Posts Tagged ‘Dungeons and Dragons’

This week in gaming: Extra Life worldwide celebration event


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It’s hard to believe that this Saturday will be the culmination of almost a eight months worth of work. The funny thing is, all things considered I feel like things still could have been better. First let me introduce you to what I’m talking about.


At the tail end of February, I wrote an article titled, “From couch to cash: Trying to redefine the gamer stereotype.” It was basically a response to a comment I had read in the digital version of The Boston Herald. The article was about PAX East making it’s way into Boston for 2014. A user by the name of AlfredNobel had made the comment, “Must be a great event if it motivated all these people to get up off the couch.” I don’t know what it was, but something inside me really reacted to the comment and motivated me to do something. That something was to pledge to commit to a charity – either Child’s Play or Extra Life.


I remember that the store had recently hosted an event for Child’s Play where they raised almost $500 for the fund. I thought it was great, but I had decided to go with Extra Life. One of the big reasons I chose Extra Life was because I really liked the idea of a worldwide celebration. Although, they make it very clear that you don’t have to hold your event on that day. Still, having seen many streams on Twitch last year, I know a lot of people make the effort to hold their events on that day. It was then that I decided, “This, I can do.”


For those of you who don’t know, Extra Life was originally established by a group of video gamers known as the Sarcastic Gaming Community to honor the life of a young girl by the name of Victoria Enmon. Sadly, she lost her battle against Cancer in 2008. However, Extra Life has continued to honor her and many other kids who are struggling with other ailments and having to deal with extended stays at hospitals by helping raise money every year for them. In 2008 and 2009, Extra Life raised a combined $302,000. Just last year, Extra Life raised $4 million.


The Big Event

This Saturday will be what we’ve been leading up to since the Extra Life commitment began in Feburary. Some groups have broken up the celebration into different hour to two-hour long fundraisers. I felt like being ambitious for the first year and wanted to do the whole 24-hours in one shot. I am going to do my best to be awake the entire time, but I have to admit, part of me will probably fall asleep for a couple of hours. In fact, a lot of the “tips and tricks” I’ve been reading in the Extra Life forums have said to never attempt to be awake for the entire 24-hour duration. I’m inclined to agree with them. This is for charity and I’d like to be able to physically do this next year. Also, I’m sure we’ll manage to find a way to have fun with my and my sleeping “habits.”


I bet you’re wondering what can you expect if you show up to the event. First of all the event starts at 12:00 AM October 25th. So if you’re either the Abington or Plainville store on Friday, either for FNM or just hanging out, when the clock strike midnight, the Extra Life event will have started. At 1:00 AM both stores will hold a giant Werewolf party game. I haven’t played this in a long time, but Derek was extremely excited to do it.



Throughout most of the day we’ll also be hosting $10 mini-master “Magic: The Gathering” tournaments. If you like opening packs, this is the event for you. I’m also sure that there will be plenty of people around for fill-and-fire drafts for Khans of Tarkir.


If you’re not into Magic, have no fear! Remember, Extra Life started out as a fundraiser that seemed to be exclusive to video gamers. However, over the years, and thanks to the growing popularity of board games, it has evolved into something more. That’s why you can expect plenty of board games to be available. You should also bring your own board games. Also, don’t worry if your game isn’t one of those fancy European board games – Monopoly is always welcomed.


My hope is to use this time to possibly learn how to play one of the major miniature games such as Warmachine or Warhammer 40K. I’m just looking for the basics!


At 6:00 PM, both stores will host a special Dungeons and Dragons charity event. I’m not sure if I am allowed to disclose any details of the event here, but I can say that Sam will be hosting the event in Plainville and Derek will be hosting the event in Abington. These are two very creative and experienced minds, and if you’ve ever wanted the chance to play with either one of these guys at the wheel, this is your chance! I would take full advantage of it.


Raffles galore!

Of course, what kind of charity event would it be if we didn’t have special items to raffle away. Scheduled for 10:00 PM, I’ll be giving away some amazing items that have been donated to the event in hopes to raise money for the kids of Extra Life. We’ll have some amazing artwork from Alley Livingston and Amanda Pegg-Wheat. Ken Briscoe has also, graciously, donated a whole box of Khans of Tarkir. This is one of the hottest “Magic: The Gathering” products right now and each box holds amazing value. Lastly, Wyrmwood Gaming has been awesome enough to donate a phenomenal package for the event. One lucky raffle winner will get a Commander-sized Deck Box. Check out the sample photo below.



One other raffle winner will get the following: 1x Dice Tray, 1x Dice Vault, 1x TBA. Check out the sample photo of the tray below. As for the TBA, I’ll announce it the day of the event. So make sure you’re following Battleground Games & Hobbies on all of their social media – Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram.



Hope to see you there

This has been a lot of fun to take on all year long. I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs. There are definitely points where I know I can improve upon. For the most part, I’m proud of what I have accomplished. I set, what I think, was a high goal for myself which was $1000. You have to remember, this is my first year and I’m did most of this by myself. At this point, I’ve raised $525, which is 53% of my goal. My personal goal was to hit $1000 before the event, but I’m happy with what I have so far.


Of course, if you’d like to help me out then click the banners at the top and bottom of this article and donate today. There are still two days left until the big event.


For now, I want to say a big thanks to Battleground Games & Hobbies because without them, there would be no big event. I’d also like to thank those who have donated items to be raffled off. I am full of emotion and cannot express enough gratitude towards your kind gesture. To those of you who have donated thus far, I am grateful for the donation that has come out of your pocket. Times just are not what they used to be, so for you to donate something that you have worked hard for means a lot to me and I’m sure means a lot to the kids you are helping out.


I’m sure I’ll be giving more thanks at the end of the night, Saturday. However, one last thing, Extra Life allows you to assemble teams. Maybe next year I’ll assemble the Battleground Games & Hobbies team. If you’re interested, let me know in the comments below.


