The art of war. Combat in Role Playing Games.

art-of-war

Combat is a thrilling  aspect of any Role Playing Game. Many players live for the thrill of the fight and enjoy it more than the actual Role Play itself. Rolling dice and seeing those desired numbers show face up, or landing those critical hits is exciting. Combat is however more than just rolling dice and having the numbers dictate the outcome. In this topic, we will look at how to make combat really come to life, and how to get the most out of those battle encounters.

We will begin by looking at designing a good combat encounter. Firstly we need to ask ourselves why will this encounter result in a combat? If it is a simple ambush, well then you already know the answer, but many encounters can result in combat where they perhaps did not need too. When I have an overzealous party that tends to hit first and ask questions later, or who has problems keeping their ego in check, I often deploy an encounter I like to refer to as a “swing encounter”. The Gorebad swing encounter is basically one that can go either way depending on the attitudes of the characters. For example I recently used a rather grumpy and agitated Weretiger to do just this. The characters had begun to bully their way through encounters, and had started developing egos that were eventually going to result in them biting of more than they could chew. I saw this eventuality looming so I decided to drop in this Lycanthrope. Now Weretigers are typically true neutral in alignment, so their actions are largely situational and are dictated by other outside social triggers. The characters met him in human form, and he was (for reasons that would become clear later) viewing the characters with suspicion and was a little stand offish. I had decided that he would either help or hinder them depending on how they interacted with him. A positive interaction would win them a potential ally, while a negative one would land them in a tough combat situation. I did this to illustrate to the players how sometimes you just have to know when to not push back and hold your tongue. The players chose wisely and avoided combat. If this had become a combat encounter however, I would have had a clear understanding of how and why the fight took place, and as such would have known how my Non Player Character or monster (in this case the Weretiger) should act. The combat would have taken place in a wooded area, one that my Weretiger would have been very familiar with and one that my players would not. This being said I would have used the monsters knowledge of the terrain to his advantage. Also depending on how the combat was going he may well have retreated and possibly came back at a more advantageous time. Determining the motivations behind the combat is important in being able to run it with substance. Are the players the aggressors or the victims? Is it on either sides home turf? Do the Non Player Characters have strong motivations to stand their ground, or may they break and flee? Are reinforcements close by? etc.

It is important to set the scene for the combat encounter also. Terrain and surroundings play an integral part in how a combat plays out. History tells us that three hundred Spartans held the narrow pass of Thermopylae for three days against tens of thousands. This was only achievable due to the location that the battle occurred. If they had met on an open battlefield it would have been a short and bloody massacre. Chapter ten of Sun Tzu’s the art of war discussed terrain and its effects on a battle. Indeed it enlightens us to how a battle can be won or lost based on where the battle takes place. This can and should be a factor in the combats in which your players find themselves in. Aspects such as height of terrain, difficulty of movement, items of cover, visibility and temperature all play a factor. Too many Dungeon Masters ignore this aspect of combat and allow combat to become a toe to toe turn based dice fest.

Not every combat has to start and end in one encounter. Indeed many good battles play out over several encounters. Recently on Howreroll the players took three separate encounters to take down one particular Necromancer. Making what could have been a simple end boss encounter, a chase that lasted a couple of weeks in game time. It also made for a much more climactic showdown when they finally did corner and ultimately defeat him. After the first battle both the characters and the Necromancer knew a little of the others tactics, so the dynamic changed the second and third time they fought. And again this change in dynamic altered the combat substantially. A good reoccurring villain can be a great source for great combat encounters in this way. Either he manages to evade capture time and time again or the players may keep slipping through his fingers if he is the pursuer, but each encounter has epic potential, especially if used with correct timing, and not over done.

The next thing we will look at is how to describe combat. Simply saying “you hit, you miss” is boring! I like to describe the combat step by step and blow by blow. Players love to hear the details of how the final blow dispatched their foe, or what the effect of a particular successful sword strike was. On our live Dungeons and Dragons show, I try to describe each and every hit, miss, crit and fumble. I keep the descriptions short, but I make sure they are imagined. My descriptions are dependent on the players actions and the outcome of the dice rolled. So for a narrow miss I may say something like, “you lunge with your long sword at the Orcs unprotected belly, but at the last minute he is able to bring his cleaver around and manages to narrowly deflect your blow to the side”. Or for a high damage hit that does over twenty five percent of the enemies hit points I may say, “your powerful overhead swing strikes the ogre and opens up a deep gash in his thigh. He glances at the open wound as the blood flows down his leg, and he takes a step back to reassess the situation. He no longer seems so eager to rush in”.

