I play D&D with my sons and I have a DDI subscription. I mostly DM but also play occasionally, they mostly play but will occasionally DM. So DDI is a great tool for us and is used all the time in our home. The one problem for us is the Character Builder 20 PC limit. I don’t blame WOTC for putting that limit in there. They don’t want people sharing their accounts and that limit is probably the single biggest deterrent to sharing they have. With every problem comes the potential for a solution to benefit both sides. Just as the cell phone companies have done and now Xbox Live, a family plan would allow me to give my sons their own character storage and would have the billing centralized under my account. In the cellphone case each of my kids cellphones accounts for about 7.5% of my total cellphone bill which in the case of DDI would work out to about $5.50 a year. That probably isn’t enough money so I would suggest a straight $10 per family member charge and probably limit it to primary accounts that have full year subscriptions. At that level I would sign both my sons up right away. That seems like a win-win to me, WOTC gets $20 more per year for something I’m already doing and I get make a new character without having to quiz my kids on which characters they can live without. Now would this get abused out in the world, almost certainly. I’m sure there is a some amount of cheating on the cell phone family plans as well, but AT&T gets $30 a month from me that they wouldn’t get otherwise and WOTC could get more money as well.
Dungeons. For a game called Dungeons and Dragons not as common as you might guess. Characters that I have played and DMed for have gone to many places. Taverns, castles, caves, forests, underground lairs, town squares ruined or otherwise. Very few actual dungeons. I realize that dungeon is an evocative word, a word that calls to mind all manor of places dark and dank. A dungeon is filled with the primal fear of the dark unknown. The dungeon stands in for all those other places. No one wants to play a game called Locations and Adversaries. Next time you play, however, try a real dungeon. Cells, chains, the rack, prisoners to rescue, guards to outwit, and perhaps at the very end, a dragon.
I’m excited that Wizards of the Coast announced a special Dragons minis pack at #gencon. What could be more iconic than dragons. I mean its right there in the name of the game. Perhaps if you have been playing D&D for 30 years you think to yourself “If I see one more dragon…” I haven’t been at it that long. Dragons still instill fear into the hearts of players and bring a wicked gleam to the DM’s eye. Every part of the dragon is dangerous, they are walking, flying bringers of pain. They breathe fire, they spit acid, they bite, claw, taunt and smash. Don’t try to sneak up from behind because the tail is almost as dangerous as the mouth. Just when you think you’ve got one an the ropes it can just fly away to heal and taunt you another day. Dragons can be greedy, vicious, proud, smart, noble, or cruel. Dragons, being great flyers, can show up any time, anywhere. Ageless, hidden away in a remote mountain lair, who knows what brings them out? Rumors of great treasure, or just a tasty horse snack. Whatever the reason if you are caught between a dragon and its desires then look out. A world with dragons can never be dull. Deadly yes, dull never.
Maps. I dig maps. Maps are one of those truly human achievements. A visual representation of information. A town, a region, a continent, an underground lair. Ancient maps that show the limits of human knowledge. Blank spaces. Many needs drive people to move forward; food, shelter, family. But somewhere in our hearts lies a need to look into those blank spaces an find out what is out there. Does that water go on forever, or are there new lands, new places? Can the blanks be filled in?
“There be dragons.” That is what the mapmakers would write in the unknown voids. Now that our world is mapped, where are the dragons? We make new maps. Maps that have blank spaces at the edges. Maps that are visual representations of our hearts and our minds. The dragons have moved from the unknown spaces of the world to the unknown spaces of our minds.
Maps record what is known. If you can place yourself on map you have a starting point. Now the journey can be quantified. Are we there yet? That can only be answered if the destination is know. The beginning is known, it is here at our feet. The end can never be truly know. So the answer is no. We are not there yet.
Darkness, rain, sleet, fog or buring sun; adventuring is an uncomfortable buisness. Think about camping, too hot or too cold, filled with biting insects, bad food and a rock that pokes you in your sleep no matter how you shift. All that just for a happy weekend away. Now extend that to 3 weeks on the trail. Everything interesting to eat long gone from your pack, just jerky and hardtack left. That cut you got a week ago in that fight with the goblins isn’t looking too good. Two days of rain has given way to hot sun that has steam rising from the forest. Then it is there before you. A cave opening with bones strewn about. “Well,” you think to yourself, “at least it looks dry.”
Welcome to the steps leading down. It’s obviously a cliche but many things in the world of D&D are cliches. The steps symbolize the beginning of the adventure. There are many ways to begin an adventure; the tavern, the ambush, the vision. I’m not starting with those. I choose a hole with steps leading down. Down to the unknown. I hope to return with a head full of stories and pockets full of gold, but for now — down.