this game where you were stressing about who the betrayer was going to be and when the haunt was going to happen as you explored, to now working together to stop whatever is happening in the town. And, I keep saying the haunt, because that’s what it’s called in the games, however, I don’t feel like haunt is accurate for Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate because, some of them have a horror theme, but really it’s more like a boss encounter in a game of D&D than a haunt. It works for the game, if everything was horror, that wouldn’t make sense for the theme and tone of the game. I’ve played a handful of scenarios, and I think that about half the time the betrayer or game has won, and half the time the good adventurers have.

I really do enjoy this game. I like the mechanic set and I like the D&D theme on the game. I do think that it’s not as good as Betrayal at House on the Hill, simply because the mechanics lend themselves to more of a horror style of game theme. But if people don’t like horror games, or if you think that the haunts are too confusing in Betrayal at House on the Hill, Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate is a really good option and gives you a lot of fun game play.

Overall Grade: B+
Gamer Grade: B+
Casual Grade: B+

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D&D Party – Party People in the House

D&D Party – Party People in the House

Alright, you have your number of people and you’re sitting down at the table. It’s session zero and everyone wants to play a wizard, is there a right way to create your party? I think that this is a more interesting question than the party