Tag Archives: DnD 4e

How To Be: A Meguca (In 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

In this, a Dreadful Month, maybe you need a radiant light. Maybe you need something that makes you feel warm and fuzzy and happy in this time of long nights. In which case, let’s look to the most successful Monsters Inc fanfiction anime there is, and look at the magical girls from Puella Magi Madoka Magica as we ask what it would take to Become Meguca.

Spoiler Policy: I don’t intend to spoil much of the actual story of Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Instead, I intend to approach this exercise looking at the characters as they present, with minimal explanation of the actual narrative of their native series, though there will be some discussion in a broad sense of what characters’ powers are.

This is in part because these characters have very strong vibes to use as basis for a character but also because it’s much funnier.

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4e: The Warlock Is Alone

It’s a well-worn meme that in the context of the Dungeons And Dragons moral framework, that Warlocks and Paladins are different only in that one has an employer, and one has a sugar daddy. Notably, before you giggle too much, recognise that of the two, the Warlock’s the one with a contract, but the Paladin’s the one with a code of conduct.

No, don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a treatise on how the Warlock in 4th edition has balance problems, or how they have probably one of the most stolen powers in the game, or how the Paladin does most of what I want a Warlock to do, no no. Not even bringing up that the divine characters have their power sources expanded with personalities and ideologies and characterisation and all that, while the Warlock gets maybe try elementals? I’m not bitter.

This is about being a Warlock in 4th edition.

Content Warning: I talk about drugs a little bit, in broad and general terms!

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How To Be: Lalo Salamanca (In 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

There’s a real challenge in translating anime characters to other forms of media, and that’s why once again, we go back to the most successful anime of the last five years, which had its grand conclusion just last month. Yes, people love Better Call Saul, and Breaking Bad and then maybe they’ll mention El Camino and maaaybe they’ll mention Slippin’ Jimmy, but no matter how you enjoy it, we all know one of the greatest anime villains of all time stands tall, possibly while murmuring the name Werner… Ziegler…

It’s Lalo!

Spoilers but kinda? For Season 4 and onward of Better Call Saul.

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4e: Deploying Monster Types

Hey, have we already spoken about the monster system in 4th Ed D&D?

Back in 3rd edition, D&D used what we called the ‘challenge rating’ system, a system that treated each monster as a sort of amorphous blob with a generic personality and the option to pick its own feats and do a lot of possible things. It was a system that I’ve talked about somewhat negatively.

But people say that 4e D&D was ‘only good for tactical combat,’ which I don’t agree with, but I can understand the feeling when you consider it was the first time that it made the combat system kinda work (and obligatory ‘ew there were math problems in the first monster manual’ yep, and they found them and addressed it, thanks).

Part of how it worked was that rather than treat monsters as if they were all generic spots on a continuum, monsters were balanced based on general formulas of things they could do and ways they could be represented, and part of that was recognising that some types of monster were best suited to particular types of role.

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How To Be: Bridget (in 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

You don’t have long on this earth. THE FASTEST SINNER WILL EDIT THE TEXT. MISSION ONE. WHATABURGER! A MIDNIGHT MEAL WITH THE DEVIL

THE CARBUNCLE ATE ITSELF! FIRST HOWDY!

LET’S GET THE MONEY. GODS PLAY DICE WITH THE UNIVERSE, WHY DON’T YOU GIVE HER A CALL. FIRST SHOWDOWN ATTACK, Crank it To 11! WORLD IS A FUCK

Round the first: Grind!

It’s Labor Day.

Let’s talk about Guilty Gear.

Content Warning: I’m going to have to put some disclaimers up for some political information around Bridget and trans identities before I get into the meat of things, so if you’re not interested in that and you’re already aware of this situation just jump three paragraphs.