I recently had a private message from one self proclaimed “veteran Dungeon Master” (of ten years) who told me that I should not describe the players blows and I should let them do it themselves. I totally disagree and here is why. Hit points are relative to the creature. Hitting a goblin for six damage may be an almost fatal blow, where as to a hill giant it is little more than a scratch. The players do not know how many hit points a particular enemy has, especially in relation to enemies with a class, so they are not effectively able to accurately describe the outcome of any given hit. That being said I am all for and encourage a player to tell me and describe what he is TRYING to do, but the outcome of his action is mine to explain. I also like to improvise advantages and disadvantages that may occur to one side or another during combat. If the players make a particularly high damaging hit on a monster, I may have it back of, and hold its attack that round, as it rethinks its strategy. Or I may have a high damaging blow drop the target to one knee, robbing him of part of his move action the next round. While these things may not be part of the combat mechanic, they add something to the combat that makes it feel more real.

We just mentioned that we should encourage players to tell us what they are trying to do. I do not mean in them saying I attack the Troll, or I cast Magic Missile, no I mean describe how it is to happen. “I swing my broadsword with all my might at the Dire Boar” can be a descriptive way for a player to let you know he is using his power attack feat. Or a player who’s character is a bard may start singing an eighties power ballad and in doing so lets you know he is using his inspire courage ability. I like to encourage descriptive combat in my players also so I will often give bonuses or allow successful skill checks to infer combat bonuses. Here is an example of what I mean by that. A group of players are battling some pirates aboard a ship. One of them just finished of his adversary on the raised bridge of the ship and looks down and sees one of his comrades pressed by two cutlass wielding sea dogs. He knows if he runs down the stairs it will be two rounds before he can aid his friend so he asks “are there any ropes or anything I can use to swing down to the lower deck”. I like where this is going with this, so I tell him “YES, there is a rope within reach that is tied off on the rail behind you”. “OK” he replies, “I try to swing down on the rope and I want to try to slash at one of the pirates as I swing by”. In this situation I would have him make a skill check to swing down on the rope and a bad roll may land him in a compromising situation (or give him disadvantage in fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons rules) where as a good roll may have a bonus effect (or give advantage). Never be afraid to reward creativity in your players when it comes to combat. They will be more inclined to be descriptive and really get into the fight if their actions can change the outcome and make it more exciting.

A prime example of some of this coming together can be seen here at minute 42.30. During this episode of the Marks of intrigue, a bar fight breaks out and all manner of improvised attacks and terrain come into play.

Finally lets look at mortality in combat. When two groups of people engage each other with weapons and magic, people have a tendency to die. While it is common for the monsters and some Non Player Characters to bite the dust, it is a much bigger deal and less common when it happens to a Player Character. With this in mind what is a Dungeon Master to do when he confronts the players with a fair challenge and due to their poor dice rolls and his good rolls the players are loosing to a band of goblins that they should easily be able to defeat. Well this really comes down to your individual style of Dungeon Mastering. many Dungeon Masters will tell you that they will modify a few of their own dice rolls (behind the Dungeon Masters screen), to balance this. Others will tell you that they do not baby their players, and the dice can be a cruel mistress to all equally at times and it is down to the players to retreat from a fight that is going badly for them (assuming they have the option). I have my own views on this and they alter a little depending on who I am playing with. With a die hard experienced group of players, sometimes I roll openly and let the dice fall as they may regardless. Other times I may fudge a roll here or their to be lenient to a newer group of players. Regardless I always allow dice to fall where they may during epic encounters or if the players put themselves in harms way through stupidity, despite fair warning. To me it comes down to trust. The players must trust you as their Dungeon Master to be fair and treat them with consistency and equality. As long as you achieve this I am not going to berate you for your choices. My goal is always to strive for open rolls but I also realize from time to time this can add to much of a random element to something that should be less so.

Combat is not the be all and end all of Role Playing, but it is a fun and integral part of any system. Taking steps to bring it to life and make it believable, is just as important as the work you put in to develop a viable world for your players to explore. There is so much more I could say about combat, but rather than lengthen this topic any farther I will just leave you with this.

