* Easy Third Edition Creatures
Page Forty-Two of the Fourth Edition Dungeons Master’s Guide did a lot to make things easy for the game master, by putting the expected stats for monsters of every level in one easy-to-find place. I wondered if was possible to create a similar table for Third Edition. The answer is… probably maybe. This table wants you to test it.
* Concealment Variant Rules
Simply put, Third Edition Concealment rules are annoying and problematic. This alternative enables faster resolution of attacks against concealed (or incorporeal!) creatures, and it even allows the attacking player to roll more dice. Trust me, I did the math. Any advantages are balanced out by the disadvantages.
* Magician Base Class v1.0
Ever wanted to play a Blue Mage, a la Final Fantasy? Well, I once created a class for a play-by-post game that worked the way I thought “blue magic” would function under the Revised Dungeons & Dragons (3.x) game system. It was ultimately rejected by the player I created it for, but I saved my work, and here it is.
Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition
I started playing Dungeons & Dragons as Third Edition was on its way out, being replaced by Revised Edition in 2003. I joined a group that had been roleplaying for almost as long as I had been alive (that would happen a few times) and I challenged many of the game’s standard rules and practices, learning at the same time.
As a player, I seek challenging scenarios that force me to make difficult decisions in character, and I’m generally unimpressed with game masters I’ve encountered over the years. This has led me to (in no small way) take the helm and give everyone else the opportunity to play the kind of game I want to play.
The Early Campaigns
The first game I joined was an adventure in the Shackled City adventure path called “Life’s Bazaar,” though I didn’t learn that until the adventure was nominally over. Our game master suffered some burnout and I was enthusiastic to lead, so I developed a campaign in the Forgotten Realms setting. I nicknamed it “I Said Evil.”
I worked with most of the players to develop their characters before the campaign. Consequently the character with the weakest ties to the campaign setting was run by the player who refused to accept any suggestions or input from me. We had some player turnover, but the campaign ran consistently for about a year and a half.
Our adventuring party started as 3rd-level characters because I had deemed 1st-level characters to be too weak for the sort of things I wanted to do, and they advanced to 12th level when the campaign ended abruptly – I’d burned out by that point and didn’t know how to end a campaign “gracefully,” so we just kind of stopped.
Interest waned, and it was difficult to put together a campaign that lasted more than a couple weeks. I tried gaming with some other groups, and discovered the problem wasn’t just with ours – most players I met had difficulty meeting regularly or playing with any kind of consistency. It was just hard to get a group together to play.
Things started really changing for me when I volunteered to game master at Gen Con in the twilight of 2005. I had the opportunity to meet many, many gamers at once, and see the different kinds of players that were drawn to the game. They brought lots of enthusiasm with them, and were just as excited to play as I was to game-master.
It became gradually more and more frustrating to teach new players the rules of the game. The rules of Dungeons & Dragons have never been simple. They’re abstract and convoluted, counter-intuitive, and sometimes even counter-productive to the premise of cooperative roleplaying. Players have to compete for treasure.
Less than a year later, I had grown frustrated with the general poor quality of game masters in the Dungeons & Dragons organized play events, and sought to distance myself from them. I also started working on a simplification of the game rules.
DEEP SEKH Tournament
My friend Don, who got me into Dungeons & Dragons, created a tournament-battle setting called DEEP SEKH in 2003 (I contributed the ‘silent h’ to the name). We used DEEP SEKH to explore seldom-used rules in the game, including aquatic combat, flying maneuverability, and some of the more obscure creatures and magic.
Together we brought the DEEP SEKH Tournament to conventions in 2006, and we wound up teaching still more players the rules of the game. In order to speed up play (and level the playing field), we created characters for players to choose from and simplified the rules, but we spent too much time teaching the game.
I analyzed and rewrote dozens of spells and class features in an effort to make the game easier to understand before I realized a more radical approach was ultimately necessary. That led me to begin work on a new game system.
The Rumors of War
When I moved to Salt Lake, it was hard to find a regular group. That’s always the story, isn’t it? After failing to find a consistent group for over a year, I got in contact with Don and we started a campaign over the Internet based on my growing interest in Greek mythology as a setting for heroic adventure roleplaying.
“Mediterranean Plot-luck” is the nickname I gave it, and it ran from February to October in 2008. I drew inspiration from what I read of the Savage Tide adventure path, and the campaign spanned 1st to 9th level.
Coinciding with that, I played my character Elric Darme in a forum-based play-by-post campaign on a Naturo fan forum. I tried on a few occasions to run play-by-post games myself, but was unable to generate much interest.
Toward the end of 2008 I ran a short-lived tabletop game in mythical Greece, and when that fell through I withdrew from D&D for a time to focus on my writing instead. Somewhere on the Internet I found a quote that “every game master is a failed novelist,” and I decided to change that. I took a break from gaming.
The End Of An Era
In March 2009, I started a solo campaign for my friend Don that we played over Skype. It followed the basic path of my Rumors of War campaign, and featured cameos of some characters from the prior campaign I ran. This was perhaps the most successful campaign I’ve ever run — for a single player or a group.
It was also decidedly one of the darkest games either of us had ever participated in — we covered a lot of interesting and family-unfriendly topics, the tamest of which was probably human trafficking and slavery. We also recorded audio of the entire game.
The game went on indefinite hiatus in January 2011 after we’d already taken a significant break from the game, and with the end of the campaign came the end of my Third Edition gaming. I’ve built a few characters and toyed with the system, but that’s pretty much all there is to it. I haven’t played in a substantial game.