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4e: The Yakuza Theme

There’s a chance if you played 4th edition, you never even knew Themes were a thing. They were introduced in a campaign sourcebook as a way to flesh out characters under level 10, to give more of that kind of granularity you might want if you say, belonged to a particular organisation, or had something that just made you a bit different to every other character in your class. Themes are great because what they often give you serves really well in offering a bit of a mechanical variety to builds without necessarily making things worryingly more powerful. The idea is very sound.

Art by Remy PAUL

The execution on the other hand, phew, the execution, well, let me tell you.

I have talked in the past about how themes are a problem because there are only a few of them that are as strong as one another; this creates a smaller pool of possible options. Melee combatants usually take the Guardian, which gives you a way to get a free extra basic attack and a bunch of other powers you’d never bother taking. If you follow my How To Be series you might have seen the commonality with which I bring up the Werebear and Werewolf as ways to open up a build’s options. Also, almost all builds that have no better reason to be anything else are going to benefit from the Fey Beast Tamer.

These themes are good because they give you something robust, consistent, and reliable in all situations. The greatest failing of themes are when they break these rules, and when they do it, it is often in service of 4th edition’s worst habit, which I’ll just shorthand as fiddly bookkeeping bullshit. As an example, let’s check out the Yakuza theme.

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How To Be: Scorpia

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

One of my favourite things about media is the way that just because I don’t like a work or a show or a plot or whatever it doesn’t have to mean I don’t like or won’t have a reason to be interested in something in that. Moments, scenes, characters, dialogue, all sorts of small things can be extracted from their source and appreciated for what they are and what they could be even if they wouldn’t be that way in the work they’re from. I don’t have to like Rent to think that Out Tonight is a banger, that kind of thing.

So to with She-Ra and the Princess of Power. I didn’t like the show that much and I stopped watching it and that’s entirely okay, but while I watched it I did meet a character I liked, and it seems that lots of other people like. Let’s examine then how we’d go about making the good-natured princess himbo, Scorpia.

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4e: Class Variance

Alright, so yeah, I may have talked about how terrible a bunch of the 3.5 D&D classes were, but that’s a little bit unfair, right? Rubbishing on bad design in a system I don’t play, that’s ammunition in the edition wars, what about the bad classes in 4th edition?

I have thought about that, about writing that, but part of the problem is that ‘the bad classes’ needs some asterisks and caveats. Because there are a lot of classes in 4e D&D, but not nearly as many as there were in 3rd edition, and what’s more, a lot of the ones in 4e… weren’t… different classes to one another.

Let me explain.

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4e: Dodge Roll Or Die

If you’ve read my How To Be Series you may have noticed the way that lightly or unarmoured characters present a potential contention for the project. In some cases it’s that characters don’t obviously have much armour on and there’s the counterpoint of characters who definitely don’t have much armour on.

What’s the problem? Just put the character in armour, right? Or just don’t wear armour and use something else instead?

In 4th edition, the system is built around some general math that in general makes it so that the DM can rely on players being able to handle the things the game expects them to handle. There is some tolerance — characters have a real floor of 10+half your level, there’s only so bad you can be at it — but there are archetypes like the Paladin where the game positions you by default to be good at defending yourself with shields and blocks and heavy armour.

What if you don’t want to do that?

Is there an option for you?

original screenshot from Topless Robot, if you’re curious
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How To Be: Sheik (In 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

It’s June, it’s Fox’s birthday month, and it’s pride month, which means I have to find a character who’s some variety of queer, and also one of Fox’s favourite characters. The good news is that every single one of Fox’s favourite characters is queer, because they’re her favourite characters, and that’s how that works. I’m a media studies scholar.

Let’s talk about a contentious argument from 2001, which we’re all over now. Let’s talk about Sheik, from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

beautiful Sheik art here by Vashperado
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How To Be: Kyo Kusanagi (in 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

Buckle up Dweebenheimer it’s time to KING THE FIGHTERS!

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4e: The Misbegotten Identity of ‘Ki.’