“War is hell, but that’s not the half of it, because war is also mystery and terror and adventure and courage and discovery and holiness and pity and despair and longing and love. War is nasty; war is fun. War is thrilling; war is drudgery. War makes you a man; war makes you dead”. ~Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried

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The differences between running a game at the physical table and online.

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So as many of you by now know, I have been running Dungeons and Dragons and other Role Playing Games for over three decades. An unfathomable amount of hours of my life has been spent sitting around a table with a group of people, and bringing stories to life. More recently I began using virtual tabletops and playing the same games online. Since October 2014, I have also been broadcasting these games live on the internet on my channel Howreroll. Since then I have come to realize the vast differences in how I run a game between these two mediums. This article is aimed at explaining those differences and if you are a viewer of my online show it may explain a few things to you as well. Please note that there are even more differences to draw upon between private virtual tabletop games and live broadcasting virtual tabletop games. I will detail those where applicable also. My goal will be to break this down into sections and draw the comparisons as I do so. Here goes.

Story Preparation.

This is one area that is pretty much the same. I still do hours of work writing my stories and developing my plot lines, no matter if the table is physical or virtual so really no differences of note here. The one thing I will say is when I am writing for my online show I do think of it from a viewer perspective. For the show I try  not to make the story overly complicated and as such difficult for a new viewer to follow or pick up on. I also only display good quality visual maps and tiles (and  do not draw them on the fly, which is an option with most virtual tabletops), so I have to keep the adventures somewhat linear and when I allow them to become more open I have to create multiple maps to cover multiple eventualities. Which brings me to the next section.

Map Creation.

Huge differences here. When playing around a physical table I am afforded the luxury of total freedom. No matter what the players do I can improvise and create either a quick sketch or give a good verbal description of just about anything. Even though I would still draw out my dungeon or town layout, Its not needed to be visual to the players. If I want it to be visual or if we are using miniatures then I can use dungeon tiles and lay them out as we go. For the virtual table top I am confined a good bit in this regard. Now again while hand drawing the maps as you go is an option, for me it is not because we are producing a high quality show and as such it needs to look good and I am by no means a virtual artist. Because of this I have to manually digitally create each map. Every Inn, shop, village, forest encounter etc has to be created and made visual. This takes many hours of work. A typical live show takes ten to sixteen hours of behind the scenes work for a three hour broadcast, and most of this is tile and map creation. Of course, not all live shows go to these lengths, and many just show a world map and live cameras but for the quality of show I want to produce, that is not an option.

Dungeon Master style.

In some ways it is the same but in others it is very different. Either way I am a voice actor. Each and every Non Player Character that I bring to life will have his and her own voice and mannerisms. I role play these out regardless of it being a physical or virtual tabletop. The big difference is that around the physical table I am incredibly animated. I leap around, I rarely stay seated and I can put more physical aspects into my role playing. Instead of just describing a sword swing ill act it as well! online and at the virtual tabletop, I am stuck inside a little pip box on a screen, and confined to the field of view of a web cam so I am limited to minor hand movements and facial expressions only. Another difference is in the way I describe a scene or area. Around the physical table unless I have a hand out ready to show the players I have to leave much to their imagination, and have to be careful to make sure that I verbal describe important details. For the virtual tabletop I have the luxury of producing nice graphical images, tiles and maps, so less verbal description is needed, and all the players (and viewers for the live show) can see the same thing.

Player Interaction.

Some minor differences here. Around a physical table the players can take ques from the Dungeon Master and other players to know when it is their turn to speak etc. Online it is a little harder and especially when we are playing on the live show, we have to be careful not to talk over one another. Also as the players are not in the same room (and in Howrerolls case not even the same state or country), they all have different personal distractions that have to be overcome. The cat, the neighbors dog, the climate etc. While this may not be something you would at first consider, it makes a difference when it comes to interacting and the level of distractions that can be present.

Player character decisions.

For the most part again there is not a huge difference, but in a couple of areas it is substantial. Around the physical tabletop, if your character is currently not involved in the situation at hand you can get up and go to the fridge etc and still hear the Dungeon Master and be aware of what is happening. For virtual tabletop play you use a microphone and either a headset or ear buds, because if you have the sound coming through your speakers you get sound reverberations. Because of this if you leave the Virtual table you are typically cut off from play and anything that is happening. This issue is amplified for the live broadcast show. The other big aspect which again is vastly amplified when we are live is what happens when a character goes of on his own and does not stick with the party. well apart from the obvious possible dangers for the character in game, how it affects the other players is different. Again around the physical table you can occupy yourself a little if your character is not involved in the action. When playing at the virtual table, you are pretty much stuck staring at a screen and just listening. Because of this I try to discourage players from taking their characters off on their own to often, and only when it is a necessary action.

