Episode 14 — “Plus 3 to Heart Size”

A heart warming holiday episode. With murder, eldritch horror, zombies, corpses, lies, post-apocalyptic worlds, more murder, and exploding panties. So, a totally traditional holiday experience, then.

Brian: https://twitter.com/Fiddleback
Scott: https://twitter.com/TheAngryGM

Website: http://www.DigressionsAndDragons.com
Email: DigressionsandDragons@gmail.com

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The voice and producer of GM Word of the Week, he is also a Freelance Tabletop Game Editor and Writer as well as a long time podcaster. He has written and edited for Fantasy Flight Games' Star Wars RPGs, Modiphius Entertainment's Mutant Chronicles and Infinity RPGs and several others. He is currently working on his own Transit RPG.

17 thoughts on “Episode 14 — “Plus 3 to Heart Size”

  1. One of my first real forays into ARGs and mystery gaming was the MMO The Secret World. They did all sorts of ARG stuff leading up to the release, and the game itself has some really great quests called Investigations that involve you needing to make use of the in-game browser to Google stuff, or make use of lots of out of personal game knowledge. It’s free-to-play now though and worth checking out

  2. My feedback on Angry’s multiclass system:

    By forcing the player to commit to the multiclass from level 1, aren’t you basically just creating another class, albeit one that shares a majority of its abilities/powers/bonuses/whatever with two other classes? Because with this system it seems like if you have Fighter, Mage, Cleric, Rogue, then you necessarily just have also created the classes Fighter-Mage (Spellsword?), Fighter-Cleric (Paladin), Fighter-Rogue (Ranger?), Mage-Cleric , Mage-Rogue, and Cleric-Rogue.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It would probably help make the class design to think of the main “skill trees” (or whatever features make up a “class” in this game) for the (again: example) Fighter, Mage, Cleric, and Rogue classes, and then you just have to decide what the special single class or multi-class combination abilities are at the predetermined benchmarks.

    I like the Idea of the system, but to me it doesn’t necessarily capture the spirit/reason my players tend to multiclass.

  3. I feel like in 5e d&d they built enough of the old benefits of multiclassing into subclasses like arcane trickster and Eldritch knight, or backgrounds like criminal, or feats like arcane adept or skilled that multiclassing is almost entirely the realm of minmaxing where in past editions it felt more like trying to get the system to allow a concept that wasn’t allowed by a core class.

  4. I really didn’t know if I want to post a comment on the discussion of multi-class as my original comment grew into basically an article. It originally dealt with what the whole concept of class was supposed to represent versus how its actually implemented and reflected in the relationship between the game rules and the story as well as what character level in general represents in the story versus the game mechanics as the two are usually at odds in most games, D&D included. Given its length I’ve decided to archive it for my own personal thoughts and decided just to just post my thoughts one of my favorite multi-class systems, which were Prestige classes from 3.5. Suffice it to say, a severe nerve was struck with this discussion.

    When it came to multi-classing I actually preferred the Prestige class system in 3.5 as it required that your character trained in certain things such as having certain feats, a particular stat reaching a certain base threshold. It required the character to focus on various aspects to show in a mechanical sense the character has grown and moved towards a particular way of life. In fact many of the Prestige class names were specific to the story or region of the world.

    I’ll go back again to NWN2. While it had “generic” Prestige classes like Arcane Archer or Sacred Fist, there were ones like Shadow Thief of Amn or Red Wizard of Thay or Arcane Scholar of Candlekeep. These were classes that were really tied to the world and actually made the class mechanic actually feel like part of the world. One in particular was Neverwinter Nine which are members of a close circle of bodyguards to protect Lord Nasher. The members of this class came from all sorts of classes like Fighters, Wizards, Rangers, Paladins and even Rogues. This class was particularly relevant as through out the main campaign the main characters have several interactions with various members of the Nine.

  5. Regarding Scott’s multiclassing system, what you describe sounds a little like Starfinder’s “Archetypes”, which are sort of a class-agnostic set of “Variant Character Classes” (from 3.5).

    Each class has a list of features marked for removal, and each archetype replaces some or all of those features. The only archetype in the Core Rulebook is “Phrenic Adept”, which gives some psionic-ish abilities.

    I think a system like that could work for multiclassing (specifically dual-classing). Each class would have “core” and “specialized” features, and if you dual-class, you take core features from a second class instead of your class’s specialized features.

