Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Shattered Sky - monster design notes

Though development of the Shattered Sky BX Players Guide proceeds apace, I find myself getting distracted with conceptual rabbit holes during the process. Nothing new for me, but having a blog devoted to the topic is. So - here we are with another brief aside...but one not entirely off-topic.

One of the great things, for me, about D&D is all the whackbiscuit monsters put down to "magical experimentation." Apparently, there are wizards out there with no other ambition beyond merging perfectly ordinary beasts to produce perfectly boring mutant critters. For one of the most widely recognized and "classical" examples of this mish-mash monster type, I offer:

The griffon (or gryphon) is one of those charming heraldic monstrosities that comes to us from a proud tradition of mercenary exploration and false advertising. But, what is it - really? We have an insane amalgam of lion and eagle. Okay, granted, that's pretty weird in Germany - but not so much in Narnia, or the average D&D campaign. So, why do we have to blame the existence of perfectly normal creatures on insane wizards or deities of questionable morals?

That's right, I said "perfectly normal creatures." In a world where dragons and unicorns exist without the benefit of mad science, I don't see why creatures like the griffon or the owl bear should be monstrous. And, in Shattered Sky - they're not. Any monster that is actually a mix of two or more totally mundane creatures, and possesses no magical abilities whatsoever, is an animal. The griffon doesn't do anything that a lion or a big eagle can't. An owl bear has the same overall stats as a large bear. It can't even see in the dark or turn its head all the way around like an owl - but it has an owl head. A little more thought put into this critter would've been great. You can bet your sweet broadsword the owl bears in Shattered Sky can do those things.

So, by treating creatures like the griffon, hippogriff, owl bear, pegasus, or even the stirge (just a big mosquito, really) as nothing more than weird-looking animals, we have established the tone of the world that everyone will be dealing with. This is a magical place where magic happens. A place where strange does not always equal wondrous. The criteria for an animal in Shattered Sky are basically:
  • Must be of animal intelligence.
  • Must consist entirely of animal features and parts.
  • Must not possess abilities or qualities not attributable to normal animals.
That's about it. A chimera is not a normal animal because a fire-breathing dragon is not. A centaur is not a normal animal because a human being is not. A minotaur is not a normal animal because it has human parts and greater than animal intelligence. Oh - and a unicorn isn't an animal because it has magical abilities and (judging from the Lawful alignment) higher than animal intelligence. I hope the logic is clear. No need to make monsters out of molehills.

For the sake of completion, here's a few Shattered Sky animals that break the mold a little or combine some features of multiple animals in subtle ways.
 Beetle, Razorwing: This giant beetle has a carapace over its wings with sharp edges that slice like blades. The monster will closely resemble another, more common, giant beetle type so as to disguise its blade attack for maximum surprise.
 Owl, Bandit: An otherwise ordinary bird with dark raccoon-like markings across the face and a penchant for filching small valuables. Known to work in pairs or small groups.
 Snake, Snapping: This large serpent has scales similar to the shell of a turtle and powerful jaws that deliver a crushing bite. It is very aggressive and also poisonous.
 Toad, Javelin: This giant toad has a piercing bone spike at the end of its long tongue that it uses to impale prey.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Another new feature - the Wicked DM's Toolbox

While you all wait with baited breath (whether it be fire, acid, or chlorine gas) for the next Shattered Sky campaign setting installment, I would like to tantalize you with some tidbits from the delicious unkindness that is the "Wicked DM's Toolbox." The wicked DM, of course, being me...or you...or someone you know. This inaugural edition will focus on a pair of hazards and dangers to be found in the wild places of the land - whether they be wet or dry.

Managed to get the party in a swamp? Put them in a real pickle:
Dread Swamp: Not only does the rot and stagnation of this place recreate the stench of a troglodyte to nauseating perfection (save vs. Poison each hour or gain a -2 on "to hit" rolls - the effect is not cumulative), but the water and damp vapors actually corrode metal in much the same way as the touch of a rust monster. After 1-6 hours spent in the swamp, all non-magical metal items will become fragile and prone to destruction. A single successful hit with a metal weapon destroys it. A single successful hit against metal armor destroys the armor. Metal buckles and hasps give way from weight and pressure. And so forth. Even if later taken out of the swamp before being subject to stresses enough to destroy them, the items are forever damaged and will suffer the same fate under the right circumstances. Magic weapons and armor have a 10% chance per "plus" of not being affected. Those that succumb will lose one "plus," but no more. If this loss renders the item non-magical, use the guidelines given above for normal metal items.