Player Meta game control.

This within itself is kind of an odd subject as you can never really stop a player from trying to meta game, only deal and react to it. Good players will not meta game or at least will not do so frequently, where as poorer players will meta game their asses off. What I refer to here is what I can see with my own two eyes. Around the physical tabletop, I can see if a player reaches for the Monster Manual or pulls out his smartphone to google what weakness a monster may have. At the virtual tabletop I can not. If a player goes online and looks something up I can not stop him, or even know he has done it. Online I have to rely on the integrity of my players to not meta game or use player knowledge where their character would in fact be oblivious. Players can also chat privately using chat programs and discuss strategy in private. At the physical tabletop i do not permit players to pass private notes unless I know the reason and content of said note. ALL in game chat should be done by the characters, and if the characters want to discuss something it should be done in real time and in front of the Dungeon Master. Private text chatting allows for discussion to be had in a non realistic way, alter the game play and, can fudge the time mechanics of the game. here is an example. John (who plays Ragnar the barbarian) privately messages Sandra (who plays Salindra the cleric) and tells her to cast hold person on the chief when it is her action. In reality the characters are in the heat of battle and Ragnar would have to shout this suggestion to Salindra. In doing so the chief would be forewarned. make no mistake this IS metagaming.

Session length.

Typically you can play way longer around a physical table than you can a virtual one. Staring at a monitor causes some people to feel tired, causes eye strain or even causes headaches. We take scheduled breaks while we play on line to help alleviate some of this, but even then a longtime at the computer is more draining than sitting at a real world table. Due to this, we tend to play shorter sessions. Howreroll runs for three hours each session we play.

Dice rolling.

The only thing to note here is one of the fun aspects of any table top game is the physical act of rolling the dice. Feeling that polyhedral dice roll around in your hand and then drop to the table to come up a natural 20 is a good feeling. At the virtual table this is taken away from you and replaced with a mouse click or typing a command like /r 1D20. Now as the Dungeon Master at the virtual table,  I use the fact that the players can only see head and upper torso as my Dungeon Masters Screen, so I still get to roll physical dice. However the players do not of course as it is necessary for the Dungeon Master to see the dice rolls they make.

A pointer I can make here for anyone using a virtual tabletop, as the Dungeon Master you can still create the anticipation of the physical dice roll by hamming up the need for a good roll, or being a little more descriptive about the potential outcome of the action. This is something we have achieved very well on our live show, and as such have found a way to recreate that feeling of tension you get when you actually roll the dice.

Game Mechanics use and game flow.

Around the physical tabletop, you all have access to the same resources and books. A bunch of players can share a players handbook for example. When playing at the virtual tabletop, you are on your own. You have to have your own resources. Some virtual tabletops include game systems (for a price) but if not you need your own books or pdfs. Another consideration that really only applies to live broadcasting Dungeons and Dragons is keeping the game flowing. We have an audience when we play on Howreroll so I sometimes simplify game mechanics and as such have a set of home brew or house rules that I apply. I also make certain other concessions in the interest of live entertainment.

Viewer interactions.

So this one ONLY applies to running the game over a virtual tabletop and making it live for viewing. Howreroll has an amazing community that chat to us and each other via a text interface while they watch our show. All the players and myself can see the flowing sea of text and as such it is hard sometimes not to be distracted. A particular pet peeve is when a player gets distracted or the tone of the chat changes the mood or attitude of the player during a key moment. A comedic comment or two can have a player laughing when the mood should be tense and anxious. We are all human and all of us (me included) fall foul to it all the time, but it is something you do not have to contend with around a physical table or even a private virtual table. Fortunately most of our regular viewers know we can’t really interact during game play, and that we do a Questions And Answer session during each break and at the end of each show.

I am sure if I spent more time I would come up with more differences and if I do I will edit the post to include them.

If you are thinking of starting playing virtually, then these are some of the things you will realize and find a little different. Also if you are a viewer of our show maybe this gives you insight into why we do somethings the way we do……..

Saying YES to your players and rewarding good ideas.

