Category Archives: Role-playing game design

Turning Character Deaths in D&D Into Deals that Benefit Game and Story

A few years ago, I heard someone suggest what I then considered the worst bit of roleplaying game advice ever: Let players choose whether to allow their characters to die. Except, hear me out, maybe something like that could work. … Continue reading

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How Character Death Lands D&D in a Tug-of-War Between Game and Story

Character death has always torn Dungeons & Dragons between game and story. The threat of death makes the game exciting, but actual death brings a character’s story to an unsatisfying end that can disrupt a campaign. Without characters facing the … Continue reading

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Sharpshooters Are the Worst Thing in D&D, but That Speaks Well of Fifth Edition

What would you think of Dungeons & Dragons feats that gave these benefits? You gain immunity to all melee attacks. Before making a melee attack, you can teleport to within melee attack range of your target, attack, and then teleport … Continue reading

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How Years of Trying to Fix Obnoxious People Shrank D&D’s Appeal

How much should the outcomes of characters’ actions be decided by the dungeon master instead of the rules? Before roleplaying games, the rules of a game specified every action players could take, and then decided the outcome of each possibility. … Continue reading

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Would Dungeons & Dragons Play Better If It Stayed Loyal to How Gary Gygax Awarded Hit Points?

In a typical fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure, characters will reach every battle with full hit points. Healing comes too easily to enter a battle at less than full health. Above level 10 or so, spells like Aid and Heroes … Continue reading

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Why Fourth Edition Never Saved Dungeons & Dragons

“Fourth edition Dungeons & Dragons is all about taking that things that work in D&D, keeping them in the game, and fixing everything else,” designer Mike Mearls wrote after the edition’s announcement in 2007. “That’s the goal, and I think … Continue reading

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Are the Authors of the Dungeon & Dragons Hardcover Adventures Blind to the Plight of DMs?

Adventure paths reveal their linear design in the name: They follow a path. In a linear adventure every play group follows the same plot thread, through the same scenes, to the same conclusion. For adventure creators, linear adventures bring advantages. … Continue reading

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Do Dungeons & Dragons Players Hate Linear Adventures? Not When DMs Avoid Two Pitfalls

A linear adventure is written, or at least planned, so every play group follows the same plot thread, through the same scenes, to the same conclusion. In Dungeons & Dragons, linear dungeons set the pattern, with walls and doors that … Continue reading

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Fourth Edition Proved D&D Works Without Saving Throws, So Why Did They Come Back?

Fourth edition dropped saving throws in favor of to-hit rolls and showed that D&D works without saves. Mathematically, to-hit rolls and saving throws just flip the numbers so that a high roll benefits the person casting the die. Rather than … Continue reading

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D&D Adds Psionics: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

While editing the third Dungeons & Dragons supplement, Eldrich Wizardry, Tim Kask developed D&D’s first rules for psionics. He loved psionic combat and threw his enthusiasm into the task. His rules answered D&D’s biggest critics. First, they stood separate from unrealistic … Continue reading

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