    You would either need the number and approximate power of the core features to be similar across all classes and to match all the specialized features, or you’d need to create a set of class archetypes (one for each class) that match the specialized features. It seems like a lot of work, but it might be less work than creating a set of archetype-features for each pair of classes (e.g. fighter/priest gets Divine Smite), depending on how many core classes there are.

    Unfortunately, in Starfinder, the first archetype ability comes in at 2nd level, so you don’t get the truly mixed class feel that Scott wants. I wonder if Paizo did this to keep the 1st level more simple. Obviously, if you were using this idea to create a system from scratch, you could be sure to put in an archetype feature at 1st level.

  6. Cool! My feedback made it into a show. I will keep an eye on those Fallout games. The FFG game looks particularly interesting.

    I have no opinions on the ambassador brand being diluted, except that if you need a name for Ambassador+, I would settle for Grand Ambassador.

    I enjoyed the multiclass discussion at the end. The initial concept reminded me of Paizo’s base classes, which were supposed to be new classes that combined two already established classes into a new thematic take on both. I think the issue the base classes suffered from was that they came late into the game and that since standard multiclassing existed, the design space they tended to fill was “new class that couldn’t be achieved by normal multiclassing”, for example, the Arcanist combines the Wizard and Sorcerers spellcasting methods as a master of magic and the Bloodrager combines Sorcerer and Barbarian for rage magic that comes from the blood.

    Just to make sure I offer a more explicit question this go around, do you all have any thoughts on these Base Classes? Would a system like that work, where you have classes that serve as basic building blocks and then classes that are a blended version of two others? You have fighter, rogue, cleric, and wizard classes, but then you can also release slayer, and paladin, and eldritch knight classes that share certain class features of their parent class but offer new class abilities as well..

  7. On the Ambassador title: I don’t know that I showed up to this website and started commenting before the podcast was up, nor did I really know where it came from. I’m good with a simple title like “Listener Bill” or even just “Bill”.

    Swordquest: I had the first of that series, but was not good enough at seeing the words in the comic book background art, and so after getting the first clue and not understanding what I was supposed to be getting from that particular panel, I gave up as the game was not particularly entertaining. Never played the other two (they only finished 3 of the games, and never finished/published the 4th). You can see the original comic art here – http://www.atariage.com/comics/index.html Looking at that Earthworld comic, I think it was a great sword ‘n’ sorcery fantasy story, and more entertaining than the game was.

    Dungeonomics: I’m glad you gents saw the humor in the articles, s’why I shared. As for money and the expenditure of the PC’s extra cash, I really like Pathfinder’s downtime system (in their “Ultimate Campaign” book), and also looking forward to Matt Colville’s stronghold (Birthright-esque) Kickstarter that looks to add fortress-building and henchmen rules into 5th edition. We’ll see if the latter is worth the backing.

    Multiclassing: I think the only time I’ve liked multiclassing myself (I too immediately thought of the “Order of the Stick” comics, they’re fantastic) was when 3rd edition came out, and WotC put Prestige Classes in the DMG. My party at the time had played one mini-campaign with “joke” characters (the half-orc barbarian named “Thokk-with-Two-Kays”, “Falwell” the cleric, “Lo Phat” the monk, etc) to test out the waters, and then were getting ready to start a real campaign when the new DMG and MM came out. I immediately latched onto the Arcane Archer prestige class and built my new ranger to go towards that class, so explained my PC’s inherent wizardly talents before I went to the local wizard’s college and got that necessary level of spellcaster to gain the prestige class. Like you said, it only was enjoyable (or made sense) because that PC was started from the ground up to multiclass.

    I’m going to point back towards Pathfinder – y’know, 3rd was my favorite edition, and I’ve merely perused the PF books, really should find a group and run through some adventure paths – because they hate multiclassing too. Well, they have directly stated that they hate prestige classes, because it “restricted players’ choices too much”, or some such nonsense, especially seeing as they made a bunch of their own prestige classes, plus a bunch of variant archetypes for the core classes. But even though they still have multiclassing rules (even multi-archetyping rules), what leads me to believe they dislike multi PCs is that they’ve gone to the trouble of making a bunch of hybrid classes that are basically just multiclassed right out of the gate (and they even tell you which classes were combined to get the new “hybrid” class). I think that would be the way you’d have to do it – take all the classes and write a new class from the ground up for each pairing (or even triplets, if you want to take it that far) and balance them level for level with your core classes, from level 1 to 20.