About the author

Simeon is now the Community Manager for Battleground Games & Hobbies. If you have any questions or inquiries, then you can reach him at He is also an avid gamer who loves to play board games and video games. He graduated college with a degree in Political Science, and now serves the public by writing about games. You can check that out here. Don’t forget to “like” him on Facebook as well. It’ll update you on all of his newest content. Best of all, you can follow Simeon on Twitter (@SimeonCortezano) for some real time hilarity. Thanks for reading!


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D&D Next Player’s Handbook: Initial Reaction by Sam Pearson

sam dnd phb

As many of you might know, I get excited about things. That’s kind of my job. But even I wasn’t prepared for what the 5th edition Player’s Handbook for Dungeons & Dragons did to me. Never before have I been such a roiling vortex of anticipation, wringing Twitter dry for each precious drop of information leading up to the release. You could have held a match to me, and it would have ignited. I was being held back from joy by the cruel, unrelenting slowness of time.


The book is out. I’m better now.


So let’s take a look at what patience and agony have bestowed upon us. Let’s see the PHB!


The Look

The first thing you’ll notice about the new Player’s Handbook is the art. You can’t escape it; it’s glorious. From the first glimpse of King Snurre’s rage on the front cover, to the paradigm-shattering sword-and-board fighter on page 148 (seriously, look it up), to page 191’s epic confrontation, the art draws you in and holds you. The style is unique, and every image evokes a whole universe of stories. Do yourself a favor and just page through once to look at the pretty pictures. Even if you’re a die-hard rules fan, it’s time well spent.


The Rules

Okay, this is the big one. I’ve heard the question a lot over the past year: “How do the new rules stack up?” The answer is: amazingly well. Gone are the restrictions of 4e, limiting players to a short list of powers and a gridded combat area. Gone is the arms race of 3.5, with players quickly outpacing any challenge the DM might be able to conjure. Derek calls 5e the best edition, and I agree. Let’s talk about why.


First, it’s easy. The core mechanic revolves around ability checks: roll a d20 and add a modifier from one of the six ability scores. That’s familiar ground for most D&D players, and takes five seconds to explain to anyone just starting with the game. There’s also a mechanic called advantage/disadvantage. Say you make an attack roll against an orc wearing a blindfold (who doesn’t happen to be a kung-fu master or something). You would make the roll with advantage: you roll two d20s and take the higher of the two to determine your result. It’s easy, effective, and intuitive. Conversely, say you’re attacking an orc while YOU wear the blindfold. Now you roll with disadvantage: roll two d20s and take the lower roll.


Show of hands. Who figured out what disadvantage was before I got to the end of that sentence? It’s such a simple concept, but anyone who sits down to play immediately grasps that advantage is something you want, and disadvantage is something you want to avoid like a huggy fire elemental. The mechanic also neatly addresses the problem of mountains of stacking bonuses. In 5th edition, you almost never have an ability score above 20. Without rare magic or twenty levels in barbarian, you simply can’t. This means that a check with a DC of 20 is always a difficult thing, even for high level characters. You never say “I smash through the iron door with my face. I don’t need to roll.” 5th edition has taken the sweet spot of 3.5, that fifth to tenth level range, and expanded that feeling to cover the entire play experience.


All right, on to the second big benefit of D&D Next: magic feels like magic. One of the big issues with 4e for a lot of players was that spells were just powers like any other. A fighter attacking everyone within two squares felt very similar to the wizard spraying fire in all directions; the mechanics were largely the same. But even 3.5, and by extension Pathfinder, made magic feel mundane. “Oh, look, another +1 sword. Shame I have a better one already. I guess we’ll sell it back in town.” I don’t know about you, but I feel like finding a magic item should never be boring. Magic should be wondrous. It should be a cut above the ordinary, a way to go beyond the normal framework of life. 5th edition brings back that wonder.


Spells slots are back, for a start. Powerful magic is a limited resource. But cantrip spells can be cast freely, all day, every day, so a wizard never becomes just some goofball in a pointy hat. And magic items are a big, big deal. They can’t be bought, for a start. You’re not going to find a store full of fabulous arcane equipment in every random village, and even large cities won’t have a magical emporium. If you want a +1 longsword, you go to a library, research King Arthur, puzzle out the final resting place of Excalibur, and go fight zombie knights until you can wrest your prize from the cold grasp of a long-dead king. And if you get tired of it, good luck selling it! Dropping that down in a general store and asking for coin would be like paying for your gum at a gas station using a gold brick. These items should be strange and wonderful, and the system is designed with that in mind. No longer is it assumed that a fifth level character has at least a +1 weapon and some magic armor; you can go all the way to level twenty without ever needing enchanted equipment. That just makes it all the better when you do find it.


The Mindset

Quite apart from the rules, the biggest change in D&D Next is one of approach. Wizards of the Coast has given us a Player’s Handbook that meets us halfway, or more than halfway; these are tools to tell your own stories. There’s a list of gods in an appendix for several campaign settings, including historical Earth (yes, you can be a cleric of Zeus). There are quotations, pictures, and references to the Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, and Dragonlance throughout the book. Advice is given on how to make characters come to life, since roleplay is now as important a part of the system as combat, but the book always gives you options, never mandates. With this Player’s Handbook, Wizards of the Coast isn’t saying “Here’s our game, take it or leave it.” They have made it abundantly clear that this is our game, to play as we wish. 5th edition will never tell you that you’re having fun wrong.


As you read through the book, options abound. Strange races like dragonborn are there, but it’s explicitly mentioned that they may not fit all campaign settings. Feats exist (and are amazing), but are an optional component; you don’t have to have a twenty-level feat progression just to play the game, and it works fine without them. Each and every class has two or more different variants, from the many schools of magic for wizards to the different paladin oaths, providing extensive character customization. A party of five fighters can be as varied as any other, and still be quite effective.