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So you have spent hours writing content for your next adventure. You have created maps, encounters, NPCs and have all the trappings of a great adventure. You are getting excited at the prospect of your players working their way through your scenario and you have imagined in your head how each encounter will go. Play starts and after a few hours the players approach the huge steel reinforced door to the inner sanctum. Now you know the party thief has a decent lock picking skill so if he rolls a Nine of Higher on a Twenty sided dice (better than average chance), he will succeed in picking the lock and the party will be set for the final confrontation with lord Yarnspinner (or whatever the hell your NPCs name is). He rolls and …..its a THREE!!! well now what? “We try to break down the door!” says the Barbarian. Well in your description of the STEEL reinforced door, you told them it looks like it was built to withstand the mightiest of battering rams so you tell them “You can try but you feel like it may be a futile effort.” They roll any way… a Nineteen. With the barbarians strength and miscellaneous modifiers that’s a twenty five. Sadly you already knew there was no chance of succeed. Maybe on a natural twenty they may have put a dent in it. So now here the party sits pondering how to get through the door. Their IS no other way in, you made sure of that, so now what?

This is where YOU the Dungeon Master are at fault. You wrote in a single method for the adventure to continue and made it reliant on a single dice roll. Firstly don’t do that. You should always have a back up plan. Remember its no fun for anyone if the adventure fails due to a single skill roll or missed subtle clue. Unfortunately you DID make it dependent on that pick lock test (shame on you) so how can we resolve it. Lets put ourselves in the players shoes for a minute. A player says “I scout around the side of the building and search for any hidden entrance or exits.” He rolls the dice and gets an eighteen. With his search skill its a total of twenty eight. The Dungeon Master says “No sorry there are no secret doors.” He didn’t put one on the map or write it into the adventure so their is not one to be found.  Well this is where The Dungeon Master needs to consider saying YES. While you may not have written a secret door into your adventure, the players just gave you a way to allow the flow of the game to continue and avoid twenty plus minutes of futile attempts and player frustration. In this case it would be smart to decide perhaps their IS a secret door, and as the players rolled so well allow them to find it. The players will be happy and excited, and will think that (being the great Dungeon Master that you are) you were smart enough to include that hidden entrance in your encounter (they need not know of your failure). This is one example of saying YES to your players.

Often your players will ask to do things that you did not plan for or have even considered the outcome of. You can not possibly determine every single eventuality ahead of time so you (like all great Dungeon Masters) will have to rely of your ability to improvise. If a players asks to do something you should ask yourself a few questions.

  1. If I say yes will it alter the adventure in a negative way?
  2. If I say yes will the action give the player an unfair advantage?
  3. If I say yes will it have significant consequences later?

If you answered No to all three of these questions then let the player do what he wanted to do, or grant him success in his action.

Players are happy when things they do go well. Decent players of course expect failure and embrace them, but when an idea they had is rewarded with a positive outcome it will encourage more creative thinking in the future. Even If a good idea fails due to a bad dice roll, (on Howreroll this happens all the time), allowing some margin of  minor success is a good way to encourage that kind of play from your players.

I will give you an example of how to reward a good idea even when the dice roll goes bad.

In our Marks of Intrigue campaign our hero’s were traveling along a narrow road with hills on either side. As they came around a bend they see a cart upturned blocking the road, and crates and barrels strewn all about the place. There is also a dead body. On closer inspection they see he has arrows protruding out of his back and they are aware of movement behind the bushes on both sides of the road. The sorceress casts Invisibility on the rogue and they prepare for an ambush. Well to cut a long story short, the cleric is on the road engaged by several bandits, and the sorceress is offering fire support. The rogue on the other had has moved stealthily  up the hill to where she can see one bandit who appears to have a young girl hostage. He also is guarding several crates and barrels that they obviously were in the process of collecting. She sneaks behind him and pulls of an amazing back stab “Peekaboo Bitch!‘ after that she is looking down the hill and sees the cleric is slowly being overwhelmed so she has an idea! “I want to line up and roll one of the heavy barrels down the hill and into the group of bandits!” she proclaims. So to me this was a decent improvised idea and I like to reward out of the box thinking. So I tell her to make an unskilled ranged attack roll. She rolls very Poorly. Instead of the Barrel smashing into the bandits at a great speed its going to miss, and her idea will be rewarded with total failure. Well not necessarily. I want to encourage that kind of thinking so I decide upon the outcome and say the following. “You line up and push the barrel down the hill towards the bandits. It starts collecting speed and looks like it would make a real impact. Half way down however it hits a rock in the hill side causing it to veer to the left and instead of it hitting the bandits it smashes into the cart with a loud crash instead. Several of the bandits are startled by the noise and glance behind them to see what was responsible. Cleric seeing this, you have a brief moment of opportunity and may make an attack while they are distracted if you wish.”

