04 November 2013

Level drain and dragons

Why do mere undead get the “scary to the players” out-of-game-world mechanic of level drain* whilst the freaking dragons have to make due with mundane attacks?

Let’s start with the fact that flying and breath weapons are pretty impressive. Certainly PCs get to the point where those things aren’t so impressive anymore, but at that point the PCs aren’t really mundane anymore.

Secondly, there’s a good argument that dragons weren’t meant to be ultimate powers in D&D.

Thirdly, dragons aren’t there to represent the supernatural. Although we know that the cube-square law means that D&D dragons would have to be supernatural, in the milieu of the game, they aren’t. The out-of-game-world mechanic of level drain is justified to represent the sort of irrational horror of coming face-to-face with powerful supernatural beings represented by level-draining undead.

Or, at least, that’s my thinking aloud for today.

*I actually play it as XP drain, but I’m not going to call it “energy drain” because it isn’t about any diegetic rationalization. It is about simulating a horror that is best simulated by a extradiegetic mechanic.

02 November 2013

In- or out-of-

Metagame: Originally, this term was really about things that were “beyond the game”. Like, if Bob sells Park Place to Alice for $1 because he’s foolishly hoping that will improve his chances with her outside the game. In RPGs, though, we tend to use it for things that aren’t really outside the game but are merely outside the fiction of the game.

(There should be a ISO 4217 code for Monopoly money.)

In-game: This term is can be an antonym of “metagame”, and is thus subject to the same misuse by us RPGers. Of course, words mean what we use them to mean, but I think it’s worth trying to use them thoughtfully when we can. Especially if it can make our meaning clearer.

Disassociated mechanic: A common complaint about Wizards’ D&D 4e. I don’t tend to use this term, and I also tend to think that disassociated mechanics aren’t inherently bad bad.

Diegetic (and extradiegetic): Even when I use it, I can’t help but feeling I don’t really understand the term well enough to be using it.

In-character (and out-of-character): These terms seem to not cause much confusion.

So, I’m thinking I want to prefer these terms...

  • In-character
  • Out-of-character
  • In-(game-)world
  • Out-of-(game-)world

I kind of like “in-fiction” and “out-of-fiction”, but I think they are potentially more confusing.

01 November 2013

Arena of War

I look at Warhammer Quest and Conclave, and I think Wizards could have partnered with someone to create a really great D&D4e iOS game. Instead, there is Arena of War: A confusing, boring iOS game whose only relation to anything D&D is a Forgotten Realms storyline.