  8. I love multi-classing, but only if it serves a purpose, like with the prestige classes available in DnD 3.5. It is far more interesting to me for the combination of classes to produce something new and unique, rather than just take a little bit from each. Also, I like the idea that each level should produce advancement in both classes, rather than one or the other. As a player, I found it exceedingly vexing to have the advancement be so slow for each individual class, which in turn felt strangling to the total advancement of the character. As a GM, I found it equally vexing to try to plan party capability based on that strangled character advancement. This has often been touted as a reason for the “classless” systems, but I personally find that the lack of archetype just amplifies the problem rather than solving it. I would be very interested in a system that allowed for the blending of classes to produce unique options that were equally as powerful as a single class, just with different abilities.

    1. Thanks for the mention, I am enjoying the podcasts.
      I agree that ZGtE is a hotchpotch, but I have seen a interview with Jeremy, I think, where the PHB+1 rule was referenced as way to remove the cost barrier to entry. A story was quoted of a new player at a Pathfinder AL style event being daunted with the large pile of books stacked beside the regular players. This is why they padded out the spells in ZGtE with reprints of the spells from the PotA character supplement.

      A thought: I wonder how the proliferation of D&D Beyond will change how players access the game?
      Leads on to the question of: When will D&D, or other systems, go online only, through an app or VTT, removing books all together?

      I feel that multicassing is a way of providing players with options to mimic a powers/purchase system, like Champions, but built around the class structure in D&D. 5E presents this in two manners, the broad choice of selecting another class, but also the choice of archetypes, which allow for players to add smaller abilities from other classes. This stays within the structure for character progression but allows for a degree of tailoring to meet the player’s character concept.
      I am a fan of how this was managed in 3E with the simpler mechanism of just choosing a different class at each new level, but I especially liked the prestige classes, which were tied closely to a concept or into the world background itself. I remember the AD&D days of splitting XP between each of chosen classes and the different level progression for each class, leaving your class levels lagging the single class characters. Those were the days.. (shudders).
      4E provided a system for progression like Angry’s preference, with the dualclass system introduced in PH3. I had a couple of players that loved the mix and match element and only played dual-class characters the whole time we played 4E.
      Looking forward to the next episode.

  9. I smiled when Scott contradicted himself more quickly than usual when he described a RP system as a way of introducing randomness and thus producing the “game” and then proceeded to describe a number of RPG systems which do not have an element of randomness.

    I’m glad this happened because my mind was rebelling at the notion that a game has to have random elements – it is possible to have a very engaging game with NO randomness: chess being the obvious example. However, I would argue that it is impossible to have a game that is completely random: Snakes and Ladders, while described as a game, isn’t one since the “player’s” have zero impact on the outcome – it may be a leaning tool for pre-schoolers but it isn’t a game.

    One non random RPG that I have enjoyed but you didn’t mention is Microscope (http://www.lamemage.com/microscope/): when playing a scene each player has complete autonomy over what happens to their primary character but no autonomy over anyone else’s. For example, if my primary is Joe the Ninja Assassin and yours is Fred the Emperor than I can get past or kill all your secondary characters (guards etc) just by narrating it and I can narrate my assassination attempt on you but you narrate if I succeed or fail. This works because the point of a scene is to answer a specific question established in the scene setup, for example: “Why did the Ninja Assassin fail to kill the Emperor?” or “What were the Emperor’s last words?”. When the question is answered we stop playing and may never revisit those character’s again: or we may go back to them at an earlier or latter time to answer different questions.

    Tangentially, I would be interested in your views as to what a system requires to constitute “role playing”. I have “role played” in pen & paper games like D&D or computer RPGs. I have also “role played” as part of mediator training and continuing professional development (CPD) which is clearly not a game and sometimes quite emotionally harrowing and not fun. When I sit down to play a tactical or strategic war game I am assuming the role of a battlefield or national commander: it feels like “role playing” to me. Further, when I move a particular tank or infantry squad I am taking the role of “those guys”. However, I don’t fell I’m “role playing” when playing Scrabble.