In or near a desert? Give this a spin:
Whirlwind of Scorpions: Desert twister with a swarm of scorpions whirling around within. Victims caught inside take damage from the whirlwind and from stinging scorpions each round. Brush off the "Insect Swarms" entry and give the little critters Giant Centipede poison to liven things up a bit.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A brief aside - Hexographer

In crafting my OD&D materials, I find myself deeply indebted to the fine creators and providers of the Hexographer software. This package has absolutely everything I need to craft perfect OD&D-flavored maps on my own terms. Oh - and did I mention it is FREE? Still, I am becoming so addicted to Hexographer that I might find myself needing the Pro version.

From full color Mystara-style maps to black star-field space charts - you just can't go wrong. Large-scale terrain and small-scale towns are there at your fingertips. I feel like a veritable creator deity when I'm clicking in those acres of primeval forest.

And, for the rest of my module efforts, is there a Dungeonographer that proves to be just as outstanding? You bet your D20 there is.

Go forth and conquer!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Shattered Sky - the adventure continues

For many years, I have been running a campaign that has essentially spanned various ages of the same original world setting. Starting in the Basic Set, the campaign has wound and twisted like a mere trickle of a stream that wears its relentless way through countless strata to form a deep and abiding chasm through the AD&D, D20, and Pathfinder rulesets.

This (hopefully) last incarnation is known as Shattered Sky. It is a setting evolved through about 30 years of gaming and design. It represents all that I find best and most worthy of my various gaming endeavors. It is the game I wish I could run a character of my own in. In the meantime, I try to set it all down so it can be clear to other hapless DMs and players. The latest written incarnation is a setting-specific re-visitation of the Moldvay-Cook Basic-Expert Rules. Why? Because it makes me happy.

I find myself making hard decisions regarding races, classes, magic, and other essentials. Why? Because the Shattered Sky setting was originally conceived for the D20 System and paring down all those options and additions is proving quite a task. Even so, you can expect Basic-Expert, and then some. There are just certain aspects of the later rules that suit my personal style and tickle my fancy. Every class being able to advance as equals, for example. I dislike arbitrary limitations for the sake of metagaming.


What follows is the next bit of tentative text from the "official" Shattered Sky Basic Rulebook. More to come (so much more), I promise.

How To Use This Book

The Shattered Sky Setting Basic Rulebook is a loving re-creation of the Moldvay Basic Rulebook and Cook/Marsh Expert Rulebook - adapted to this writer's own campaign setting. Experienced players will recognize occasional nods to later editions of D&D in the form of house rules and optional rules that reflect the personal preferences and design imperatives of this writer.

In all other ways, this book is structured exactly as the aforementioned Rulebooks and strives to reflect that flavor and view of heroic fantasy roleplaying. What it does not do is attempt to venture far beyond the levels and options from those Basic-Expert Sets.

This book assumes familiarity with the Basic-Expert Sets and is organized into the same eight parts as the originals.

Part One, the INTRODUCTION, is the section you are reading right now that attempts to convey the intent behind this book.

Part Two, PLAYER CHARACTER INFORMATION, details all the rules and options for player to create their player characters (PCs) in the Shattered Sky setting.

Part Three, SPELLS, lists and defines all magic available to clerics, elves, and magic-users for casting.

Part Four, THE ADVENTURE, gives the player an idea of how the adventure works and what to expect.

Part Five, THE ENCOUNTER, outlines the typical structure of meetings between player characters and everything else, focusing on combat of all kinds.

This ends the portion of the book intended for the player and the rest should be read only by the Dungeon Master (DM).

Part Six, MONSTERS, not only lists and details every monster found in the setting, but also explains the monster entries and special traits.

Part Seven, TREASURE, describes the mundane and magical loot acquired by the PCs during the course of the game.

Part Eight, DUNGEON MASTER INFORMATION, contains detailed information about the Shattered Sky setting and suggestions for utilizing the material in this book during the course of a Shattered Sky session or campaign.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Spotlight on...D&D Basic, part four

Since I am now compiling a setting-specific version of the BX (Basic-eXpert) rules for my campaign setting, it seems a good time to stray from the established blogram (as I am inclined to do) and give you a peek into my process...such as it is.

