Sunday, September 8, 2013

Feats, Syria, Phillies Trade Proposal

Howdy! I’ve been working hard on some behind-the-scenes heavy lifting for Primeval Thule, namely finishing up the outline, the storyboard, and the art allocation. Now, before you wonder how the heck we ran a Kickstarter without an outline, let me remind you that we didn’t know until the close of the Kickstarter exactly how many pages we’d have to work with, and which authors would be involved. We had a working breakdown of the book very early on, and now we’ve refined that to fit the final numbers. Over the next week or two I’ll be firing off art orders to our various contributing artists, which is pretty exciting—I’ll see heaps of new Primeval Thule art soon!

Gaming: I’ve been following the D&D Next playtest with a good deal of interest, and I have to admit I’m of mixed opinion about the latest D&D Next approach to feats. I like capturing whole feat trees in one selection, but I feel bad that you can’t begin to choose feats until you hit 4th level. That’s a long time before you can enjoy the character customization elements that feats provide. I don’t feel like the existing D&D audience has been anxious to reduce the number of decisions they have to make with a 1st level character, and I worry that players will really miss the ability to add that point of differentiation right from the start. I understand that it’s daunting for beginners to have to select something from a list of a hundred somethings when they first start playing the game, but I can think of a lot of other ways to skin that cat: Starting packages for beginners, for example.
(I’ve always felt a little bit proprietory toward feats; they’re one of my biggest contributions to the game. Back in the design of 3rd Edition, Monte, Skip, and I were looking at 2nd Edition’s nonweapon proficiencies, and figuring out what they did and didn’t do. I made the observation that some NWPs were innately more valuable than others, and realized that what we really had were two different systems that were being purchased with the same currency. So, I suggested breaking skills into Type-A skills and Type-B skills, and providing different currencies to purchase them with. Then I built a sample selection of Type-A skills that really let you do cool and amazing things. My initial list included ideas like Born a Mongol, which became Mounted Archery, and Sucks to Be You, which you now know as Spring Attack. Fifteen years and 5,000 feats later, here we are.)

Politics/Current Events: Feel free to skip this part if you don't want to get a little serious in your online browsing. I just spent a full hour discussing the whole Syria situation with my oldest daughter, who’s actually pretty interested in politics and history. Answering her questions about Syria helped me figure out what I think we ought to do: I think the least-bad option is to come down hard on Bashar al-Assad. With an extensive campaign of airstrikes we can neutralize the Syrian air force and knock out a lot of the Baathists’ advantage in heavy firepower. From there, we swallow our distaste and do what we can to steer the rebel factions in the least extremist course we can manage.
I hate the idea of siding with Islamic extremists, but at this point, Syria is a proxy war between Shi’a Iran and the Sunni Gulf states. Arranging the defeat of al-Assad would deal a serious setback to Iran’s expanding influence throughout the Middle East. More to the point, we might find it vitally important in a year or two that the world (and very specifically Iran) believes us when we issue an ultimatum and draw a red line. The reason to strike isn’t that it’s going to make things any better in Syria, because it won’t. The reason to strike is to deter the next al-Assad from testing our resolve. Crummy, but there it is.

The Finer Things: My wife and I took in a Mariners game on Friday night. Boy, I love Safeco Field. It’s crazy expensive to take in a big-league ballgame, but at least Safeco is a great place to blow $100. The Mariners are a very intriguing young team with a lot of high-ceiling prospects. It depresses me a little as a Phillies fan; I realized that there is not a single organization in baseball I wouldn’t do a complete roster exchange with. By that I mean, if you were the GM of the Phillies and you had the ability to require another team to completely exchange its major- and minor-league rosters with you, is there any team that you wouldn’t rather have? I’m assuming you’re still playing in Citizens Bank Ballpark and you’ve got the payroll and upcoming TV deal the Phillies can work with. Can you make a case that every other organization in baseball has better top-to-bottom talent than the Phillies do now? I think so. The major-league teams that are worse than the Phils generally have much better minor-league systems, and much better potential to improve. Might be easier to sort out the Syria mess than to rebuild the Phillies organization at this point. Good luck with that, Ruben.