    Clearly there is a continuum here going from totally role playing at one end to not at all role playing at the other – possibly a multi-dimensional continuum. I also want to say some incoherent things about acting, assuming a different persona from yourself (or not), having an avatar within the game/situation (or not) and about if those avatar(s) have mechanical statistics or if they are purely narrative driven but I am happy to leave the incoherence up to you guys.

    1. In the other direction, one interesting inspection of adding randomness to a “game” that I just learned of is xkcd’s GeoHashing ( http://wiki.xkcd.com/geohashing/Main_Page ), it’s like GeoCashing but instead of going to a specific place somebody else has decided on and prepared, you go to a random place selected by an algorithm. This fundamentally changes the game in many ways that I can easily imagine would invalidate the purpose for some people. You’re not going somewhere, you’re going to one specific anywhere, and you’re not going to find anything when you get there, you’re just going to be there. It also gets rid of any hope that the destination will reliably land on public property, or land, and it may be impractically far away as the graticules it’s based on are very large. For me I’m near one side of the area, it’s about a hundred miles across, and today’s point by pure luck is only about ten miles away on somebody’s front lawn. I’m not really interested in looking at somebody’s lawn. The graticule east of me is about half water.

      It’s kind of like GeoCashing is to D&D as GeoHashing is to Roguelikes

  10. as a third or maybe fifth attempt to continue having one thought for sufficiently long to think it:

    Tying in the new episode of GMWotW, Apocalypse, and it’s digression on Vancian Magic, if the knowledge is the magic and in casting leaves the caster without the knowledge; what then is it that the wizard spends his whole life studying, which would be retained and therefore differentiate the wizard from some schmuck who found a spell book? The fighter, rogue, druid, ranger, etc, but most of all warlock, they all clearly have to dedicate their lives to training skills and study, or finding a cosmic horror to buddy up with. But based on the premise that the wizard loses knowledge in casting a spell, then what makes a wizard special is that they have a book to re-teach themselves every single day. If there were enough books to go around, every literate person would be a wizard.

    PS; yes Angry, you did answer my question, I was sure you would as soon as you disagreed with it on premise.

    1. I’ve never thought about it that way.

      My take has always been that a wizard is akin to an elite athlete – years of training and honing the body/mind is required to do magic and the effort is exhausting/debilitating in the same way that playing a match is.

      The analogy is not so clear now I write it down – perhaps a better one is cramming for a test – you have the basic scaffolding to hold the particular knowledge (the years of learning and studying) which you load with the particular information you will need and after you use it up it just drains away but the scaffold remains intact.

  11. Re: Paul Jaquays,
    1) I _think_ the correct pronunciation is something along the lines of Zha-KAYZE.
    2) I’m a bit surprised you guys hadn’t heard of him*, but maybe I’m just showing my age. Paul Jaquays was a fairly well-known artist in the early D&D days, and also wrote two of the more popular early D&D adventures (Caverns of Thracia and Dark Tower). Later he worked in the video game industry for several years (he worked on Age of Empires and Quake II and III).

    *Jaquays is transgender and now known as Jennell Jaquays. I chose to refer to her as “him” and by “Paul” because that’s the name under which the product I was discussing was published. No offense or disrespect was intended.

    Re: Treasure Hunts,
    The company Metagaming published some little solitaire modules for its RPG The Fantasy Trip (designed by Steve Jackson, an extension of his minigames Melee & Wizard, and a sort of proto-GURPS), Treasure of the Silver Dragon and Treasure of Unicorn Gold. These modules were sort of solitaire hexcrawl choose-your-own-adventure/turn to paragraph XX fare, and within them they contained clues to where treasures (a silver dragon figurine and a gold unicorn figurine) were hidden, somewhere in the U.S. According to Wikipedia the silver dragon was found, but it’s not clear that the gold unicorn ever was.

  12. With the focus on the split Gith race and mindflayers in the recent D&D Beyond videos on Youtube, I think the next WotC adventure will be Spelljammer based.

  13. I subscribe to Scott’s definition of a character class as a pile of mechanics that attempts to simulate a recognizable archetype. In my opinion, 4E did this well and was transparent in that design choice. 5E feels…arbitrary to me, as if there wasn’t really an intentional design aesthetic for each class. I do like both editions, and admittedly, I very much regret getting rid of my 4E books when people started hating on it so much that I didn’t think anyone but me would want to play it.

    Anyway, Scott’s take on multiclassing in this episode is very intriguing to me and I would love to see that in a game.

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