I have always been a DM that values creativity and detail over rules and structure. It is an approach that makes more work and frustration for me - but, there it is. I will jot down an outline for an adventure set in my campaign setting (which I know very well) and mostly wing-it from there. Do I create things that don't work as I'd hoped? Yes - but, rarely. Do I forget some details and decisions if I don't write them down? Sometimes - but, if the players have been paying attention, they will often recall.

See that graphic of the green pseudo-Basic Rulebook rough? That is the tentative design for the rules I mentioned at the start of this entry. Why green? Well - two reasons, no - three, really. First: To distinguish it from the other rulebooks in the BXCMI series. Second: Because the Shattered Sky (my campaign world) setting is very much covered by forest wilderness. Third: I really like green.

The SSS book (Shattered Sky Setting) will have a lot of house rules and changes to the BX rules. Some of these will be familiar to players of later editions of D&D. Why bother, when I can just use a later edition of D&D? Flavor - and laziness. I want the style of adventure that BX encourages and I don't have the desire to write up a 125-page or 300-page book for a game I'm going to run at home. Nobody is paying me for this.

So - instead of working my way through the Basic Rules, I intend to share my development of the SSS book instead. That is kind-of staying on topic, as my book tries its very best to emulate the structure and flavor of the BX Rules. The main difference is you will get something more than a fanboy reminiscence and review of a book that has been around for almost as long as I have. You will get to suffer through a fanboy re-creation of an established and classic game, done in ways that might make your teeth itch, or your knuckles crack.

But, it will be something different - and that's what I'm all about. I'll be back soon with the first installment of the SSS process. Until then, here is a preview.

What The Shattered Sky Setting Is All About

Long ago, in an age nearly forgotten by history and shrouded now in myth, there was a great and final conflict between the forces of Light and Dark.

Light lost.

So did Dark.

Centuries passed without a sign of the gods. It was a time of fear and chaos. Ways beyond the physical world opened to allow passage to and from planes of existence both strange and deadly. Creatures beyond imagination intruded upon the world and forever changed the course of fate. The legends and lore of many races tell of a cataclysm that turned the world upside-down. Seas rose and landmasses were swallowed. Entire species and races disappeared - though some re-emerged centuries later. They were very much changed.

Human history begins near the end of this time.

During this time of turmoil, humankind rose to prominence and entered into a terrible conflict with the native elementals and fae of the land. This was The Harrowing and, in the end, humanity lost.

But the gods had returned and they intervened on behalf of humankind to broker a peace between Man and Nature. The treaty called the Winterbind Compact set down the terms of peace and stands to this day, nearly 500 years later.

Today, human civilization survives in isolated pockets among the great and primal wilderness of the land. The fae and the elementals granted limited stretches of land to humankind, but these are islands in a sea of green, and Man is already starting to feel confined. There are discontented rumblings of conquest and empire that many fear will plunge humanity into another costly war - this time, ending in the extermination of the human race. Many believe that an answer lies in the uncertain and fragmented past, while others feel that a true land for humankind lies beyond the leafy horizon.

As an adventurer, you may help shape the destiny of entire nations - or even the whole of humanity.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spotlight on...D&D Basic, part three

Part three of the Spotlight on... series, but Part 2 of the book - we now turn to the most important part of the Basic Rulebook, and that would be Player Character Information.

You know you're old-school when you write your character information on a blank sheet of paper. Hell - I prefer to use 5x8 index cards for character sheets or monster/NPC references. As before, the step-by-step rundown of creating a character before we even delve into the process is greatly appreciated. And even a summary!

I confess to disliking the tendency in later editions to reorganize character abilities to put all three physical abilities first. That always felt to me like they were prioritizing the physical abilities above the rest. Why that bugs me, I can't really say - but it does. Just a picky little peeve of mine.

Here's where I, as a DM, start to diverge from the rules as-presented - starting with the Prime Requisite. I don't use this concept in my own games as I am unwilling to reward a character simply for having a good die roll. Your reward for having high ability scores is having high ability scores. You have a better chance of success and that does not translate to deserving bonus experience during the course of adventuring. Again - this is just me. Something else I do differently is to have all ability score adjustments range from -3 to +3. I never saw a reason for Charisma to range from -2 to +2 for Reaction Adjustment, for example, where just about every other ability adjustment went from -3 to +3. Probably my first attempt to streamline the game. Call me a tinkerer.

