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Looking around my old files I found this little gem. Presented for your approval, straight from the days of the Pathfinder Beta playtest, is Captain Oakthrash. His huge ironclad ship, The Nature’s Bane, and it’s treant crew were the terror of high space. Forgive the formatting, I wasn’t used to the new Bestiary format at the time.
Hit Dice: 10d10 +82 (141 hp)
Speed: 30 ft.
Armor Class: 30 (-2 size, -1 Dex, +13 natural, +2 armor training, +8 armor), 7 Touch, 30 Flatfooted
Base Attack/CMB: +10/+22
Attack: +23 Melee (Hg mstr Greatsword 6d6+17/17-20×2)
Full Attack: +23/+18 Melee (Hg mstr Greatsword 6d6+17/17-20×2)
Space/Reach: 15 ft./15 ft.
Special attacks: Animate trees, double damage against objects, Trample 2d6+13, Weapon mastery (+2/+2d6)
Special qualities: DR 10/Slashing, low light vision, plant traits, vulnerability to fire, bravery
Saves: Fort +7, Ref +3, Will +3
Abilities: Str 30, Dex 8, Con 22, Int 12, Wis 16, Cha 12
Feats: Blind-fight, Endurance, Diehard, Improved Critical (Greatsword), Improved initiative, Power Attack (-10/+10), Overhand chop (standard, +5 dmg), Weapon focus (Greatsword), Backswing (+5 dmg first atk during full atk), Weapon specialization (Greatsword), Greater Weapon Focus (Greatsword)
Treasure: Huge Masterwork Greatsword, Huge masterwork Fullplate
Bravery (Ex): +3 bonus to will saves vs fear.
Animate Trees (Sp):
A treant can animate trees within 180 feet at will, controlling up to two trees at a time. It takes 1 full round for a normal tree to uproot itself. Thereafter it moves at a speed of 10 feet and fights as a treant in all respects. Animated trees lose their ability to move if the treant that animated them is incapacitated or moves out of range. The ability is otherwise similar to liveoak (caster level 12th). Animated trees have the same vulnerability to fire that a treant has.
Double Damage against Objects (Ex)
A treant or animated tree that makes a full attack against an object or structure deals double damage.
Reflex DC 22 half. The save DC is Strength-based.
I’m going to have to go back and bring this up to current Pathfinder standard someday.
Just a quick little contest that only requires you to answer one question: What’s your favorite episode of UnderDiscussion of 2011? Answer in the comments section of this post. The prize will be a $10 gift certificate to DriveThruRPG. I’ll select a winner at random (using Random.org) next week, so be sure to answer before 11:59am central time on Tuesday Jan 24th 2012.
Now that I’ve detailed two important ways of growing awareness of D&D as a brand that people will want to buy, let’s look at how I think the launch of the fifth edition should be handeled.
D&D needs an intro box AT LAUNCH
It’s no secret that I work in at a Friendly Local Gaming Store, and while that doesn’t give me insight into the inner workings of the RPG business it does give me some experience in how RPG books get bought and sold in a real world environment. Or more specifically, how they’re not.
At least once a month I have someone ask me where they should start with RPGs. I always point them to the Pathfinder Beginner Box and to the D&D Red Box. I personally feel that these are two very important products for their respective lines. RPGs can be daunting to get into. Without an intro product an employee has to explain that an RPG group will need 2-3 books, plus dice to start out with and pray that the customer doesn’t ask why there are all the extra books setting next to the ones that were just suggested. Almost everyone I’ve ever talked to about getting into RPGs looks at the shelf of books and says “I need all of those?” Explaining that you only need three $40 books plus a $6 set of dice at the bare minimum doesn’t exactly entice people. But the beginner box does.
The Pathfinder Beginner Box is a perfect example of an intro product. It has dice, it has the quick start rules right on the character sheets, it has an intro adventure, it has minis, it has a play mat, it has a solo adventure that guides you through how to play, and it has a rule book geared toward younger players that doesn’t condescend at you. It has all of that in a single box that I can point to and go “That’s all you need.” This kind of thing needs to be a launch release. Yes, D&D needs to put out a core book and a campaign setting at the same time, but those products need to be an addition to the intro box, and as we discussed before, it needs to be tied into the cartoon that you’re releasing at the same time.
Speaking of the core book, D&D needs to stick to a single form factor, and I think the form factor should be the one they went with for essentials. They’re smaller and easier to transport if all you need is just the character stuff from that book, they’re easier to shelf in big box stores (an important consideration if you want D&D to become a core Hasbro brand) and they’re cheaper, leading to more sales. While I think you could sell both hard and softcover versions of the core books I personally believe that there is more of a market for a cheaper softcover and would only release the hardcovers later as a premium collector’s edition product. The core book should be everything a player needs to play: The rules, the character classes, the basic equipment. Leave magic items for a later book, they should be an addition th the system, not a core part of it.
So far we have a intro product for those who are just getting started and a core book for players who know what they’re doing and just want to play, now we need game mastering stuff, and there are three products that should exists. The first is a game mastering guide. The 4e guide and the Paizo Gamemastery guide both do an excellent job of filling this role and should be emulated. Don’t but game rules in this book, that’s what the core book is for. This book should be all about advice on running the game and dealing with players of all stripes.