The origin system in 4th edition D&D was one of the subtler bits of design tech they had. The basic idea was that if you made an overarching term to explain how a bunch of mechanics ‘felt’ you could then reference that term. If something worked one way because of how divine spellcasters worked, by making all the spellcasters that worked that way ‘divine’ you could tidy up feat payloads and make the game work a lot more fluidly.

This system got broke up into:

  • Martial, where you stab and bash and use weapons and armour and you get a bunch of mechanics based on movement, pushing and pulling things
  • Arcane, where you do wizard stuff, magic about thinking, and you get a bunch of mechanics based on making zones, summoning things and long-term effects
  • Divine, where you do cleric stuff, magic about getting an invisible friend to help you out, and you get a bunch of mechanics based on on healing, radiant damage, and ongoing rules-setting
  • Primal, where you do naturey stuff, connected to animals, plants and so on, and you get mechanics based on Just Having More Hitpoints.
  • Shadow, Sir Not Appearing In This Conversation
  • Psionic, where you get to do mind-warpy stuff, and the mechanics were linked with the power points mechanic*.

This, like the role system, was excellent for giving identity to unify mechanical identity, gave players a way to understand their characters, didn’t get in the way doing it, and I’ve written about it in the past. It’s great.

Wait, what’s that *?

What’s that about?

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How To Be: Minfilia Warde (in 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

In deference to this being Final Fantasy 14 Week, a sub-theme in Talen Month, I figured it was time for us to give the fan, singular, what she wanted, and finally write an article about her favourite character, and how I’d go about playing her in a game that she doesn’t play and has no reason to care about.

It’s also an opportunity to talk about negative space and harmonisation.

Let’s talk about Minfilia Warde.

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4e: The Elan

Look, don’t let the way I talk about 4e D&D (which is the best edition of D&D) leave you thinking that I think the game is flawless. It’s just much better than 3e and good enough that I don’t care to look at 5e. That excellence however doesn’t mean that the design within it is flawless, especially in those surprising incidents where I could find something I could do in 3rd edition that was more satisfying than when I tried to do it in 4th edition. Some ideas translated across really well, like making werewolf, werebear, and wererat characters into themes, allowing players to add that element to their character without it being an overwhelming drawback but also designed so that it was a meaningful cost.

There’s a place where I really miss the way 3rd edition handled things, or at least, I feel that 3rd edition did a better job than 4th did, and it was with the eerie little niche culture of The Elan.

(Art Source)
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How To Be: Zelgadis (in 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

There’s always going to be a challenge when you translate a character from a game into a different medium. These How To Be articles are about the process of taking a character represented in a fictional form and move them across into the game so that you can connect with their concept in a mechanical space. What, though, if the character started as a mechanical expression and then became part of a fiction?

What is it like to make a D&D character out of a character who is, in a lot of ways, just someone else’s D&D character?

Let’s talk about Zelgadis, from Slayers.

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4e: Harmonising Mount Rules

When you ask people about the tropes of the fantasy adventure narrative, there’s a genre of those tropes that 4th edition D&D — which is the best D&D, by the way — handles badly. Well, not badly. Well, badly. Well, some of it is bad. Well, some of it is unreliable. Well, look, it’s complicated.

I refer to the idea of a character on a mount.

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4e: Knightly Order Themes

Obviously, writing on this blog is not really fair. Some days you get 500 words about me being sad and sometimes you get 3000 words about Violet Evergarden. These things are fungible. Typically speaking, any given blog post is ‘what I could write, on that day,’ and where it fits into the schedule.