Character classes. Ahhhhh...the section where my heart first started to pound with excitement. I confess that I first thought of Tolkien when I was reading this section - and no surprise there. Except for Clerics, you can pick out every listed "class" from the Middle-earth setting. Why was "class" in quotes back there? Because Moldvay Basic presents demi-humans (Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling) as classes of their own. Because D&D was intended as a human-centric game from the start. And, why not? While Tolkien had an obvious influence on the early D&D game, there were so many other classic fantasy references that gave us other iconic bits and pieces of the system. But I digress.

I also run on a bit. Let's pick this back up in the next installment, where I'll talk about my views and variations regarding the various PC race/class options.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Spotlight on...D&D Basic, part two

Welcome back to my (somewhat) in-depth look at the Moldvay Basic Rulebook. We now take a stroll through Part 1: Introduction.

I so appreciated the structure of this book. The brief explanation of What The D&D Game Is All About does a good job of letting you know what you're in for. You know where you stand and where you might be going - without stifling your imagination or expectation.

How To Use This Book is a crucial part of this part of the manual and I recall how much I valued the preview of what the rest of the book was going to deal with, in brief. It was like a comprehensive outline of the entire D&D game and gave me lots to look forward to as I read along. Just reading the guide was like an adventure.

Having the Basic Rules deal with character levels 1-3 was, to my mind, a good idea. Just enough range to get a feel for the game and to accomplish some initial adventuring before delving into the real complexities of a typical game world. Focusing on the "Dungeons" part of Dungeons & Dragons suited me as a wide-eyed neophyte just fine - while whetting my appetite for the Expert Set. And, while I never cut my book apart to insert the pages into a 3-ring binder, I liked having the option and thought it was a neat idea.

Defining important terms right at the start is more important than almost anything else at this point. But, even here, they don't go into needless detail - still, they manage to convey clear images of the vital points. And this leads me to the genius of devoting an entire section to the Use of the Word "Level." Since one word can mean up to four different things, this is an important concept to focus on.

How To Use the Dice is another well-composed part of the introduction. For a new player, all those sides and shapes can be confusing - though those d4's make darned fine caltrops. I speak from experience on this.

And we wrap up PART 1 with the all-important How to "Win" section. I cannot praise this paragraph enough. I can't count the number of new players that needed a refresher on this concept. D&D not being a game with traditional winners and losers can be a difficult concept to wrap one's head around and it is nice to get this idea straight right there in page B4.

As a 12-year-old kid reading this book for the first time, I remember tearing through this book without any real hurdles or speed bumps. It moved well for me and made perfect sense - the tone set very well right from PART 1. In my opinion, once D&D progressed from the three brown booklets, presentation and organization became vitally important and I feel Mr. Moldvay did an outstanding job in this area.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Features? Yeah - we got features.

This is the first of many features to come in the 3d6, Traps and Thieves blog. Spotlight on... will focus on one selected aspect of the OD&D game - be it PC classes/races, magic, a specific monster or item, or whatever captures my interest at the time. Or - whatever you might care to request for future installments.

This Spotlight on... will look at the Moldvay Basic Rulebook. Yes - that is a scan of my very own book, colored pencil and all. I chose that graphic for this entry to highlight my own view of the game. That view was full-color and vibrant. Though I loved all those line-art drawings in the early books, I sometimes took it upon myself to provide the color. Some of you will probably pick up on this as a metaphor for the entire game, as I saw it. And it is.

I picked up the Basic Set at Kay Bee Toy & Hobby at Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg, Maryland. I was probably 12 years old and had about 80 bucks a month from my paper route. Life was great and D&D quickly took over my Lego and HO scale army money.

Inside the box I found the Basic Rulebook, Dungeon Module B2 - The Keep on the Borderlands, and some truly crappy brownish dice with a crayon to color in the numbers so they could be seen better. Those dice crumbled to practically nothing in no time and I have lost all but the most useful of the set - the d12. *wink*

A review of B2 will have to wait for another time, but I will say that the B2 designation made me crazy to find out where B1 was. Also, another story.

Every part of this book captivated me. Remember - this was my very first D&D acquisition. I devoured it. I read every word of every page. I flipped through and gazed upon the illustrations. I was already writing and drawing my own projects by then and I compared everything I saw to what I had idealized in my head. The book and my imagination were so close as to be nearly seamless in most cases. This was the game I had been creating on my own for a few years before.

