Inspiration At The D&D Table

In the session last weekend (Lost Mines of Phandelver, Parts I and II), I really focused in on the inspiration mechanic more that I had in the past. I was running a one shot (which, by request, will now be a two-parter — we all had a ton of fun!) for a regular group I’m in that does NOT regularly play D&D. Almost everyone had played at some point in the past, but like many, had drifted from the game.

I thought it would be fun to help re-kindle some of those memories by passing out copies of my old AD&D books as the a token that represented the character’s inspiration point. I had some hesitation, worried that it might distract from the game as the players flipped through the books. It turned out the problems that cropped up were perhaps more severe, but very different from what I anticipated.

What I found was that because of the sheer size of the books, the players were putting them aside to keep out of the way during the game. As a result, they, and I, lost track of who had or had not earned inspiration. I found myself REALLY wanting to know at a few points during the session, and unable to tell at a glance.

In our group, we typically put up those cheap plastic 8″x5″ plastic photo stands with a character portrait and name. Going forward, I’m going to make sure that I hand out (and collect back) something bright and visible that can be tucked into that stand. Then we can all see who is inspired!

(BTW, I did get all my AD&D books back. I double-checked)

Randomize (Re-Roll) D&D Initiative Every Round?

Yesterday I ran my first all-day (8 hour) D&D 5e session in quite a while. Of course, I used Next Turn! The app held up like a champ — I can’t imagine running a game without it anymore. I had prepped by entering all the monster stats I needed (attacks, saves, vulnerabilities, etc.), and having that info at my fingertips on the combat screen was incredibly useful. No flipping through notes, books, or index cards!

But, that is not the point of this post. This time, I used my built-in optional (house) rule of re-rolling initiative for everyone each round. In addition, I used the option of NOT grouping like critters, i.e., when 6 goblins attacked, they each got their own initiative roll. There is nothing written up for this in the book, but it is an obvious extrapolation. I assume it is left out to simplify managing combat. I’m used to games like Shadowrun where we re-roll every round, and folks are more spread out.

I have to say — I REALLY enjoyed using these options in D&D. Not clumping up the monsters just feels both more fair (I hate the never-ending rain of death they create when grouped), and more realistic. And with Next Turn doing the work for you — it comes at no cost. But what really shown, in my opinion, was the re-rolls every round. Instead of the combat falling into a predictable rhythm that the players could use to plan around (e.g. I know the rogue will go third, so I’m going to attack the bugbear to setup the backstab), the players were left guessing — or at least, had to adjust on the fly. I think this made the combats much more dynamic — more chaotic (in a good way). Tactics like coordination were still possible, but while in one round the tank might go before the rogue, in the next, the rogue might have to ready an action and wait for the tank. Tons of fun this way! I also think it much better represents the reality of the ongoing combat and jockeying for position and advantage that the combat round is meant to represent.

Needless to say, this would have been a royal PITA without my app to do it automatically. With it, I simply glanced down at the screen and could see the order. I could choose to share that with the players (even hiding the monsters before doing so), or not. Does it surprise you that I did not let them know what the order would be? 🙂

What do you think? Interested in randomizing initiative every round? If so, I have an app that can make it easy to do! 🙂

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Next Turn Is Coming…

Are you fired up about D&D Fifth Edition (aka D&D Next)? I am!

Inspired by the way Next Pass helped smooth out running a Shadowrun combat, I knew I had to take a crack at D&D 5e. This edition of D&D has really worked on streamlining the rules and providing a simple and clear mechanic. Certainly, it doesn’t have the inherent complexity that Shadowrun brings to initiative!

That said, there is some complexity when you factor in Thief’s Reflexes and the new Feral Instinct ability released in the Player’s Handbook.

With Next Turn, I decided to tackle more than just initiative though. I have a full combat management app that lets you track hit points, tells you whether characters or monsters are unconscious or dead, tracks conditions, and much more!

Coming on the iTunes App Store on September 7th!

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