And the options aren’t limited to the player’s side of the screen. D&D Next returns to an emphasis on DM rulings, not rules. The system gives DMs simple tools to describe and adjudicate any situation, then quietly lets you get on with it. One upshot of this method is compatibility: with appropriate monster conversions, you can run any adventure from any version of D&D or Pathfinder, converting the encounters on the fly. I’ve done it with the Tomb of Horrors and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, running both straight out an AD&D 1st edition reprint. And with the Monster Manual coming out in September with its monster creation rules, and the Dungeon Master’s Guide in November with a whole host of options to hack the game for whatever you want to do, D&D Next will give us more freedom to play the game we want than we’ve ever had before.


Final Thoughts

I could go on. If we were standing around at the Plainville store, I probably would. I would talk about the beautifully simple spell preparation system. I’d tell you why fighters are better fighters than anyone else. I’d tell you why I want to play every single class in the whole Player’s Handbook, or how to make a dwarf wizard in armor, or how to know seven languages at level one. But all of that is just wasting time. The rules are out there, and as a wise man once said, you don’t have to take my word for it. I’ve found my favorite D&D, and maybe you will, too.


About the author

Sam is a passionate gamer who obviously loves his Dungeons and Dragons (see photo above). When he is not playing games he can be found working on his next novel. Did we mention he also works for Battleground Games & Hobbies? He does!


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Please don’t forget to check us out on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @battleground_gh!




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The Edition Wars


When the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons releases on July 3rd, I will have been playing the game for thirty-two years. I suppose this should make me feel old, but it doesn’t. I’ve played my way through every edition of the game, in all of its many forms and styles, and I’m really looking forward to this next incarnation.


Clearly, not all editions were created equal. To be sure, each had their highs and lows; their strengths and weaknesses. Yet, no edition can match the level of division in the gaming community that 4th edition managed to create. I experienced this division more intensely than most people, perhaps, because of my profession as a game store owner. It’s my job to share my opinion on products, and to listen to the opinions of others on the subject. How many comments, debates, and arguments have I been in over the last dozen years about which edition was best and why? What makes for a good game and what is sure to ruin one? Was THAC0 a good thing? I feel as though the long journey through (what will soon be five editions, plus one variant edition, and at least two important sub-editions) has brought me to a place that I am fairly confident in my ability to answer those questions – at least as the game pertains to me.


The early years


In 1982, my first experience with Dungeons & Dragons was with a friend who practically had to twist my arm to try it. I think back now how funny that was, considering the life-long path that my first experience with the game would propel me down. My reluctance to play nearly prevented me from trying it, and I still owe thanks to my friend Jacob Graham for his perseverance and insistence that things would be fun as soon as we finished rolling up that character. He was right.


The edition I was first introduced to that weekend in the summer of 1982 was, not surprisingly, 1st edition. It had the lofty moniker: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (why that word “Advanced” carried with it an almost mythical resonance to me for so long, I still cannot fully explain). When the reissue of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons core books were released some time last year, I wrote an article about my experiences discovering the game, so I’ll avoid recounting them here. However, those first few years were an interesting time. Like most kids who come into D&D for the first time, I played the game “wrong” for the first two years. Which is to say, we ignored certain rules that we weren’t aware of, didn’t understand, or didn’t like. Characters tended to get extremely powerful very quickly, role-playing wasn’t really a focus, and the world practically rained magic items.


Sometime in late 1983, I began to get more serious about the rules and the game world we were playing in. TSR was the name of the company publishing D&D at that time, and the only campaign setting they had commercially made available was the World of Greyhawk, and I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame.


My friends and I had already played a few published adventure modules that had made reference to their location in the World of Greyhawk fantasy setting, so it was intriguing to find where those places were on the large, gorgeous, fold-out maps of Greyhawk’s busiest continent. Greyhawk became my chief love, and pretty much any adventure that I have run since 1983 has been set upon that exalted landscape. This is important to realize, and will help to explain why I view the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons to be such an enormous failure (more on that later).


My experience with 1st edition ran the course of about four years (1982-1986). During that time, my friends and I also experimented with the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set. Early in the article I referred to having played at least one “variant edition.” The Basic Set is what I meant by that. Basic D&D came self-contained in a red box, and covered the character levels of 1-3. I participated mostly as a player in those games, DMing once or twice. Added to Basic Set was a follow-up box called the Expert Set that provided additional rules that allowed for characters up to level 7.



To be honest, while I enjoyed those games, my real enthusiasm was always aimed at the more robust hardcover books of 1st edition. In these early days, I was still struggling to understand and implement the more complicated rules as I slowly waded my way through the oceans of 9-point font that filled the Dungeon Master’s Guide. By 1985 I had read the DMG from cover-to-cover and I believe it’s fair to say that I had “mastered the game.” From about that point forward, I was always the DM.


Second Edition


In 1986, TSR released Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition. There was quite a bit of excitement leading up to the release, but I must admit my initial experience and connection to the books was a bit of a dull thud. The artwork was pretty awful, the writing was rather drab, and a substantial amount of material seemed to have been “cut” from the game. For example, the half-orc and various elven sub-races disappeared as an optional player character race. The assassin and the monk vanished as optional classes. 1st edition had a rough, edginess to it, and 2nd edition seemed to have been run through the keep-it-squeaky-clean machine.


On the other hand, the game rules had certainly been made more immediately approachable. Archaic, nearly indecipherable mechanics like 1st edition’s rules for pummeling, grappling, and overbearing became considerably more sensible (but still awkward). Spells and their effects were homogenized and combat mechanics were significantly improved. Yet, overall, the two editions were largely compatible. A novice observing two games of differing editions played back-to-back probably wouldn’t even notice a difference. I was able to continue to incorporate elements that we liked from 1st edition with little to no effort at all. I was disappointed that the game had been polished so hard that some of its enamel had worn off, but I reminded myself that it was still early in the new edition. Expansion books would likely follow and the old edginess would return. It turns out, I was correct.


