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JulyDiaz

EPISODE 128 — Spiderhana

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Still exploring the cave, our heroes go down some stairs that may lead to an underground civilization. Perhaps of some other underground race, perhaps of normal size people, perhaps of giant size people. Teleporting spiders may lie behind them. What will they find going forward? Let’s find out!

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Am I missing something?...I can only see last weeks, on both the main page and the 'Nerd Poker' page...

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Am I missing something?...I can only see last weeks, on both the main page and the 'Nerd Poker' page...

Looks like its an issue with the website, the episode came up on Podcast Addict!

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I saw Strange Brew when I was maybe 10 or 11 years old and loved it, and then when I was 19 or 20 (after taking four years of Honors English in high school with all of that mandatory Shakespeare) I watched it again and was more blown away than I should've been when I realized how the plot of the film mirrors Hamlet, and how Bob and Doug are Rosencrantz & Guildenstern. It made me love that movie even more. So goddamn funny.

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Strange Brew is completely non-sensical and tries to do like 20 thematic things at once, but it holds up surprisingly well as a dumb comedy.

 

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Hey Dan,

 

Not sure if this has been mentioned by Sarli or someone else, and I know the rules are pretty flexible in Blaine's campaign, but the way your PC is using the Healing proficiency seems somewhat overpowered when compared to the rules in the PHB.

 

Your PC has to use the proficiency within 1 round of another PC being wounded and make a proficiency check to heal that wounded PC for 1d3 hp, up to the amount that PC took in that round prior. So, if the wounded PC only took 1 hp of damage the round prior, that's all your PC can heal them for, even if they're missing more hp than that. And your PC can only try that on a particular character once per day.

 

Now, the proficiency does make it so the PCs heal 1 hp per DAY even while traveling. If they rest completely all day then your PC can help them to heal 2 hp per day instead (well, 3 hp per day since your character has Herbalism too). And your PC can also help poisoned characters and treat non-magical diseases.

 

Blaine seems to be fine with it, but your interpretation of the Healing proficiency makes it pretty potent for AD&D 2E...almost more of a "magic power" than an application of skill.

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Hey Dan,

 

Not sure if this has been mentioned by Sarli or someone else, and I know the rules are pretty flexible in Blaine's campaign, but the way your PC is using the Healing proficiency seems somewhat overpowered when compared to the rules in the PHB.

 

Your PC has to use the proficiency within 1 round of another PC being wounded and make a proficiency check to heal that wounded PC for 1d3 hp, up to the amount that PC took in that round prior. So, if the wounded PC only took 1 hp of damage the round prior, that's all your PC can heal them for, even if they're missing more hp than that. And your PC can only try that on a particular character once per day.

 

Now, the proficiency does make it so the PCs heal 1 hp per DAY even while traveling. If they rest completely all day then your PC can help them to heal 2 hp per day instead (well, 3 hp per day since your character has Herbalism too). And your PC can also help poisoned characters and treat non-magical diseases.

 

Blaine seems to be fine with it, but your interpretation of the Healing proficiency makes it pretty potent for AD&D 2E...almost more of a "magic power" than an application of skill.

I'd meant to point this out before, but (1) I kept getting distracted by other rules misreadings and (2) I'm trying really hard not to be overwhelming with too much advice. :)

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I'll be honest, I appreciate the advice and skim all of it. But it's not the kinda game where all of it can be included. We have to make it listenable. Trust me, if I followed every bit of advice that is thrown at me daily on Twitter you'd A ) only hear math on the podcast because we should be calculating every rested turn and using a grid B ) I'd have killed myself per the instructions of one guy who thinks I "sound like a drag queen".

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(Apologies in advance if this comes off as too critical or harsh -- it's offered in the spirit of honest and constructive critique based on decades of gaming experience and intended to help newer players to better enjoy the game, and I hope it's received as such.)

 

I'll be honest, I appreciate the advice and skim all of it. But it's not the kinda game where all of it can be included. We have to make it listenable. Trust me, if I followed every bit of advice that is thrown at me daily on Twitter you'd A ) only hear math on the podcast because we should be calculating every rested turn and using a grid B ) I'd have killed myself per the instructions of one guy who thinks I "sound like a drag queen".

 

 

I can see where you're coming from, but I think this overlooks something that can make the podcast more enjoyable to many listeners but no less listenable to the rest. Hearing a bit of the game's mechanics is an inherent and natural part of playing a tabletop roleplaying game, and leaving it out actually takes something away from the experience.

