Actions are what makes D&D stand out against a lot of other game styles. But Allie is struggling a little bit to understand exactly how they work and all the different types of actions. This episode is great for players who want to know how to manage their action economy, but also good for DMs who want to encourage creative use of actions in their games!
Allie often gets races, classes, and backgrounds mixed up. In this episode, Greg goes over what races and classes and background are for, how they help build characters, and things to keep in mind when choosing them. Soon to come – deep dives into specific races, classes, and backgrounds!
We all know the D20 (see our logo!) But there are a handful (wink, wink) of other kinds of dice. Not knowing what they are for or how to use them can make the game much slower and more complicated. In this episode, Greg explains the benefits of having different kinds of dice and why we need each and every one.
Greg: A great DM will use those numbers as paint on the canvas and they will paint that perfect picture of what those numbers should mean.
Greg Welcome to Roll Mates, the D&D podcast, where I teach my wife, and you, about Dungeons and Dragons.
Allie: And I’m Allie, welcome to session two! Episode two. How are you today?
Greg: I’m doing great. How about you?
Allie: Good, I’m doing pretty good.
Greg: You look good.
Allie: [laughter] Thank you. So if you are new to the podcast, every episode I ask my husband a question about Dungeons and Dragons, because he knows a lot about Dungeons and Dragons, and I don’t know very much, but I really want to learn.
So today my question for you:
Why the hell are there so many dice?
There are way too many dice in this game! Every time we’ve tried to play, it’s so frustrating when you’re like, “Oh, role for this or that.” And I pick up the 20 sided dice. Cause that’s the one that I associate with D&D the most. And you’re like, no, no, no, you have to use this one or that one.
Why are there so many different ones and like, how do you remember which ones you’re supposed to use when? Cause to me it just seems completely arbitrary.
Greg: Well… so Dungeon and Dragons is what’s called a D20 game. D20 tabletop game. So the 20 sided dice is the big kahuna. That’s the one that’s going to get the most rolls. To go over how many dice.. there’s the D4, the D6…
Allie: So the number is how many sides there are on that dice.
Greg: Yes. Yes. Everyone on earth is familiar with the D6 cause we play it in so many-
Allie: -your typical, like a board game, gambling dice.
Greg: Yeah so the D4… Yeah. They call it the caltrops. Cause you don’t want to step on it. D6 is the cube. Then we have the D8, the D10, the D12, the d20, and the… we could call it the D 100, but it’s a little bit different.
Allie: That’s a sphere!
Greg: Well there’s that, but no one uses that. It’s like a modified 10 sided dice. Well, with the D100, you would take the, the 10 sided dice. Zero, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine.
And then the “D100” dice. It’s 10 sided. It has double zero, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80.
Allie: So it doesn’t have a hundred sides?
Greg: No Unless you’re- I mean, people make them for fun, but if the DM asks you to roll… they would say percentage dice or D 100 dice, you would take the D 10 and the D 100 and you would roll them both.
And you would add the two roles together. So if you got a 30 on the D100 and a nine on the D 10, it’ll be 39. However, if you got a zero on the D 10 and a 30, it would be 30. Right? And then the only way to get a hundred would be if you got a zero, zero and zero.
Allie: It wouldn’t just be zero?
Greg: No, cause there’s no zero in D&D.
Allie: That’s a positive outlook.
Greg: Yeah. So to answer your question, why are there so many dice and what do they all mean? So the D20, the reason why it’s so important and integral to the game is the… think of the D20 as the success or failure dice. Okay. Any time the DM asks for something that might result in a success or failure, like if you’re trying to climb the steep side of a cliff…
Allie: Or in combat and you take a swing at someone.
Greg: Yeah or in combat. Yeah. You swing out someone with your axe. That’s when the DM would say, okay, roll for an attack roll. That’s always a D20. Roll an athletics check. That’s a skill check. So that’s always a D20. And that is matched against either the difficulty check of the skill that the DM has set or the armor class that the monster has to hit it. So the D20 is always a success or fail dice.
What happens if you get… if you roll a 10 right in the middle?
Greg: A 10 could mean anything. If the monsters armor class is nine, you succeed. If the difficulty check was a five, you would succeed.
Allie: Those are numbers that you would add?
Greg: So you would add them to whatever modifiers that you have. So if your athletics skill, if it had a modifier of plus six, because your particular character is stronger than most and maybe they have a background where they were a soldier and so they had more proficiency in athletics.
Allie: You roll a 10. Your modifier is a six. So your roll is now 16. And if the Armour class of the creature is below 16, it’s a success. If it’s above 16, it’s –
Greg: The difficulty check. Cause you’re running a skill. The only reason armor class comes into play as if you’re attacking against something.
Allie: Yeah. That was my example that I was using.
Greg: Oh, so that’s right. Yeah. So that’s where you’re thinking. Everything: skills, attack rolls, spell attack rolls, your ability scores; all of those have modifiers.
Greg: Because they represent your character. That your character is better at certain things and not so good as others against an average person.