Even the cover delighted me. Erol Otus is an artist I find most people either love or hate. I love his work. Delightfully outrageous and defiant of most artistic conventions - at least, in this genre. You never look at a piece of his art and wonder who it is. Distinctive and evocative - it makes you want to look more closely to see if the picture is what you thought it was at first glance. Genius. And this image has it all. It tells you exactly what you're in for. The setting is a dungeon. But, not just a room or passage - we have a yawning arch above a flight of stairs leading down to a pool where you can see the lid of an open treasure chest. Rising from the pool is a dragon - jaws opening as if preparing to breathe or to bite. Facing the monster is a doughty fighter, standing fearlessly in front of the magic-user preparing to cast a spell. That is the essence of it all, my friends. Right there - in that one piece of art. Bravo, Mr. Otus.

In the next installment, I will delve into the contents of the book - starting with Part 1: Introduction. Hope to see you there.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Screen Cred

Now that we've established a little of the tone and background of this blog, allow me to present my bona fides.

I started playing the D&D game before I knew what the D&D game was. This was around 1979 and some older acquaintances were playing this game with three brown booklets, saw me drawing dragons, and asked if I wanted to play. I ran a dwarf that died in furious single combat with the royal guard of the goblin king. It was the best thing ever!

A few years would pass before I saw the D&D game again. In 1983, some classmates were playing D&D at indoor recess. The books were different, but the game was the same. Having a paper route at the time, I took my next paycheck and hied me to the mall. I came home with the Moldvay Basic Set. A week later, I got the Expert Set and the AD&D Monster Manual.

I didn't know AD&D was an entirely different game - I just drooled over the hardbound book filled with cool monsters. I read through the Basic Rulebook from cover to cover and immediately started drafting a map for my own campaign world, writing adventures, and creating new monsters. What else was I going to do? There were very few campaign settings, adventures, or new options available and I was just that kind of kid.

The next fifteen years went by in a blur of D&D to AD&D games, but all of the games I DMed were set in my own world. That has never changed. In fact, the campaign setting I use now is an evolution of the very first map I ever drew, with all "the good stuff" from every campaign between. As much as I loved AD&D, it was with little hesitation that I picked up the first D20 3.0 books at the turn of the century. "Oh look!" I thought, "Almost all of my house rules in an official book!"

While D20 was great for putting the entire game into a sensible and logical structure for everyone to get on board with, it never felt like an adventure to me. It was more like a homework assignment. New monsters that used to take me five minutes to create were now taking five hours. A player character turned into a day-long venture. And let's not even talk about writing an entire adventure. The sheer investment in time and page-turning was crippling for me. Even after I got used to the rules and structure - it just seemed more work than fun.

With furious anger, I moved to 3.5 a while after it was released and I saw that it was mostly a step forward. When 4.0 was announced, I jumped the Wizbro ship and tried my fortune with Pathfinder. Wizbro will probably get no more of my D&D money, forevermore.

For my D&D future, I see OD&D and Pathfinder - for the duration. I have more books and supplements than I will ever need and I run campaigns in my own settings. The vast majority of my D&D experience has been "behind the screen." Even when I manage to join a gaming group as a hopeful player, the DM tends to abdicate the screen in my favor within 3-5 sessions.


Still, I remain a devoted fan of the game, if not in its future incarnations. Moldvay Basic and Cook-Marsh Expert will always be "my D&D" since they were the books I started with. They showed me what heroic fantasy adventure could be and none have equaled that thrill since. For rules-heavy D&D, I favor Pathfinder. It just feels more like D&D than 3.0/3.5, 4.0, or any of the rest so far. Even if 5.0 turns out to be just what I've always wanted, I can't justify the investment in my mind. Wizbro lost me when they abandoned 3.5 to give us a MMORPCCG tabletop experience. Then they took away my Dragon Magazine and put it online. For that, they have earned nothing but my scorn.

As a DM, my forthcoming D&D adventures will carry me back to the glorious past where heroes lived by blade, spell, and wit - and monsters had d8 hit dice. Game on!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

3d6, Traps and Thieves?

Aside from a fun play on the title of a song my wife loves and I can't stand - the name of this blog is meant to evoke a little of the OD&D feel, and also tip the reader off to my own profession-of-choice back when I first started gaming.