 

As an analogy, consider the different levels of detail you might have in following a game of (American) football:

 

(1) At the lowest level of detail, it's just "Who's winning?" or "What's the score?"

(2) After that, it's a basic gauge of how a given drive is going -- pretty much just field position and basic down situation: "A has the ball on B's 45 yard line, and it's 2nd and long."

(3) After that, you're starting to follow individual plays, "X passes to Y for a gain of Z yards."

(4) Beyond that, you've got play-by-play calls, detailing what's happening as it's happening. "Y is in motion -- defense is showing blitz, X calls a hard count to try to draw offsides -- play clock ticking down, X takes the snap, drops back to pass -- blitz coming -- X scrambles, he's out of the pocket, looking to get rid of it to avoid the sack -- he's got a man open, a QUICK SLANT to Y, he's brought down at B's 45 yard line for a gain of three, and it's 2nd and 7." (This can be particularly evocative in radio.)

(5) Finally, you've got the extreme detail of analyzing each play with instant replay.

 

You don't need the detail of #5 or even #4 to thoroughly enjoy a game of football. But if you're actually watching the game, you're going to be at #3 or above. (#1 and #2 are things you shout from the kitchen when you hear a game on in the other room.) In fact, #3 is probably the most natural level of engagement because that's what you experience when you're actually at a game. (From the stands you can't see the kind of detail you hear in the play-by-play, and only the biggest stadiums will show instant replays to the crowd.)

 

Right now, you guys are closer to #2. We have a sense of good vs. bad outcome and a vague sense of scale ("double-plus ungood") ... but really, that's about it when it comes to following what's happening on any player's turn.

 

Think about it:

  • What does a d20 roll of 12 mean if Dag rolls it vs. if Winter rolls it? How about if it's an attack or a saving throw? For attacks and saves, we know low single digits are bad and we fear the natural 1, and we know the upper teens are good and we celebrate the natural 20. But we have absolutely no feel for anything in the middle, and that distances both the players and the listeners from the game. The point is that if you strip away too much detail, you might as well be flipping a coin because it feels random and arbitrary. There's no tension because you never get the sense of "Ohmigod I missed by 1 freaking point!" or "You just baaaaarely hit" and so forth. (Blaine sometimes adds this detail post hoc, but it has a distinctively arbitrary feel to it because we're so disconnected from the game mechanics.)
  • Similarly, is 10 hit points a lot of damage? Depends on who's doing the hitting, what they're hitting with, and who's getting hit, right? It's kind of like knowing that the last play was a gain of 6 yards, but not knowing if it was a rushing or passing play, or what down it is, etc. Knowing what is normal, what is weak, and what is exceptional is what gives a sense of progress (toward getting the enemy to 0 hp) and danger (as you approach 0 hp), and therefore this is a critical aspect of providing a sense of drama to the scene (encounter).
  • Even the basic sense of scale for the environment is virtually non-existent. Dan, how far can Nausica move in one round if she also makes an attack? Casts a spell? Uses her bow once? Twice? If she charges? If she does nothing but move? In an open field vs. in a cramped dungeon? OK, forget movement -- how about weapon range? How far away can Nausica reliably hit a man-sized target with her bow? A giant target? What if it's armored? OK, how about just a simple comparison between two ranges -- who can hit a more distant target, Winter using a magic missile or Nausica using her bow? By how much? How much accuracy do you give up with one over the other? These things provide a "mental ruler" that helps us visualize the action, and right now, they are almost entirely absent in the podcast. It would be like listening to a description of a football game that never once mentions yards.

 

 

Be honest: How many of these questions could you answer immediately off the top of your head?

 

Really, with how much time I've spent playing and DMing AD&D 2nd Edition, the fact that I've listened to every episode of the podcast more than once, and given that I'm an actual professional game designer who has worked on later editions of this same game, it really says something that I have absolutely no idea what the stats are for red giants vs. blue giants. (Sometimes they vaguely resemble fire giants and storm giants, but it's so radically inconsistent that I genuinely can't tell if that's the source Blaine is actually working from, how much he's modified and/or re-skinned them, etc.)

 

I think #3 -- basic detail about each player's actions in the round, but not too many specifics -- is really where you should try to be. It's a more natural level of detail (closer to what you experience when playing D&D), and it gives enough information that people who'd prefer #4 or #5 can still piece together more details for themselves. Just as importantly, the level of detail isn't overwhelming to people who prefer #1 or #2.