Allie: That’s fair because if you and I are playing, a ten roll to you would not be the same as a ten to me. Just like in real life, any opportunity that one person has is not going to mean the same thing to another person, depending on circumstances.
Greg: Yeah, if we tackled the challenge in the same way… So let’s say, for instance, climbing this cliff face.
If you had a higher strength than me, and we matched each other’s movements exactly: I climbed on the same footholds as you did and I grabbed the same outcroppings of rock as you did. Let’s say hypothetically, that represents our 10, but you are stronger. You have more “Athletics” than me. You still have a better chance of succeeding because you’re better. And also you have more room for error because you’re better.
Allie: I remember at one point we were playing and I had to roll the 20-sided dice, a d20, with another. That’s two together.
Rolling with Advantage
Allie: So when would you have to add another dice or another die to the d20?
Greg: So with the d20-
Allie: -Isn’t that the name of Eminem’s band.
Greg: No that’s D12. Sorry, Eminem.
So you would roll two d20s if the DM or a rule states that you are rolling at advantage or disadvantage. Advantage is when you roll both the twenties and you take the higher result.
Allie: You get an extra shot, you’re doubling your chances to get a better score.
Greg: Yeah. Cause maybe you’re in the Tavern and you get into an argument with an MPC at the bar.
They think you took his coin purse or something and you try and convince him… No, I didn’t, but let’s, you know, let’s calm down. Let’s discuss this over a couple of drinks and we’ll see about finding your coin person, the DM like… Hm. Yeah. This NPC is very receptive to drink. So roll that persuasion check, add advantage.
Cause you spoke to them in the way they wanted to, you know, and then disadvantage.
Allie: Could you also then roll with advantage if when you’re talking to them and you’re trying to persuade them that you did and they’re already drunk. Could you do a persuasion check with advantage since they’re already kind of wasted?
Greg: Yeah. You could do that too. So, yeah, it’s an advantage. Or even they have the flanking rule in combat where if you and one of your party members are basically double teaming a single opponent, like, you’re on one side, your party member is right behind them. You’re flanking.
So it’s like the opponent is trying to defend against two people. So you would have advantage on your attacks. To exploit the gaps in their defense, kind of.
Allie: I like that word for this: exploit. Like you’re exploiting a specific circumstance or piece of context about the situation that would put the outcome in your favor.
Greg: Yeah. If you’re climbing up with the rope, your DM might say, Oh, roll with advantage because you’re making your chances of success higher.
Allie: So that’s the case where you would roll two D20s at the same time. Is there a circumstance where-
Greg: Well, and there’s disadvantage.
Allie: Okay. So what then is disadvantage?
Oh, wait, I had another question before we go into disadvantage. What if you’re telling the player… Okay. You’re um, you’re climbing with your rope and everything. So roll two D20s for the advantage. What if both come out as like two or three.
Greg: You take them.
Allie: So then that’s just like… I’m just curious about how you as the DM would… Oh, you had a rope, but then the rope snapped and you fell to your death.
Greg: Oh, no, I mean–
Allie: Given that they had the advantage, but then something has to kind of go wrong.
Greg: Yeah. Your, palms got too sweaty–
Allie: Knees weak, mom’s spaghetti. [Laughter] Man, that’s the second Eminem reference in this episode!
Greg: Yeah, your palms got too sweaty or you grip the rope too hard and you cut – or not cut yourself, but you, yeah, you got like a rope burn or something and it surprised you, you just like let go of the rope.
Rolling with Disadvantage
Allie: Yeah, that would really suck. Okay. Yeah. So tell me about then disadvantage you roll half
Greg: a day.
No, you, you still roll both 20 sided dice, but you take the lower result.
Allie: Oh. That makes a lot more sense.
Greg: Yeah. So disadvantage might come into play where if you’re knocked onto the ground and you’re prone, any attacker within five feet of you, they have advantage on their attacks against you and you have disadvantage on your attacks against them.
So, it’s like you would need to stand up before you can just roll out a normal number or with one dice. Or if you… let’s say you’re party is trying to convince a sailor, a ship captain to let you onto their ship. But you don’t have enough money, but you’re willing to work and your party tried persuading them before and one of them lied, but they failed their deception check. Any attempts to persuade that captain after would probably be rolled with disadvantage because now the captain’s guard is up and stuff like that.
Allie: Or if you offered that same guy, a drink to talk about his coin purse, but he was like the preacher of the local church.
Allie: That’d be really funny.
Cool. Okay. So that makes a lot more sense. So are there any other like special rolls that you use for the D20?
Rolling for Initiative
Greg: Initiative. So initiative is-
Allie: Oh, that would be when everyone – I think I know this. So that’s when you’re about to go into an encounter and everyone, all the players roll. And then depending on the numbers, that’s the order in which your turns get taken.
Allie: So the person with the highest role goes, first person with the lowest role goes last.
Greg: Right. Yeah. Right.
Allie: We catched Critical Role the other day so I remember that.