My Greyhawk campaign began to take on a much more serious tone during this era. I kept careful track of the passage of time. I utilized every rule as written and intended. We used miniatures to represent battles and dungeon exploration on the tabletop (a rarity in many games at that time). On occasion our gaming sessions would last for two or three days, punctuated only by short breaks to consume food and sleep. More players entered into my campaign setting and a sense of history began to develop. We would discuss old challenges the players had overcome, and deadly enemies yet to be faced. The World of Greyhawk took shape in all of our minds, becoming more rich and detailed and mysterious than any world from a novel or a movie could ever hope to achieve. Our game thrived.


This lasted for years, and my collection of gaming material grew and grew. Those who played during the era of 2nd edition D&D will remember the enormous amount of books that were released. The well known red, soft-cover “complete books” expanded the game for players in many ways. This is really where the notion of character customization concepts really took root. These books introduced a mechanic called “kits” (I still hate that name) that allowed players to receive a series of benefits that would, in theory, be balanced by a series of hindrances. This balancing theory usually resulted in failure, with the benefits or hindrances weighted too heavily one way or the other. Still, it was the means by which assassins, monks, and a host of sub-races returned to the game, and for that, we were happy.


This period represented the longest stretch we have ever had with one edition. For us, the era of 2nd edition lasted from 1986 through 1995. Not bad, I must say. There was a revision during that time, but it was mostly artistic in nature. The terrible blue-stamp artwork of the original books was replaced with a much more palatable selection of color art, and the format of the books was organized better and given a much-improved look.


In 1995, the Player’s Option books were released. These were not “officially” touted as a new edition of the game, but for all practical purposes they were. They were instead presented as an optional rules framework that allowed players and game masters to customize D&D in ways that allowed for a freer and yet much more complex play style. A whole book dedicated to a more complex method of running combat was introduced. Another book offering ways for players to create truly customized characters was published. Irritated that your super-genius wizard couldn’t spend a little time learning how to wield a longsword? The Player’s Option: Skills & Powers book had the answer for you. This book was followed shortly thereafter by another tome offering a host of new rules for magic in the game. Why can’t your wizard ever score a critical hit with a fireball? Player’s Option: Spells & Magic gave you the tools to make that happen. Lastly, there was a book offered up that gave rules for DMs to run extremely challenging high level game options. It was a great series (but not without its problems) and we really embraced them.


Then, for a variety of reasons, came the first dark period of D&D for me. First and foremost, the material being released for Dungeons & Dragons became increasingly scarce. Worse, the offerings were of poor quality and ultimately of little use. It was clear that something bad was happening to TSR. The Internet was still young in those days, and information leaked a little slower than it does now, but we eventually learned that the company that had produced Dungeons & Dragons for over twenty years was a sinking ship. Rumors of terrible mismanagement trickled down the pipe and the future seemed grim for our favorite game.


Additionally, most of the members of my long-standing gaming group had far less free time than we did in our younger days. College, jobs, relationships; all competed for people’s time, and adventures in the World of Greyhawk grew quiet. There were no local game stores for me to seek new players. No localized message boards for me to post “gamers wanted” ads. For a time, D&D seemed like it might need to be retired. Perhaps we’d dust off the old books someday when people were less busy and continue our saga.


Then word began to circulate that TSR had been sold to a company called Wizards of the Coast, the makers of the increasingly popular card game called Magic: The Gathering. In short time we also learned that a 3rd edition of D&D was in the making! As the Internet had become much more of an entity in everyone’s life we were able to follow the unfolding journey of D&D more closely. In 2000, some friends and I took the trip to Gen Con in order to be among the first people to get their hands on the new edition of the game.


We were not disappointed.


A new era


3rd Edition was exactly what we wanted. A wonderfully written set of rules, an enormous amount of options, a rekindling of Greyhawk right in the core rulebooks, and the promise of a bright future for our favorite game in the hands of a successful company. What’s more, the edition was very backwards compatible. With no real trouble at all, we managed to convert all of our old characters from previous editions to the 3rd edition rules. To our surprise (and as a testament to the 3rd edition’s versatility) the characters played very much like they had in 2nd edition. My long running Greyhawk campaign flourished once more and the detailed timeline of heroic events continued.


After two short years of gaming, Wizards of the Coast announced a revision to 3rd edition. It was met with audible groans from the collective online gaming community. It was perceived as a money-grab by Wizards, and everyone seemed indignant about shelling out more money to buy the core books all over again after only two years of usage. Personally, I welcomed the change. It was evident from our experience with playing 3rd edition that certain elements were “broken.” Anyone who was an active player during this period will know what I’m talking about. Power creep, as it has come to be known, was a real problem for most experienced gaming groups. Feat combinations and exponential stacking of spell effects made life hell for Dungeon Masters who wanted to provide a challenging game for his or her players. The revision was heralded as D&D 3.5 and after it was finally embraced by the masses everyone was forced to concede that the improvements to the game were worth the cost of buying the books again.


This era was important to me for a number of reasons. Not only was my Greyhawk campaign flourishing once more, my potential player base expanded into the unlimited range. I opened Battleground Games & Hobbies in November of 2002 and my involvement in my lifelong hobby became my business as well. The reign of 3rd edition D&D was a positive chapter in my D&D experience. Lots of great games were played and a host of new people became familiar with my old campaign, which by this time was over twenty years old.


Yet something happened again to thwart my enjoyment of Dungeons & Dragons. It began sometime after 2005, and it wasn’t obvious at first. By that time, many books had been added to the repertoire of tools for players to use in building their characters. Once again, D&D offered up a new series of “complete” books (this time in hardcover), presenting a variety of new options for them to choose as part of their character building process. These options did not always balance well, and it was extremely dubious as to whether or not any of them had been play-tested at all prior to the print release of the book.


Once more, it became difficult for DMs to provide balanced challenges for the player group. Characters became incredibly powerful and veteran players were amazing at having an answer for any and all foes they might face. Furthermore, the connection between players and the rules strengthened more than it had in previous editions. With their deep and expanding knowledge of the customization options available for players to utilize, control of the game could very easily slip out of the hands of the Dungeon Master, who was in all previous editions responsible for such things. This isn’t to say that good games couldn’t still be had. Every gaming group wants different things out of their game. But I stand by the notion that true mastery of D&D had transferred hands from DM to the player at a certain point after 2005. Something in the mystery of the game had been lost. That element of wonder and surprise was greatly depleted, and in my opinion, it came at the cost of immersion in the game world.