 

 

* * *

 

The point of the podcast isn't just to hear funny people bullshit with each other for an hour -- it's to listen to them play a game of Dungeons & Dragons. The off-topic banter at a game table is usually a relatively even mix of endogenous (i.e. directly derived from the game) and exogenous (i.e. just random bullshit that someone thinks of); without the game itself actually playing out with more than the bare minimum of detail, the endogenous banter drops off.

 

I think this is one of the places where Sark's game was different: The game mechanics themselves were more visible and consistent, so the players were more engaged in the game, and therefore much more of the conversation was about the game, directly or indirectly.

 

Any veteran DM knows that when random, non-game-related banter starts to dominate the game table, it means the players are disengaged, frustrated, or just plain bored. And if you guys are bored when you're actually playing, how much less engaged might we be if we're just passively listening?

 

I can't be the only listener who hears this in some of your voices (the noticeable frustration and even outright boredom) in some recent episodes, can I? I swear, there were some episodes in the mid-110s where it sounded like Brian was about ready to punch Blaine in the face. In fairness, player engagement has increased a bit in the most recent episodes, but I think it's more that the other players are engaged because they're an uncomfortable mix of perplexed, repulsed, and aroused by Nausica's more disturbing acts of religious fanaticism and/or schizophrenia. (Good roleplaying there, Dan! :) )

 

Some evidence for that theory of reduced game detail => reduced player engagement => reduced listener enjoyment: I've noticed a significant drop-off in play counts after Blaine had been DMing for a while. It was steady and high for most of Sark's tenure as DM, but it starts sliding a few episodes into Blaine's tenure (definitely by #90 or so) and I'm not sure that it's even done shedding listeners yet. (The slide seemed to be slow but steady as of a couple of months ago, but the play counts are no longer visible on the Earwolf website so I can't tell if it ever settled at a new stable equilibrium.)

 

Again, Sark's tenure featured much more visible game mechanics than we've seen recently; at no point did it ever get so detailed as to become a plodding exercise in math, but it was enough detail to maximize engagement for both the players and the listeners. Obviously, he also had a much more organized story line and flow to the adventures, but those are very hard to pull off without having players who are more highly engaged in the game to begin with.

 

(Keep in mind that Sark is definitely not a very crunch-heavy, rules-intensive DM -- but what was there was reasonably consistent and reliable.)

 

 

 

* * *

 

In my opinion, the game would be much more engaging and immersive with just a little bit more visibility and consistency in the rules. It really takes just a little bit more to make a huge difference, and it will be noticeable immediately to listeners as banter becomes more organic and endogenous to the game. Again, completely off-topic banter is absolutely normal in any tabletop RPG, but when it dominates the conversation it means your game is going off the rails.

 

So when we bring up rules reminders to you guys, that's why. :)

 

 

 

 

 

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Yo dudes, just made an account to say I think Gary is way off base. Do I wish there was WAY more story? Yes! But I play D&D and don't give a shit if they are following all the rules. I guess if you were a rules designer you'd be super interested, but slow your roll man! That post is hella rude. Blaine is probably dealing with all kinds of missed stuff the party walked right by like that cottage right before the spider cave. Deal with it! The players aren't in hell, they're just juggling a lot at once. Sark probably had to work his ass off to do what he did and writing a novel about how you'd fix it is just an example of how YOU have too much time on your hands and THEY probably don't. I also don't think it helps that the people most likely to go online and talk about a podcast are probably people who have an axe to grind, so just because 6-10 people agree with you doesn't mean you speak for some overwhelming majority.

 

And saying "oh gee whiz I hope this is taken the right way" doesn't make it NOT rude, it's just text book passive-aggressive. You're being super forward like you know them really well.

 

I don't think anyone wants to punch each other and I only found the podcast because of Dan and Steve and know other people who did the same so I'd dispute the numbers being way down. I think you are pulling a classic nerd move. "WHY DO THE MARVEL MOVIES NOT LOOK LIKE HOUSE OF M DOES IN MY HEAD" Well because you are used to getting perfect fan service (from Sark) and some things are meant to be more for everybody.

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I agree that your posts will probably be ignored by the Nerd Poker crew because of information overload.

 

That being said, I love your posts! They're filled with some great information and rules clarifications. Perhaps change the tone from "you guys should be doing this" to "this is my .02, for what it's worth." I'm sure there are people other than Posehn and friends who get use out your posts.

 

PS: I'm planning a campaign in Mystara. With the amount of free info out there about this setting, becoming distracted by TMI is a real problem.

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planet chumbles: "Yo dudes, just made an account to say I think Gary is way off base. Do I wish there was WAY more story? Yes! But I play D&D and don't give a shit if they are following all the rules." (Apologies, the forum's quote function was glitching here. I suspect it doesn't like people making sock puppet accounts.)

