Dragon Magazine: Player Advice Collection (Part 1 of 6)

These are my reading notes of various Dragon Magazine articles. Learn more about the collection here.

What good PCs are made of: Play characters with more substance than statistics

Author: Katharine Kerr Issue: Dragon Magazine #96 Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Player Characters (PCs) are players' way to contribute and shape the Judge's world. Most players fail to create “true” PCs, i.e. characters that are different than themselves. At least that is what Katharine presents as the core challenge.

She offers solid advice on how to create characters by thinking about social class (random table), family life and background (random table), motivation, way of talking, opinion of the world, and polytheism.

The article is well written and well argued—I especially appreciated brief discussion of medieval upbringing and polytheism—but ultimately doesn't really match neither my play- nor judging-style.

For better or worse, the main campaign I'm running has had quite high death toll. To follow Katharine's advice to the letter would be frustrating, for it does take more effort than rolling six attribute scores and picking your class.

On the other hand, I could see myself using her guidance to create name-level and other NPCs of importance. I could also see it used after PC hits level 4 or above. You know, when they don't die from a single slap anymore.

Notes From a Semi-Successful D&D Player

Author: James Ward Issue: Dragon Magazine #13 Rating: ★★★★★

Ten tips in ten paragraphs! In order, they are:

I think I understand why Gary got to increasingly dislike Magic-Users.

And now I know what I'll start spending money on in The Keep on Yeoldelands campaign.

Be aware and take care: Basic principles of successful adventuring

Author: Lew Pulsipher Issue: Dragon Magazine #79 Rating: ★★★★★

Absolutely amazing article, should be mandatory reading for players trying to get into OSR play-style as well!

“The qualities that characters, and the players of those characters, must exhibit to succeed in a fantasy adventure are founded on the ideas of common sense and cooperation...”

The article is well written and very practical. The advice is broken down into following buckets:

The only controversial advice might be the last section, which in essence encourages players to understand the Judges' behaviour and then exploit it. For example, if your Judge is willing to fudge the dice in your favour, you should leverage that.

I can understand that advice in a more adversarial Player-Judge relationship, which was perhaps more common back in the day. Today I'd say that collaborative play-style is more prevalent.

Either way, this is a truly evergreen article, which I'll definitely include in the final Dragon Magazine Collection.

Assessing, not guessing: How PCs can make their own value judgements

Author: Lionel D. Smith Issue: Dragon Magazine #104 Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Lionel offers a simple procedure for PCs to randomly determine value of treasure items. It takes into account class, race, and level to determine base probability for successful estimation, and then uses d20 and a control die to determine the result.

Although the procedure and advice are solid, I see them more fitting for a Sage or NPC than PCs. The closing sentence is an important reminder to those who struggle with traditional gold-for-XP systems:

“The business of buying and selling can and should be an adventure in itself.”

Just because the players returned with a large haul of jewellery, gems, and who-knows-what doesn't mean they are rich. Give them XP, and then let them figure our how to liquidate all that wealth in a world where most don't earn a single gold coin in a single year.

#Resource #DragonMagazine

Subscribe to get the latest post in your inbox. No spam.