The next thing that should exist at launch is a monster box. Yes, a box. It should have all the pawns or tokens that exist in the included monster book. It gives great value for the dollars spent and is difficult to pirate compared to just a regular monster manual.
The third thing (and honestly the least inportant) is the generic fantasy setting that you want to be the flagship of the line. I aassume it will be Forgotten Realms. Do not release this as a player book and a GM book, that just irritates everyone. Release it as one large book, and keep it as crunch free as possible. There’s no need for a thousand more “=2 to X because you’re from region Y” feats. Just include the good stuff from the setting.
I think that this setup would serve the D&D brand well as an introduction to a new edition.
Dungeons and Dragons is the oldest and most well known RPG on the planet. That is a fact. Most people don’t know what the hell D&D is. That, sadly, is also a fact.
D&D is is one of the biggest tabletop RPG brands in existence, but your average person on the street doesn’t know anything about it other than it might be a computer game of some sort, it’s nerdy, and it could very well be satanic.
I have a humble suggestion for correcting this.
D&D Needs a well written and well drawn cartoon to spread awareness.
First, I’d like to point out that I personally think that the fact that D&D doesn’t currently have a cartoon is negligent at best and criminal at worst. The fact that someone from Hasbro Marketing wasn’t sitting in the Limo outside of WotC waiting for the ink to dry before mining the 30 years of IP they had just acquired for ideas is something that I think all their shareholders should wonder about. But this is a positive article, so let’s stay positive.
A D&D cartoon would accomplish two things. First, it would spread awareness of the D&D brand. Yes, people know of D&D, but they don’t know about D&D. A well written D&D cartoon would link the concepts of fun and adventure with the brand in the minds of people who had never been exposed to the game itself. It also puts the brand in places that will get it more attention: DVD sales. Once the first season is produced then it’s on video shelves of big box stores like Best Buy and Walmart, places that don’t generally stock D&D books and games. That puts the brand out there, and it makes it easy for grandma to buy it as a gift. Little kids don’t know they want D&D, but if they watch an awesome cartoon they’ll want EVERYTHING D&D.
Second, it gets D&D into the hearts and minds of kids. This seems like the first point, but it’s a seperate thing. Kids don’t have money to spend, their parents do. But as someone who grew up watching Power Rangers I can tell you that I didn’t have a Megazord under the christmas tree just because Mom thought it looked fun. Kids will watch a kickass D&D cartoon and want D&D toys and D&D DVDs and D&D games. This is where you will see you’re biggest increase in customers and the biggest surge of new players of the tabletop game, but only if you manage it well.
The D&D cartoon would need to be timed with the release of a new D&D Red Box. The art on the box needs to be from the cartoon (make the same guy fighting a dragon, but make the guy the fighter from the series and BAM! nostalgia for the old guard and a hook for the new.) The PreGens in the box need to be the characters from the cartoon, their powers and abilities need to be things that the kids can see them do in the show. Maybe the archer has a bow of light, that bow NEEDS to be on that character sheet. The monsters in the new cartoon red box all need to be drawn in the style of the of the cartoon. It needs to scream “You already know you like me! Buy me and play me!” to the kids that watch.
“I get it,” you say “This is a great marketing tool, so what else is new?” I’m glad you asked.
You’re going to want to make sure that the cartoon kicks ass on many, many different levels. You want to appeal to as many different demographics as possible. (I believe the popularity of My Little Pony with the “Bronies” should be evidence enough of the importance of cross-demographic popularity.) I’ve got a number of steps that can be followed to ensure the cartoon’s success.
Hire People from the community to develop the cartoon.
This one is the easiest. You’re going to want the D&D community to be on board at the ground level, so you’re going to want to have some people who are well respected and well known in the community to help develope the ideas and polish the concepts that will go into the cartoon. My suggestions would be people Like Tracy Hurley from Sarah Darkmagic and Brian Patterson from d20Monkey. They both have a lot of good insights about the game and the issues surrounding the game. I think they both would be excellent for developing the core ideas of the characters and the world that the show takes place in. (Also, I’d love to see the cartoon in Brian’s art style.)
Hire the writers of Avatar: The last Airbender
Now that the core ideas of the show are developed hire people who have a proven track record for writing amazing fantasy cartoons. They can take the ideas and characters and run with them, weaving the same sort of immersive and critically acclaimed stories that got them on this list.
Hire voice actors popular with the cross demographics
This one is another easy one. Nathion Fillion: Popular, well known, geek cred. He’s the fighter. Felicia Day: Popular, well known, tons of geek cred. She’s the leader of the group. Seth Green: Sacrastic, well known, plays with toys for a living. I smell rogue, don’t you? There are a thousand big geek names that I could throw out. Vin Diesel, you know he’ll need a cameo at some point. Tim Curry, he’s already in the booth recording his lines for the first season’s big bad.
Use as much D&D as possible
What I mean by this is D&D is almost 40 years old at this point, there is so much to draw upon, don’t just rely on the same old tired “bad guy has a dragon” crap that is in every other fantasy show. Set the damn thing in Greyhawk or (my personal choice) Eberron. Have the big bad be a Mind Flayer. Have them have to run from a beholder at first level. Visit White Plum Mountain or Waterdeep. Trek through a desert with a Tri-Kreen guide. Use it all!