My first PC was a Thief - Bain Nightblade. Not a Rogue. A Thief. Not that he stole from his comrades...well - not much, but he was a scout and a trapdodger of the finest sort. He also pretended to be a Cleric, in the beginning. But that's another story.

3d6 comes from the way OD&D characters were meant to be rolled. The hard way. That's how Bain was rolled - cold and brutal. That's how he ended up with a range of scores from 8 to 17. I was always lucky with the dice. Which is probably why I chose to be a Thief. You have to be lucky with the dice as a Thief. You have the life expectancy of a fruit fly and only Magic-Users have it worse. You have hit points you can count on one hand, you can barely wear armor, you're expected to scout ahead all by yourself, and you deal with all the traps. Lucky and clever are the main job requirements. Bilbo Baggins had it easy.

Despite all the cool monsters and shiny magic, traps captured my attention early in D&D. Not just because I was a Thief and traps were my bread and butter, but traps were also a fairly new concept to me. At the time, I had only The Hobbit to draw from for my fantasy experience - though I started collecting and checking off books from the Inspirational Source Material section at the back of the Basic Rules right away. Still, the one thing the D&D game had that The Hobbit lacked was traps. Men, Dwarves, Elves and Halflings? Check. Clerics - well, maybe not Clerics...Fighters, Magic-Users, and Thieves? Check. Spells? Lots. Magic Items? Indeed. Dungeons? You betcha. Dragons? Absolutely.

But no traps. Those were a new type of danger. I hadn't seen Indiana Jones or read Robert E. Howard yet. I made a Thief because I wanted to be the guy who snuck around and went one-on-one with the most remorseless and unpredictable "monsters" of all. I wanted to get by on my wits and skill. I wanted constant challenge and danger to keep me sharp. And, you know what? Bain lived! I have him to this day. The first character I ever made and the one who has possibly seen and done the most. He shaped the way I play the game even now and I dedicate this blog to him.

"For the last time, I am a trapdodger. Thieves die in dungeons." ---Bain Nightblade

I know my background is AD&D-heavy

The background image is a photo of one of my numerous gaming book shelves. I don't own many pre-AD&D books, except as PDFs. The few books all the way to the left are the Holmes "blue book" and the Moldvay Basic Rulebook and Cook-Marsh Expert Rulebook.

I simply chose the shelf containing my "oldest D&D books" as a background. Perhaps I will create a more appropriate one if this blog ends up going anywhere. Stay tuned and see.

Welcome to my table - and my world

You can call me Moth and this blog will focus on pre-AD&D versions of TSR's Dungeons & Dragons, mostly from my own POV and experience. Though I have played every version of the game up to 3.5/Pathfinder, I find myself drawn back to the earlier editions and days of the game as opposed to continuing further forward.

This is not to say I do not enjoy more recent editions of the game (though I do not intend to support 4E or any version that follows), but this blog is about what I like to call OD&D. When I use the term OD&D, I am essentially referring to everything from the little brown books up to Rules Cyclopedia.

My personal favorite among the various OD&D
editions and releases has to be the Moldvay Basic Set and the Cook-Marsh Expert Set. My preference is probably based largely upon nostalgia as these are the editions of the games I started with...back in those misty days of yore when gaming was new and every session was an adventure. Remember - this is as seen through my eyes.

Someone asked me recently what I thought was a defining difference between OD&D and the later editions and, after a moment's consideration, I replied, "Running away." I say this because that's what I remember as the most exciting part of the early game - the genuine possibility and fear of death. What is heroic fantasy adventure without that visceral thrill of danger? Why - it is the D20 system.

Maybe it is my general dislike of math that turns me off to the more recent editions of the D&D game. It could be that I am just lazy. Maybe I've gotten old. Whatever the case, I find 21st Century D&D to be less and less about adventure and more about planning for the future. I understand it's a long way from jotting down a character on an index card that has a life expectancy of a few hours to taking an entire afternoon to craft and cherry-pick a four-page hero where every skill point and feat selection will have a bearing on the future career options of the character - but:

Heroes are made to face death. To me, that is the core of adventure. Not that I am in the habit of, as a DM, killing characters. PCs in my game enjoy a rather favorable survival rate, actually - but there has to be the genuine fear of failure to forge a hero. I've yet to see a D20 game where running away was considered an option.

I'm here to tell you - it is okay to run away.