 

Believe it or not, *I* don't give a shit if they're following all the rules, either.

 

DMs are expected to change rules. That's what we call "Rule Zero" -- it's the DM's game, and he can alter the rules as he sees fit.

 

However, the DM does need to know that he's changing something, why he's doing it, how his change accomplishes that, and then communicate the changes to the players so they can plan accordingly. The most important thing for the players is consistency. When things feel random or arbitrary, the game loses verisimilitude and the players start to feel disconnected.

 

I guess if you were a rules designer you'd be super interested, but slow your roll man! That post is hella rude.

 

There is a significant difference between "pedantic" and "rude."

 

However, I struggle with several mental illnesses, and I'm aware that, for example, the OCD will make me delve into way more detail than I mean to at times. I spend a lot of time writing and re-writing posts to try to find and remove places where I really do go over the top. In other words, you're seeing my post after I've toned it down to try to make it more appropriate for public consumption.

 

That's how much time I spend trying to avoid bothering "normal" people.

 

Your post, meanwhile, is overtly insulting and aggressive.

 

It might mean you're just an asshole, but your post suggests you might not be good at picking up on social cues. (I have trouble with that, too, especially during a manic episode.) As such, I want to cut you some slack because I know how hard that can be, whether it's caused by being on the autistic spectrum, social anxiety disorder, or whatever the case may be.

 

(And if that seems insulting to you, that says more about your attitudes toward mental disorders than it does about me.)

 

 

Blaine is probably dealing with all kinds of missed stuff the party walked right by like that cottage right before the spider cave. Deal with it!

 

That's absolutely true -- the players have walked right by a few things that Blaine had clearly meant to be important encounters or even story lines. (The "fish in barrels" invasion is by far the biggest one.)

 

However, when the players wander away from the adventure the DM has prepared, the DM should be able to improvise to get things back on track. One or two random encounters loaded with clues or hooks for the players is all it takes, but this is a very specific skill that DMs need time to learn.

 

Blaine is still a relatively new DM, so he's still learning this stuff. When I or others on these message boards make suggestions, it's because we remember what it was like being a new DM and we're trying to help him get through it to the other side. He has enormous natural potential for DMing, and I think he will be absolutely awesome at it after he's been at it for a bit longer.

 

The players aren't in hell, they're just juggling a lot at once. Sark probably had to work his ass off to do what he did ...

 

I'm sure he did. DMing takes a fair amount of prep time, even if you're running a sandbox-style game. (If anything, sandbox games take more prep time to do right.)

 

When I make a suggestion for Blaine, it's because I know exactly how much hard work it takes to be a DM, and I'm trying to help him find the shortcuts.

 

... and writing a novel about how you'd fix it is just an example of how YOU have too much time on your hands and THEY probably don't.

 

True.

 

The fact that I have time on my hands (see: mental illness, above) and they don't is why I take the time to write these posts. I'm spending my time so they won't have to spend theirs. Instead of having to look shit up or blunder their way toward developing DMing strategies through trial and error, I'm trying to point them in the right direction to help them along.

 

Please remember that I do this stuff professionally. I have literally (no exaggeration) done thousands of dollars of pro bono work writing these posts because I want to contribute to their success. I'm close to dead broke, so I can't send in much in the way of cash donations -- but I can share my expertise to try to help them have more fun playing the game.

 

Therefore, this is what I donate to support the podcast.

 

Your urge to attack someone who is being altruistic, again, says a lot about you.

 

I also don't think it helps that the people most likely to go online and talk about a podcast are probably people who have an axe to grind, so just because 6-10 people agree with you doesn't mean you speak for some overwhelming majority.

 

That would be an appeal to popularity, an informal logical fallacy. I don't play that shit.

 

The fact that you think I give a flying fuck about whether people agree is thoroughly fascinating to me. I care about being right, which I am.

 

And saying "oh gee whiz I hope this is taken the right way" doesn't make it NOT rude, it's just text book passive-aggressive.

 

This is what I mean when I pointed out that you have trouble reading social cues. That's not what passive aggression is, and the fact that you're perceiving it that way indicates that you're working from some sort of deficit.

 

(Again, I deal with the same problem.)

 

You're being super forward like you know them really well.

 

I write my posts precisely the same way I wrote my "Jedi Counseling" rules Q&A column for the Star Wars Roleplaying Game, which I did for many years.

 

If that sort of "advice column" style comes across as "super forward," that's a problem in your perception, not my delivery.