Nowhere was this more evident than in the release of two books which I feel rang the death knell for 3.5 D&D: The Spell Compendium and the Magic Item Compendium. The former introduced certain spells into the game that simply made the DMs job of providing balanced and challenging encounters infinitely more difficult. Certain spells in particular sounded suspiciously like they were written by a player best described by the now famous adjective: “munchkin.” Elemental Body anyone? Benign TranspositionBombardment? Perhaps these problem spells were exclusive to my campaign. I’m sure worse examples can be culled from the tome, but my point should be clear. It used to be that the players had to react to challenges put forth by the DM. This makes the game exciting and realistic. By late 3.5 DMs were forced to constantly be reacting to challenges posed by the player’s and their characters. This had a distinctly negative impact on the immersion in the game.


For the latter example of the two books I cited above, consider this passage from the Magic Item Compendium:


“A player points to an item published in this book or the Dungeon Master’s Guide and asks, ‘Can I buy this?’ The answer should usually be, ‘Yes.’”


I remember blinking erratically for a few minutes after reading that passage as I realized with sudden impact that the game had slipped from my grasp. Beyond recovery? No, but I would certainly need to begin the struggle of reclaiming the game and restoring its lost verisimilitude. Modern players might not understand the reasons why a full and comprehensive knowledge of D&D’s enormous offering of magic items is a bad thing for most games. It’s harder to see when you come to the hobby through games like World of Warcraft or Diablo III or any other such game that treats magic items as less of a special thing and more a part of the intrinsic and essential part of the adventurer’s economy.


I realize the inherent absurdity in making the claim that an economy built on the buying and selling of magic items interferes with the realism of the D&D campaign. Is imagining an economy for magic items really that silly in a world where dragons rain fiery death from the skies, wizards shoot lightning from their fingertips, and adventurers live through a 50’ fall into a pit filled with poisoned spikes? Yes. Yes, it is. Perhaps in some future article, I’ll explain my reasons for holding that opinion. For now, I’d like to bring this tale to the end of 3rd edition, and into the D&D blackout of 4th edtion.


Fall from grace


What can be said of 4th edition that hasn’t already been blogged about ad nauseam? When the news of 4th edition hit the gaming stratosphere, people were not ready for it. This was the least of the editions problems, unfortunately. After all, people weren’t ready for 3.5 either, but it worked out just fine in the end. It was recognized then that solid changes were made to the game that resulted in a superior product and play experience. From early on, there were inklings that 4th edition was heading down the wrong road. Many months before the release of the edition, Wizards published a sneak-peek series of books that gave us our first view of some of the philosophy and design concepts that were being implemented in the new edition. I distinctly recall this passage rankling some feathers in Battleground when it was pointed out by one of our regulars:


“…when’s the last time you saw a PC make a Profession check that had a useful effect on the game? (Hint: If it was recently, your game is probably not as much fun as D&D should be. Sorry.)”


Here, we had a designer of the new edition telling players and DMs that enjoyed the idea of Profession checks in their campaigns that they weren’t having as much fun as they should be at the gaming table. Clearly, a game that once allowed for an enormously broad style of play was being directed to one particular style. To me, this is the equivalent of someone telling me that watching the Godfather films and enjoying the deep character development and sense of realism and tempered pacing is “less fun” than the latest, fast-paced trope from Michael Bay with its neat explosions and furious, hyperactive action.


As the release drew nearer, there was more troubling hints. Magic items now would be appearing in the Player’s Handbook for players to purchase and sell at will. In fact, doing so was an essential part of character leveling. Iconic character races and classes were being removed from the game and replaced with other, weirder and more fantastical races (dragonborn & tieflings). There was “DM advice” advocating the collection of magic item “wish lists” from all your players so that you could insert these items into the adventure for them to get the “kewl loot” they want. I futilely hoped that these ill tidings would not amount to an insurmountable problem.


The edition was a failure. Even in ways I had not anticipated.


Sales for the edition began strong as people desired to give it a fair shot. Games were played on the regular and Wizards instituted the Wednesday night D&D Encounters program to help get new players into the store and playing D&D. From a business standpoint, the merits to this type of game are obviously high. A system for people to show up to a store and be able to jump right into a game and start playing D&D is very good for exposing more new players to your product. But what about the old players? The ones who had been with the game since 1982 and beyond? Due to the extreme differences to how characters were constructed and functioned in the game, it was virtually impossible to convert characters from previous editions of the game to the new edition and have them play anything like they did before. “Yes, we are aware of this,” came the response from the D&D design team. “That’s why you should retire those characters and your old campaigns and start a brand new one using the 4th edition rules.”


For someone with a twenty-five year investment in their D&D campaign, these suggestions were the equivalent to telling me not to bother playing the game at all. Even still, I gave the game a fair shot. I “paused” the exploits of the players actively participating in my other games and started a new group adventuring in lands far away from the continent of my typical campaign setting.


It crashed and burned fairly quickly. It was crystal clear that this version of D&D was not for me (or for my players). It was a sinking ship right from the start, though we certainly gave it a solid try. I’ve touched on a few of the problems I had with the edition here and elsewhere. Online, the residual effects of the great 3rd vs 4th edition war still carries on. For me, the edition was dead within the first year of its release in 2008. There was a brief attempt to save the flailing edition in 2010 with the D&D Essentials revision, but it resulted in little more than a feeble whimper.


So where did I turn for my gaming fix? If you’ve come this far you must know that I would eventually mention Pathfinder.


