Bring on the dwelfs: Mixed race options in Dungeons & Dragons 5e

Kiliel from Titansgrave by Nick Gan
Kiliel, Alison Haislip’s half-elf/half-dwarf from Titansgrave. It’s not exactly D&D… because half-elf/half-dwarves don’t exist in D&D. That’s the point.

I recently finished playing in a Dungeons & Dragons (5th edition) campaign, and the same group is now planning for the next one, in the same setting but with all new characters. We’re even using D&D Beyond for it, because if we’re going down that rabbit hole we might as well go all the way, right?

And going through character creation has got me thinking again about fantasy races in D&D, and pondering yet again the age-old question: what in the Nine Hells is up with the Half-Elf and Half-Orc races? What makes them so special that they get treated as distinct races in their own right? Why can’t I play as any other type of hybrid, like a half-elf/half-dwarf dwelf? Well, this time I actually decided to do something about it.

You can play other types of hybrid in D&D 5e. Read on to see how.

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RPGaDay 2017, Day 12: Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

RPGaDay 2017 infographic

RPGaDay is an annual celebration of tabletop roleplaying. This is the first year I’ve tried to do it.

Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

Example female half-elf from D&D 4e PHBThere’s no way of answering this in an objective way. There are so many RPGs with art that is evocative or appropriate or just plain badass. Too many for me to count, let alone name. Instead, I have to be completely subjective and pick the one RPG I’ve played in which the inspiration for my character came directly from the artwork: the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Specifically, the example female half-elf from the Player’s Handbook (right). Just look at the contempt on that face. It’s glorious.

The wider picture is apparently of a martial class (fighter or rogue, I guess), but I played a warlock who had made a deal in infancy with an archfey. She was raised by humans but convinced (on the basis of no real evidence) that she was the daughter of some powerful lord of the Feywild. She was one of my first RPG characters after rejoining the hobby and I made some critical errors in designing her (she had the highest Charisma in the party but rarely bothered to talk to people, for instance), so I was not quite able to capture the awesome of the image when I played the character, but I was satisfied with the campaign anyway. The last we ever saw of her she was leaping recklessly into the Feywild, heedless of the fact that there would be no way back again. She’s probably still there, I guess.

Alignment: Pondering Good and Evil (in RPGs)

I’m in a 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign at the moment, and the players recently had an ethical debate about something that happened a couple of sessions ago. This debate wasn’t about Alignment but, when talking ethics in D&D, Alignment is impossible to avoid.

The concept of Alignment elicits some very powerful emotions among roleplayers. I am not immune to this. I have strong feelings about Good and Evil in particular, but my headcanon is largely incompatible with the way that Alignment is used in D&D itself.

D&D Alignment does double duty as a reflection of your personal morality as your position in a great eternal conflict between cosmic forces of unimaginable power. It has accomplished this serviceably well for decades, but I think that this splitting of focus can sometimes confuse gamemakers and players.

However, if we narrow down Alignment’s focus to just character morality, removing any link to a heavenly absolute Good or infernal absolute Evil, then it can become a lot more nuanced. What if individuals didn’t have a fixed Alignment, but one that varied according to how much they cared about other people? Would this make it more useful as a tool for analysing characters in other games, or more generally?

To examine this, let’s have a look at Sir Brad Starlight (pictured) and some other characters from the series Wander Over Yonder, then talk about another way we could think about Alignment.

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Welp, guess I’m not publishing that Alignment post now [UPDATED: Oh, yes I am]

Ethical priorities. Art from the Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Players' Handbook, butchered by me.
Ethical priorities. Art from the Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Players’ Handbook, butchered by me.
About an hour ago I put the finishing touches on my blog post about Alignment in Dungeons & Dragons. When I clicked ‘Publish’, the post disappeared. It didn’t appear on the blog, and it stopped appearing in my list of drafts. It’s not in the list of published posts, or trashed blog posts, or anywhere else on my site.

It’s just gone.

That’s obviously frustrating. I’d been working on it for months, especially now that I’m actually playing in a D&D 5th Edition campaign. It had examples, pictures, references to other sites and Alignment blog posts. It wasn’t perfect but I was proud enough to post it. I’ve still got the pictures (see one of them, right), but everything else is gone.

Hopefully I can recover it at some point, but it’s not looking likely. Maybe I’ll rewrite the thing. Or maybe it’ll never see the light of day. I don’t know yet.

I’m writing this partly to vent, and partly to check that publishing blog posts is still a thing I can do. If not, well, I guess you’ll never even see this post.

Update: Good news, I recovered the post! You can read it here.

Character advancement vs Character development

Anakin Skywalker's journey to become Darth Vader: Fear, Anger, Hate, Suffering.
Character advancement and character development sometimes go hand in hand… but character development isn’t always a joyful experience for the character itself

One of the great joys of playing roleplaying games, especially playing a single character through a long campaign, is in seeing your character grow and change. In traditional high fantasy games, it’s fun to rise from humble beginnings to be an important and powerful figure in the campaign world.

However, it’s relatively rare in roleplaying games to see the sort of deep, personal character transformation that you might see in books, TV shows or films. That’s because the sort of growth and change encouraged by traditional roleplaying games is different from the growth and change that most popular media is built on.

Character advancement is not the same thing as character development.

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Here’s the Kicker: Character creation and plot hooks

Sorcerer_CoverLast weekend I had my first experience of the game Sorcerer by Ron Edwards. Sorcerer was originally self-published in 1996, and it was at the vanguard of the indie RPG movement. I’m not going to discuss the game extensively, but there was one thing in particular that got me thinking.

I want to talk about Kickers.

A Kicker is an unexpected event that shakes up a player character’s life. It forces the player character to react, but does not dictate how they should react. It is the set-up for the player character’s opening conflict during play.

Kickers in Sorcerer

As defined above, Kickers are not new and not revolutionary. They are basically just plot hooks. Most long-running campaigns start with something similar, usually at the start of the first session of play, to get the players invested and the characters moving. Even the standard D&D trope of being commanded by the local ruler to sort out those bandits chop chop almost meets the definition (except for not dictating how the players should react).

But what Sorcerer did that was new and was revolutionary was this: it put the Kicker into the hands of the player.

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Let me tell you about my backstory

Cover of the Warhammer Quest Roleplay Book

Today, I’m going to talk about myself. It’s a bit self-indulgent, but it’s my blog so I’m going to do it anyway.

Specifically, I’m going to talk about my history with roleplaying games, through the lens of the games that I played before I became fully immersed in the hobby about two and a half years ago.

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