What I want you to appreciate is that this article is absolutely beastly by these standards, and I fully expect you to not read it. I would normally have split an article this big up over several days and maybe gone in depth over it, but I know the score: I know that this is going to include a giant chunk of rules and text that people are going to skim and formatting it so it looked good took several days. What’s more, it’s about a game system you don’t necessarily even play. Giving you four days of The Knights Week (even though I like this stuff a lot) would be four blank days. Instead I’m giving the small number of you into this a bumper presentation, and here are my bullet point pieces of advice:

  • 4e Themes are right now are either very weak or very boring
  • These themes are made to enable different kinds of characters in the same organisation
  • Make your designs bold and minimise piles of clauses
  • Make them so they encourage players to make situations where those abilities are useful happens

I’ve talked in the past about the four Church Knights of the Eresh Protectorates in Cobrin’Seil, which are really knightly orders connected to one set of city-states with a shared cultural ideology, and their related religious orders. They’re tied together by highways, and those highways allow the flow of a language and a trade and that’s how the continent of Bidestra even has a language of ‘common’ – it’s the language of traders on the Highway.

These knightly orders are organisations players can belong to. They also are not singular in their purpose; as with most military-social infrastructure, they do a lot of things. Lethenites might be bookish knights on horseback serving as a sort of hospitaler, but they might also just be combat-capable battle librarians roaming around trying to find a book to SCP-style contain. I want players to have options when they try to integrate into the world.

Image from Eorzea Collection

When presenting players with a player option, it’s important to make it so that theme increases options, rather than decreases them. If you present a mechanical choice that’s too good, you’ve made every alternative bad; if you present a choice that’s too weak, you’ve made it so you might as well never have presented it.

When I made the knightly orders, then, I didn’t want to tie them to a particular class, but I did want them to represent a decently large chunk of mechanical investment and improve over time. The best option I could think of here was a combination of a background (to represent just having done any work with them) and a theme. There’s a long-form article on the problems in themes in me somewhere, but for now: there are basically five decent themes and two really good ones.

My aim was to add themes to the game that gave player interesting heroic-tier advantages, didn’t clog the game with lots of specific conditionals, and enabled you to play ‘knightly’ characters with abilities that felt appropriate to the characters of their orders. To achieve this, I gave each of the four knightly orders two diferent themes, which were all meant to enable different kinds of characters.


Bear in mind, under this fold there is an enormous chunk (around seven thousand words) of game lore and rules text and it’s presented not as a popular blog article, but rather, as game rule information. This is also going to include some potentially challenging formatting as I learn tables. If you want to see it broken up into sections, or in a easy searchable databse, it should be going up on Square Fireballs at some point.

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How To Be: Akane Tendo (in 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

You know it’s not an intentional thing, but it seems that in the month of February, How To Be returns to the world of Ranma 1/2. Ah, what a wonderful world, the world where we have characters who fight with brooms or teleport or turn into gods and throw lightning bolts. Who are we going to visit here, in this mysterious world of creative martial arts?

Oh wait it’s in the subject you clicked on to go read this.

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How To Be: Some Jojo (in 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

And now, it’s time to engage with something that is a challenge on two axes: First, the challenge presented by unpicking what it even means to make it, and second, the challenge of dealing with the standard memetic conversation that unrolls when you bring it up.

We’ve been a Touhou. We’ve been an Ukyou. And it’s time, now finally, it’s time, to be a Jojo.

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4e — Dwarfeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons is a game system built around giving players a useful, handleable group of tools to build a character. You have the simplest two lego pieces to snap together; what you do (your class), and how you were born (your heritage/race). A elf fighter is not the same as a half-elf fighter is not the same thing as an orc fighter, for example. These cultural groups then let you inform the world; after all, if there are elves and orcs in the world, there are probably places that those elves and orcs grow up. And thus the player options build the world, and the world building feeds into how the player options feel.

If you have crystal cities of a floating city state full of elves, the players will get ideas for that, and how they interact with the world, based on that. If the elves live in great green forest villages that hang from the branches, that’s going to give them different ideas. And if the elves, I don’t know, come from an elf mine, that’s going to give you a different perspective.