Pathfinder is 3.5 Dungeons & Dragons with a different name and some minor tweaks to the core rules. It’s often jokingly (and accurately) referred to as D&D 3.75. I like to refer to it as a “legally stolen game.” Upon the release of the D&D 3rd edition rules, there was a revolutionary and daring document provided by Wizards of the Coast that allowed any publisher to produce material for the D&D game system, up to and including the reprinting of a significant portion of the actual rules themselves. This document, called the Open Game License, was a huge boon for 3rd edition at the time. It effectively created a guaranteed dominance in the role-playing game industry that kept Wizards of the Coast firmly established at the top. Ironically, this same innovation would ultimately work against them in equal portions when 4th edition D&D began to fail.


A company called Paizo, originally the authorized publishers of Dragon Magazine and Dungeon Magazine, using the Open Game License as their defense, reprinted and rebranded the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game as if it were their own. At first, its popularity was a small, sizzling flame, but as D&D 4th edition began to collapse, it rose to dominate the number one sales spot in the RPG industry. For the first time ever, the Dungeons & Dragons brand name had been usurped by another brand. Paizo puffed their chest about this quite frequently, which always rubbed me the wrong way. After all, this truthfully was not their game. When you are playing Pathfinder, you are playing a version of Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition.


Still, Pathfinder was the best of the available options for my game for the past four years or so. Some of the tweaks to the core rules were minor improvements over the 3.5 rules. Yet the large problems with 3rd edition’s ridiculous magic-item driven economy, player character power-creep, and issues with a DM’s ability to properly present challenges at higher levels all remained. These problems could not be fixed without a more proper treatment to the rules system.


My feeling is that we are about to get that treatment.


Dungeons & Dragons – 5th Edition


After the announcement of D&D 5th edition, I decided to put all my games on hold. It’s been over a year since I’ve run a game in my World of Greyhawk campaign. I’m pretty sure it’s the longest I’ve gone without running a D&D game since it all began back in 1982. I took the break for several reasons, but mostly it was because I realized that there just didn’t seem to be an edition for me anymore. 1st edition was great in its day, but too much had changed for me to step that far back into those archaic rules. 2nd edition had appeal briefly, but again, too many really solid improvements had been made in areas that really mattered for me to return to the magic of that era. 3rd edition’s problems were just too close to home for me to pick up and try again. These problems, having not been addressed to my satisfaction in 3.5 and Pathfinder ruled those choices out too. 4th edition wasn’t even considered.


To be fair, each edition, even the much maligned 4th edition, taught me something about what makes for a great D&D game. Immersion is the key. Good, solid rules, but not too many of them! Keep the math to a minimum while you’re actually at the table. Too many modifiers, too many combos and considerations, and you only succeed in pulling everyone out of the moment. We need a game that allows for adjustable speeds, so it can be tailored to each individual group. Restoring that lost sense of mystery to the game is essential too (keep those magic items in the DMG!). We need an edition that plays well at higher levels, so that when the time comes to pursue your worst enemies into the Abyss itself, you’ll have a good time doing it.


Based on the spoilers that I’ve seen so far, and the inside track I’ve been following on the Internet, it seems very likely that we might finally get the best edition of D&D yet. To me, it seems like a giant, positive step backward. Yet in the taking of that step the designers have raked back with them all of the best concepts and innovations that were presented in the later editions (and added a few new ones). In just a few more days we’ll have our first real peek at what the new edition will look like with the release of the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set. It will be available at both Battleground locations on July 3rd, just in time to blow off all your 4th of July plans and spend it consuming the contents of the boxed set.


My Greyhawk campaign is about to begin again. Rising up and out of the ashes of the brutal Edition Wars.


May those wars finally be at an end.


Click on the image to preorder the Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition books and set!


Click on the image to preorder the Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition books and set!





I am aware that I failed to mention the Original D&D folio booklets that were first published in 1974. This is for two reasons. The first is that I have only ever played them in a one-shot, retro style game. The second reason is that while they certainly hold a classic charm, they are more or less inferior to the much larger works that came later.


About the Author


Derek Lloyd is the owner of Battleground Games & Hobbies. He is a lover of games and a hater of all things Michael Bay. When he’s not behind the counter working hard to satisfy the needs of his customers, he can usually be found socializing and painting miniatures or terrain at the rear of the store. Besides games, he is also a fan of film, well thought-out discussions, and long walks on the beach. If anything was left out of this bio, then you can blame Sims because he’s the one who wrote it.


Join the Battleground Games & Hobbies community forums!

Please don’t forget to check us out on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @battleground_gh!


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This week in gaming: An open casting call, GPTs, Weiss, and M15




Calling all writers


If you’ve been reading my blog posts, articles, whatever you want to call them for a while now, then you may have noticed that they are centered around “Magic: The Gathering.” Now there is a perfectly good explanation for this. The main reason being is that is my area of gaming expertise.


I don’t think there is anything wrong with this, but it makes things a little boring if you’re not into “Magic.” That’s where you come in. Consider this an open casting call for writers of all backgrounds. One of the goals I am trying to accomplish is to help get different content on the site. That’s where you come in.


Is there something related to gaming that your very passionate about?Is there an awesome Dungeons and Dragons sessions you want to tell people about? Do you have experience in table top wargaming like Warmachine or Warhammer 40K? Are you really good at painting miniatures or scenery? Something that would be great is content with tips and tricks for beginner miniature players.


Don’t worry, I’m always open to others writing about “Magic.” Having multiple perspectives is a great thing to have. It really helps to diversify the writing on the website. So, if you’re interested in giving writing a shot, then let me know. Pitch me your ideas at Please include your name and keep your pitch to around 200 words.


If you’re idea sounds good, we’ll contact you and move from there. These writing opportunities are strictly voluntary. That should be the last thing on your mind, though. The idea is to have fun and help spread your knowledge.


Modern at this Friday’s FNM


This Friday will be the third Friday of the month. You know what that means. Modern will be offered at this Friday’s FNM in addition to Standard and Draft.