So even though the dice roll dictated the action was a failure, I allowed some level of success to come from it to reward the good idea. The cleric gained an attack of opportunity, and as such the rouge didn’t feel robbed by the bad dice roll.

In general it is never a bad idea for the Dungeon Master to allow players to have success in their actions. Even if it is minor. Of course you also get to enjoy the great failures too, but I tend to reserve those for more standard moments or even IF I am going to make an action fail hard, sometimes I still sneak in a little margin of success.

Learning when to allow your players to succeed and learning how to say yes to their ideas is a great way to reward them and encourage better game play, deeper Role Play and creative thinking……

Are they rules or guidelines?

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One of the many questions I get asked frequently is “What edition of D and D do you prefer, and what rules set do you like the most?” In truth I do not have a favorite edition, although most of my best memories came from AD&D and 2nd edition.

To answer this question, the first thing I want to point out and remind every Dungeon Master and player alike is that while the Dungeon Masters guide and Players handbook are full of “rules”, they shouldn’t be taken as being set in stone, or adhered too regardless of circumstance. One of the first things a Dungeon Master needs to understand is when to break or modify any rule he or she is presented with in one of the daunting manuals that our beloved game presents us with. I don’t know any “good” DM that has not converted, created their own Home brew variants or darn right ignored many of the “rules” that come with each and every edition. One of the things I am quoted as saying is “these are not a set of rules, more a set of game mechanics that you use to tell the story you want to tell and play the game you want to play“. I learned long ago that the enjoyment of playing for both DM and players alike is derived by a good flowing game and a great story, and not by arguing over rule semantics. In fact just about all of my bad gaming memories are a result of players stressing over or arguing about rules.

I tend to take certain types of mechanics as I find them, such as spell durations, weapon damage etc etc but tend to attack and modify any rule that I feel either offers a high chance of being abused, or feels just plain wrong. Due to this, which edition I tend to run or choose is dependent on the story I want to tell in my campaign.  I make my choices based on a few factors.

  1. Are my players familiar with it or are they new players?
  2. What style of campaign is it? (fast paced action, intrigue, political etc).
  3. Which editions rules set do I need to modify the least to fit the campaign story?
  4. Do I own the materials I need or will I need to purchase something new?

For example. Currently on Howreroll we are playing 3.5ed Home Brewed. When we started the players were all fairly new to D and D so I wanted a system that was fairly easy to learn quickly, and get to grips with, so that rules out AD&D and 2nd edition in my mind (#THAC0). I wanted to run an intriguing and tension rich campaign and not a hack and slash, so while 5th would be easier for them to pick up, I would have been modifying the rules a fair bit, especially the healing and rest mechanics, so I passed on 5th. 4th edition was just not well received by me (not getting into the reasons whys here) so that left 3rd or 3.5 edition. Now without starting the debate of well you could still run that type of game with 5th etc etc, and I agree I could, I didn’t want too as 3.5 was easier for me to modify for my campaign.

I have so many house rules or home brew variants for each edition its scary, and I have some that I alter based on the campaign world or story. I take the well written manuals that come with each edition and read them cover to cover, and then I tend to ponder individual rules and ask myself how I see that playing out in my campaigns. I look at aspects such as the magic system and decide if it fits and if not, I justify to myself, why not?

One campaign I ran was set in a world where magic was rare and difficult to obtain and to use. In this campaign I was stringent on material components being used for every spell cast, and I imposed a rule that linked spell casting directly to constitution, to demonstrate the drain on the casters physical state. Each time a spell was cast your constitution was drained a number of points equal to half the spell level rounded up. A constitution point was regained per hour naturally or for every fifteen minutes of meditation. This lead to a totally different use of magic in the campaign by the players and the NPCs, and a very healthy respect for spell use and timing. I also modified several of the spells to better fit this type of system.

To me any “rule” has always been nothing more than a game mechanic to use or modify as you see fit.

The simple answer to the originally posed question is “I have no favorite edition and to me there are no rules, only guidelines.