It’s a great system. I love it. I honestly think it’s one of the best things about the game, and the fact that it gives you a pair of dials to spin serves as an onramp that almost any player can get engaged with quickly, and that serves to anchor your decisions going forwards. Great system, I think it does a great job.

Anyway, I don’t like the the Dwarf and the Dragonborn in 4th edition D&D.

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The best of 2021, Part 1 – D&D

I wrote some bangers last year.

I sat down at first to give a sort of top ten articles of my own last year, that weren’t covered by specifically the header of How To Be, Game Pile or Story Pile. I tried it, and found that I had run out of slots for ‘absolute banger of an article’ in two months of summarising posts. Then I realised there were whole trends of things to write about and then I realised, hell, this is my blog, you’re here for my content, and unless you’re Vincent or Tab or Kate (hi, you three), odds are good you miss an article or three I write.

We’re going to do three of these this week. A whole bunch of bangers, divided up by the type of writing it is, and why I might want you to go reread it. First we’re going to talk about general content – stuff that I think you should link to other people outside the blog, posts that explain some complex concept in a way I’m proud, but also which doesn’t necessarily fit the other stuff.

And so here, I’m just going to bring your attention to a big pile of things I’d already written that are really good and which I know have escaped your attention, yes you, and today, it’s going to be about the Dungeons & Dragons, DMing and Worldbuilding articles.

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How To Be: Kipo (in 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts is a Netflix TV series created by Radford Sechrist that started its life as a webcomic. The series is something I’ve praised in the past as being uncomplicatedly excellent. Set in a post-apocalyptic far future populated with anthropomorphic animals, it’s a story of a journey of adventure, beset on all sides by a dangerous villain with superpowers who, if he catches our heroes, may destroy their ability to ever defy him. It’s a great adventure structure, and one you should feel free to steal, and central to it all is the character of Kipo, a girl with pink skin whose position in the story is at the intersection of multiple sequences of events, set in motion before she was even born.

And like, I don’t normally do this, but I’m going to put a spoiler warning here. If you read these articles idly, and think you’d like to watch Kipo at some point, you should go do that before reading this article, because I’m going to talk about some stuff Kipo can do that isn’t obvious from the start of the story. I mean, oh okay, shock and horror, Kipo is special, obviously, you know that and I know that just looking at the fact the series is named after her, but nonetheless, I just want you to know, going on, that there be spoilers.

Good?

Good.

Okay, onwards.

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4E: The Hadalan

… And there, in the deepest and darkest of spaces, far from the prying eyes of those who would judge their work, or steal their designs, a god whose name is lost, did render the form of what it had seen, and sought to make its own.

It made what it thought it saw, when it saw humans.

And when it saw what it had done, it was revolted, and fled.

The Hadalan are a rare culture from the deep oceans of Cobrin’Seil. There are people of the seas – not like the cultures of merfolk and triton, that live up near the continents, building cities at the edges of the shelf where the land falls away into dark ocean. The Hadalan are from deep in the ocean; from places where vents in the earth belch bubbles and plumes of smoke into an uncaring darkness, where great bugs sift the sands, and where the dead bones of ship and whale alike lay in the muck, too cold and dark and barren to rot.

There are stories of the Hadalan. It’s said they are people who do not have souls. When seen from a distance, their shapes are hazy and indistinct, sailors say; they change shape and morph into strange and inhuman forms. Some say they eat souls, feasting on life to life to extend their own.

And there are the stories they tell of themselves.

The Hadalan, when asked, tell stories about how they were created without souls. About how they were abandoned by a god, who was horrifed at having made them. About the way they refused to die, and made their home in the deep oceans, with the deeper secrets. About glowing libraries and columns of fire that burn in the darkness of nowhere. About how they built a civilisation; how they learned to create their own souls; how they learned the ways to call upon gods.

How they called for their god, grown, whole, and a culture to be proud of.

How their god came to them.

And they tore them apart.