This would be a great time to try out any ideas you may have for the Modern season that’s now in session. In case you missed it, Battleground Games & Hobbies hosted a Grand Prix Trial on June 14. Several of the Top 8 competetors included some of the usual players from the Abington store: Ken Briscoe, James Costello, and Chris Alexander. Also in the Top 8 was Devin Malko who plays at the Plainville store. The eventual winner was Nicholas Blake who also plays at the Plainville store.


The deck lists for the entire Top 8 can be found by clicking on this link.


If you missed out on the GPT on June 14, then don’t worry. There will be another GPT hosted at the Abington store. That GPT will be held on June 29. The format is Modern and the winner will also receive a box of Modern Masters in addition to the 2-round byes. This should be a big turnout. Everyone will be gunning for that box of Modern Masters. This could be your chance to open a foil Tarmogoyf!


Do you play Weiss Schwarz?



weizz schwarz logo

If you play Weiss Schwarz, rumor has it that the store will be getting some visitors from out of town looking for some pick-up games. So if you’re tired of the usual competition and are looking for some new action and new opponents, this is your opportunity to do so.


The usual time for Weiss Schwarz actions is 2:00 PM on Saturday. Be there or be a four-sided object.


M15 prerelease dates have been set


Can you believe it’s time for another “Magic: The Gathering” set to be released out into the wild? The Magic 2015 core set prerelease has been scheduled for both the Abington and Plainville stores.


All of the information you need to know can be read here, but if you’re too lazy to click on the link then keep reading.


The prerelease packs will once again make their presence known. It is important to know that if you’d like to be guaranteed a specific color of your choice you’ll need to preregister for the event you want to participate in.


Regarding preregistration, there were some issues with the Journey Into Nyx prerelease where some people couldn’t get the color they wanted to when they showed up to the store. Unfortunately, the colors they wanted had all been spoken for through the preregistration process. If you don’t want to be denied a color, please, I urge you to preregister ahead of time so you don’t miss out on the color you want.


Oh yeah, I was talking about the prerelease. The event will be held the weekend of July 12-13. Here is a quick rundown of what’s happening:


Magic 2015 - Hunt Bigger Game resize

Format: Sealed Deck*

Date: July 12th Friday night / Saturday morning

Time: 12:00am (midnight)

Entrance Fee: $25.00 per person

This event will run 4 rounds.


Format: Sealed Deck*

Date: July 12th Saturday afternoon

Time: 12:00pm

Entrance Fee: $25.00 per person

This event will run 4 rounds.


Format: Sealed Deck*

Date: July 12th Saturday night

Time: 6:00pm

Entrance Fee: $25.00 per person

This event will run 4 rounds.


Format: Two-Headed Giant Sealed Deck**

Date: July 13th Sunday afternoon

Time: 12:00pm in PLAINVILLE, 6:00pm in ABINGTON

Entrance Fee: $20.00 per person

This event will run 4 rounds.


Format: Sealed Deck*

Date: July 13th Sunday night

Time: 6:00pm in PLAINVILLE, 12:00pm in ABINGTON

Entrance Fee: $25.00 per person

This event will run 4 rounds.


*Sealed Deck: Each player receives one Core Set 2015 Prerelease Pack corresponding to the color of their choice.


**Two-Headed Giant Sealed Deck:  Each TEAM will receive 2 Core Set 2015 Prerelease Packs with which to build two 40 card decks.


Here is also a breakdown of what you’ll get when you enter the prerelease:


Each Player will receive one Core Set 2015 Prerelease Pack that contains:


5 Core Set 2015 booster packs

1 Seeded booster pack*

1 Premium promo card

1 Activity card

1 Spindown life counter

1 Welcome Letter

For this event, players may use the promo card included with the Prerelease Pack in their tournament deck.


*Contains cards from the Core Set that are or have synergy with the color you chose.


Well that’s it for now. I hope you enjoyed this week’s version of “This week in gaming.” If you liked what you read then help us out by spreading the word. Hit the social media buttons down below and tell all your friends about this article and the store!


About the author


Simeon is now the Community Manager for Battleground Games & Hobbies. He is also an avid gamer who loves to play board games and video games. He graduated college with a degree in Political Science, and now serves the public by writing about games. You can check that out here. Don’t forget to “like” him on Facebook as well. It’ll update you on all of his newest content. Best of all, you can follow Simeon on Twitter (@SimeonCortezano) for some real time hilarity. Thanks for reading!


Donate to the Extra-Life fundraiser!




Join the Battleground Games & Hobbies community forums!

Please don’t forget to check us out on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @battleground_gh!


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Wizards of the Coast Announces ‘D&D Tyranny of Dragons’



Wizards of the Coast announced last week the highly anticipated product line-up for the Dungeons & Dragons Tyranny of Dragons campaign, ushering in a pivotal year for the popular role-playing game brand. The entertainment offerings include the D&D Player’s HandbookMonster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide that bring the campaign storyline to life for tabletop RPG gamers, as well as digital offerings led by a new module for the Neverwinter MMO


NEW D&D Logo

NEW D&D Logo


To celebrate 40 years of entertaining players and to coincide with the Tyranny of Dragons product line-up, Wizards of the Coast has also unveiled a new logo for the brand. The redesign includes a larger ampersand that is clearly a fire-breathing dragon, conveying an element of danger with its sharp edges and barbs on his tale and evoking some of the main elements that D&D stands for, including adventures and fearsome monsters.


NEW Ampersand Logo

NEW Ampersand Logo


First out of the gate for Tyranny of Dragons digital offerings will be a new module for the highly-acclaimed Dungeons & Dragons MMO, Neverwinter, from Cryptic Studios and Perfect World Entertainment. The new module, aptly titled Tyranny of Dragons, will be the premier digital Dungeons & Dragons experience for players and will launch on August 14, 2014.


Tyranny of Dragons Logo

Tyranny of Dragons Digial Logo


For players eager to sink their teeth into the Tyranny of Dragons storyline around the gaming table, two new tabletop adventures will also release this year. Hoard of the Dragon Queen (August 19) and The Rise of Tiamat (October 21) will take players into the depths of the dragon’s lair, pitting them against Tiamat, the most fearsome dragon in D&D’s history.