 

As for the cast, no, I don't know them really well. I met Blaine once many years ago, and I've met Brian twice in the past year when he did shows near where I live. I just saw him last night, actually, and I had a great time hanging out with him and chatting after the show. But that's the extent of my in-person experience with them.

 

I think the issue here is that you expect me to treat them differently for some reason. Like I'm supposed to be in awe of people who are on TV or something.

 

Again, I don't play that shit.

 

They're people, and I talk to them precisely the same way I talk to other humans. This is how I talk all the time, with everyone.

 

Look, I have fans, too. I've signed tons of autographs at game conventions, so I have some idea what it's like to be on the receiving end (albeit at a much smaller scale). Without question, the fans that are the most awesome are the ones that just talk to you like they'd talk to anyone else.

 

So I try to do the same thing when I talk to the cast here. I don't worship them, idolize them, admire them, or look up to them. They're just people whose work I happen to enjoy, and as such I treat them as equals. (I enjoy my own work, after all.)

 

I don't think anyone wants to punch each other ...

 

Funny story. I mentioned that specific thing to Brian when we were chatting last night, and he said I was totally right.

 

I even used the same phrase "wanting to punch Blaine in the face," which is obvious hyperbole but I thought conveyed the frustration I was sensing. Brian laughed when I said that because he totally got what I meant by it -- and, again, he agreed.

 

 

Meanwhile, you (1) apparently didn't notice the palpable tension at those times during those episodes and (2) actually took the phrase "wanting to punch Blaine in the face" literally instead of figuratively.

 

That's what I mean when I say you might have trouble reading social cues. You need to go get that checked, man.

 

...and I only found the podcast because of Dan and Steve and know other people who did the same so I'd dispute the numbers being way down.

 

Yes, you personally finding the podcast changes everything.

 

The plural of anecdote is data, right?

 

(That's me being rude. Please note the contrast.)

 

I think you are pulling a classic nerd move. "WHY DO THE MARVEL MOVIES NOT LOOK LIKE HOUSE OF M DOES IN MY HEAD" Well because you are used to getting perfect fan service (from Sark) and some things are meant to be more for everybody.

 

Here's the funny thing:

 

I like Blaine more as a DM than I liked Sark. Sark just happens to do things better in this specific case (rules consistency), but I vastly prefer Blaine overall.

 

When Blaine does something as a DM that I don't like, it's almost always just an issue of inexperience. I can see what he's trying to do, and I'm totally on board.

 

When Sark does something as a DM that I don't like, it's because that's the style of game he wants to play. (You didn't think we made up the "Sark is a shitty DM" thing, did you?)

 

Blaine is much, much closer to what I want to see at my game table, and I see in him the potential to be an absolutely amazing DM. He's just not there yet.

 

 

So, your "fan service" comment is hilariously wrong. You really could not possibly have misread that any more than you did.

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gentlemen, calm it down. The interwebs are no place for... oh wait, nevermind.

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Yeah shit just got way too creepy and personal for me, I'm done posting here. Please don't kill anyone, Gary.

 

PS: I am not a boy/gentleman

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Please don't kill anyone, Gary.

 

I open up about my mental health and how it affects reading social cues, and you reply with "don't kill anyone"?

 

You are a worthless, wretched, despicable bigot, and you should be ashamed of yourself for saying something so horribly offensive about someone's disability.

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I understand the desire to respond, but that person is trying to antagonize and get a rise out of you. So far, it's working.

 

Just take a deep breath and walk away. Nobody will win this fight.

 

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I understand the desire to respond, but that person is trying to antagonize and get a rise out of you. So far, it's working.

 

Just take a deep breath and walk away. Nobody will win this fight.

You're absolutely right. If he gives me any more shit, I'll just report him and ignore it.

 

It just caught me off-guard because everyone on this forum has been so nice and friendly, and then this asshole trolling bigot comes along out of nowhere.

 

I mean, really, what kind of a soulless, miserable wretch of a human being would directly mock someone to their face about their disability?

 

Just being reminded that such horrible people still exist is enough to ruin your whole day. :(

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Yeah shit just got way too creepy and personal for me, I'm done posting here. Please don't kill anyone, Gary.

 

PS: I am not a boy/gentleman

No, you just got put in your place by an intelligent and logical post. Also, kudos on leaving with the solid win of I'm not a male.

 

Gary, keep doing your thing. Your posts are always well thought out and helpful. There should never be any reason to not post something that could potentially be helpful. It's up to the people on the show to decide whether they use it or not.

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