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How To Be: Kuchiki Rukia (in 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

In Bleach, one of the most central characters to the early narrative is one Rukia Kuchiki. Introduced in the first episode, she is the bridge of our previous point-of-view character into the spirit world as an outsider. She is a character from another world, deprived of powers in our world, who has to guide Ichigo, a seemingly ordinary dude who can see ghosts, into seeing the immensely complicated reality that spiderwebs about him about societies full of special rules and seemingly arbitary boundaries. Rukia is this sort of mix of gremlin energy, doing things like building a micro room in Ichigo’s closet, ostentatious self-importance due to her noble heritage, and very legitimate expertise in spiritual matters. It’s the sudden loss of Rukia that marks the transition between the first two major arcs of Bleach, where all the fun we’ve had up until now is suddenly framed as something you have to pay for. The society, the life, the world that is waiting outside of the fun of highschool appears and demands that all that fun is over and now there is a duty.

I assume at some point after that she gets super powers and reunites with Ichigo and they have cool adventures and the story doesn’t run in place for nine years.

Anyway!

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How To Be: May (in 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

You may remember that we’ve looked, earlier in the year, at the character Rock Howard, from Garou: Mark Of The Wolves. Fight games are rich fodder for this kind of exercise because they so often about what a character is and less about what the character does. Simply put, fight games don’t make much sense.

There’s a scale at work, of course. Some games make more sense, with a deliberate intention to ground the storytelling in something serious. Some games, on other hand, are pretty silly, and don’t really care about how silly they get.

Anyway, Guilty Gear.

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Game Brief: The Many Complications of Fogge’s Barrow

I’m running a D&D game right now. Uh, unless something’s gone very wrong, I’ve been running it for some time by the time this guide goes up. But when I make a game I start out by giving people a document, called a Game Brief, that gives them guidance on building characters, and what’s expected of them.

For this game, I knew I had a small party (only three players), because we’d be playing this when our fourth friend was absent from the game. I also knew I didn’t want a huge stake, and wanted it to be much more about something local without big potential impact, so I put it in the mid levels of Heroic. Enough room that players could play experienced characters, but not that they had a veritable tale to them yet.

I’m going to present the brief, as I started on it… and then talk about the complication that followed.

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How To Be: Disney’s Robin Hood (in 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

This month, I felt it was time to approach the challenge from a different angle, of taking something with an obvious, easy, simple solution and then exploring around that. And for that, we’re going to look at a classic character, a character who’s so well known we don’t even remember we’re referencing him when we reference him. A folk hero, a hero who defined a generation and set thousands of people on their path that would determine the kind of person they’d be.

We’re going to look at Robin Hood.

Specifically, the 1973 Disney’s Robin Hood.

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4e: Sneaky Feys

It’s said, that humans learned magic from the gods; some say that humans learned it from studying the universe around them. Some, in the oldest and darkest stories, say that humans learned magic from the fey, because they couldn’t wait to see how badly we fucked it up.

One thing I love about D&D 4e is the way that making a character is pretty simple and robust. Rather than gate things like werewolves and werebears behind layers of power back in third edition, the game finds ways to let you play that straight up, out of the gates. Same with Vampires, and, if you want, you can play all sorts of weird character types out of nowhere.

If you want to play a weirdo, fae-realms inspired fey creature, you have options too! And, of them, the Satyr and Hamadryad, are bad. Fortunately, though, Fox made some better ones, and I’m going to give you some feat support for them!

Now, this is a bit of a different direction in the kind of 4e content I make. This isn’t about something from established books, this is something based on the character heritages for 4th edition that Fox made. It’s going to be about feat support for the Gruuwar, Pooka, and Firbolg heritages she wrote, and put up on The Square Fireball.

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How To Be: Goliath from Gargoyles (in 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritive but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

This month, we’re going to look at a challenging build; we’re going to be looking at a powerhouse of muscle and stone, in the form of Goliath from the Disney series Gargoyles.

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