In addition, Wizards has partnered with WizKids  to produce a new line of D&D miniatures (see “WizKids Releases Details for ‘D&D Fantasy’ Miniatures“)  that fans can use in conjunction with their Tyranny of Dragons adventures, as well as complement their tabletop RPG experience brought forth by the new rules set. With these new minis, players can expect high-quality, pre-painted plastic miniatures featuring iconic heroes and villains straight from the Forgotten Realms.


For the full Tyranny of Dragons story overview and product line-up, including PC and mobile games, tabletop roleplaying adventures, digital tools, collectible miniatures, comics, apparel and more visit and stay tuned for more Tyranny of Dragons offerings and release dates to be announced in the coming months.


Best of all, Battleground Games & Hobbies will have a full line of Dungeons & Dragons Tyranny of Dragons products in stock as soon as it becomes available! Press release and information courtesy of Alfred Cloutier.



Please be sure to join us at your local Battleground Games & Hobbies each and every Wednesday night for D&D Encounters; a night not to be missed!




Join the Battleground Games & Hobbies community forums!
Please don’t forget to check us out on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @battleground_gh!

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A few thoughts on DnD and news about Extra-Life


Some of my best “Dungeons and Dragons” memories are from high school. A funny note about that, my friends and I used to code-name our sessions as “football practice.” Another side note, all of our other friends knew we were playing “Dungeons and Dragons.” For those who didn’t know, it made for quite a laugh. “Those guys are on the football team,” some would ask. I guess you had to be there in person.


We had some epic adventures. Although, there are times if we actually played the game right. What do I mean? Well, thinking back on some of the things we did, I’m not sure if the game allowed for them. We used a lot of logic and reasoning. In fact, we used a lot of the stuff we were learning at the time and applied them to our gaming. What kind of things? How about high school advanced physics.


I remember some of my friends coming up with some really crazy solutions for problems our DM would throw at us. The “Player’s Handbook” and “Dungeon Master’s Guide” were there for a reason. They were there to help players progress through their games and answers any questions that may come up. It was just nice to had additional sources, but I wonder if the game ever intended for use to actually use our text books. I’m certain we overrode some of the rules because some law prevented or allowed us to perform some wacky action. I can’t remember anything specifically off of the top of my head, but one thing I definitely remember was that we loved to use the Pythagorean Theorem. This was extremely useful when we had to figure out if we could use a ranged spell or weapon. In fact, I think we used it more defensively than offensively. There were plenty of times our DM tried to shoot us from the ground upwards at our faces. Many of those attempts failed because of our applied mathematics. It still frustrates him today.


In the end, it doesn’t matter too much if we broke a rule or two. The experience and stories are what really matter the most. For a future post, I plan on telling the story of one of my favorite moments from that campaign. It involved me dressing up as a woman and killing a high government official. He worked for a neighboring city we were trying to negotiate peace with. There was also this one time where I played a Psionic and brain locked this character my DM had spent some time making up. Long story short, all his hard work was for nothing as we made a joke of his big, bad boss.


Extra Life is a go!


In other news this week, I have officially signed up for the Extra-Life fundraiser I wrote about a couple of weeks ago.


I am really excited to take part in this, and I am hoping all of you will be as well. I am also excited to say that Battleground Games & Hobbies in Abington will be hosting the 24-hour event in October. I would really like to thank Derek for allowing this to happen. It’s still many months away, so, obviously, we have to work out the fine details, but I will let you all know when the time comes. So get ready for 24-hours of board games, card games, miniature gaming, and more!


Like I said before, the event is not just about the 24 hours of gaming, but the work leading up to the event. In case you missed it, the Extra-Life fundraiser helps benefit the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals. All proceeds that I help raise will go towards the Boston Children’s Hospital.


Now that I have started the groundwork, I need your help. I understand that we all have expensive hobbies. I mean, come on, I play “Magic: The Gathering.” I have firsthand experience with this stuff.


Unfortunately, there are kids who are sick in hospitals that don’t have the benefit of experiencing our “first world problems.”


So this week and the next, and maybe the next one after that, instead of buying a booster pack, a bottle of paint, or some new models, think of making this the week you donate to Extra-Life. You only need to do it once, then you can go back and splurge on more gaming supplies. Every dollar counts.


If you would like to donate today then click on the banner below. It will lead you to my Extra-Life page. Just click on the “Support Me” button and it will take you to a page where you can set up your donation. All major credit cards are accepted as well as PayPal. Also, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. All donors will receive an IRS compliant tax receipt.



Something you’ll notice, if you visit the page, is that I’ve set a high goal. Why did I set such a high goal you ask? It’s because I believe in all of you. I believe that you all have what it takes to help me out and I’m hoping you prove to me that the goal I set is actually too low.


This next part is important. I know I’ve been talking a lot of game (no pun intended), but there is no pressure to make a monetary donation. In fact, the next best thing you can do is tell a friend or family member about what’s happening here. If they have a computer, then please point them in this direction. Maybe you could ask them to make a donation or, at the very least, tell their friends as well.


I want this thing to spread like a wild fire. Once we start getting the donations rolling, we can have some fun and I’ll come up with some perks for hitting goals and such.


If you or a family member want to donate, but do not want to go through the process online, I am able to take donations offline as well. I’ll have more information regarding that once I have it all set up.


That’s it for now. I promise not to make every post about the fundraiser. See you all next week.


About the author


Simeon is an avid gamer who loves to play board games and video games. He graduated college with a degree in Political Science, and now serves the public by writing about games. You can check that out here. Don’t forget to “like” him on Facebook as well. It’ll update you on all of his newest content. Best of all, you can follow Simeon on Twitter (@SimeonCortezano) for some real time hilarity. Thanks for reading!


Join the Battleground Games & Hobbies community forums!

Please don’t forget to check us out on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @battleground_gh!


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