Greg: Yeah. And, and, and so in some ways that’s an example of a success or failure and. In some way in that it’s like, Oh, you succeed in, you know, going from a
Allie: spectrum of
Yeah. That’s the best way actually to think of the because even if you roll that two or that three, um, when you’re trying to climb the cliff, a good DM, doesn’t always say you just succeed. Or you fail. There could be, um, a failure, but in a way you don’t expect, like, not that you, Oh, fall off the cliff, but you get tangled up in the rope.
Or like, if you roll a natural 20, which would be like a critical success, you, and you’re trying to convince a noble of something. You’re trying to persuade them the noble. Everyone has a certain threshold where, or a certain tolerance where it’s like, okay, I’m willing to give them room and board. I’m willing to feed them and stuff like that, but I’m not going to give them, you know, treasure from my treasure halt, you know?
Cause they rolled a critical success like, or. I’m not willing to divulge all of my secrets kind of thing, just because they have a silver tongue or whatever. So it’s best to think of it, um, that there is a spectrum of success and failure and that a 20 doesn’t always mean, Oh, you succeed at everything.
You win the game or, uh, one doesn’t mean, Oh, well you failed. So you, you. You fell off the cliff. It was only, it’s only 20 feet, but a dragon appeared under you and opened it. Yeah. Which some DMS. Wrong wrongfully. So done.
Allie: Would you like it makes me think of with an improv, the kind of golden rule of improv when you’re improving with another person is the yes.
And right where everything you do or say you’re supposed to set up the other person for opportunity or success. And you’re supposed to agree with everything that they’ve said to keep everything moving forward. So like, It would suck if you rolled the one on that cliff and a DM is like, Oh, well you fell to the ground and both your legs
Allie: And then you, as the player would be like, well, what do I do now? I’m this is a terrible situation. But like, yeah, if you do the thing of like, Oh, well you got really tangled up in the ropes. You have options that you can call for help, you can, Oh, do I have a dagger that I could maybe try to pull out and cut my weight?
Like you have options to be able to solve the problem that you’re in, but it’s not this like close ended. Well, sorry. You’re totally screwed because that’s what the dice say. You know? Like, I feel like I’ve heard you tell stories about playing with the kids at school and like the party ends up just two steps away from everyone, like dying.
As good DM has to like, figure out, okay, well, I don’t want to just kill the entire party because that’s the end of the game. So like how can I,
Greg: yeah, my interest isn’t in like killing the co my interest, isn’t running the game as is I spent a lot of time making my stories. I. It would suck if the party just dies and doesn’t experience it.
And it would suck for me because it’s always my time. But at the same time, if the party wants to do something really, really stupid, then I can’t help. Or if one person, if one person wants to do something really stupid, like I’m not going to punish the whole. Group. Yeah. I mean, there, there might, there’ll be serious consequences for the rest of the group.
Allie: And I feel like that’s a good lesson learned because one person does something really stupid and all the other people are at minimum inconvenience. Right? Like they feel the repercussions that’s then you have a situation where all the other players are looking at that one person of like, dude chill.
And I feel like that’s an easier way to kind of. Uh, calm down that kind of insane behavior, playing stuff. Other people are also policing them in a way, you know?
Greg: Yeah. And I mean, and this goes a little bit back to alignment where some people, some players are like, Oh, well, that’s what my character would do.
Greg: Well, they’ll like your, your character. Just cause they’re all awful good or chaotic neutral or whatever. They’re still in an adventuring party for a reason like that. That doesn’t mean you invite unwelcome attention, you know, just because you’re a rogue doesn’t mean you go around stealing from everyone.
Um, you know, if you’re a klepto maniac, then that’s one thing, but then. The group has to come together and say, okay, this person has serious problems. What are we going to do about them? Oh
Allie: God. Okay. So, so we we’ve been talking about the 25th let’s let’s look at one of the other, what? So what, what’s a circumstance in which you would roll.
Greg: Well, before we get into that, um, I think it’s important to just say that D&D is full of random chance and that’s intentional because if every, if every score was static, you know, if, Oh, I have a plus five modifier to my, to shooting a bow and arrow. Then you as the player, know every time what you are going to hit and what you’re not going to hit.
And when you do hit this thing, exactly how much damage you’re going to do or not.
Allie: Cause then it’s just plugging in formulas and there’s no inventiveness or creativeness
Allie: you have low. And then you have to like, You’re looking at the DM of like, Oh crap. Like, what are they what’s going to happen?
Greg: Right. So every, every zombie becomes the same. Every hag becomes the same. Every dragon becomes the same. So, um, the creators, they wanted to use profitability. And so. The best way to think about these excluding the D 100, because those are for very large probabilistic, um, options, um, for, for very improbable events.
That’s what the D one hundreds for. So like the, the wild magic sorcerer, for example, they have a special ability that whenever they cast a spell. They roll. Um, they roll a 20 and they roll it again to see if they, if their wild magic activates and they’re wild magic is just an assortment of random stuff and they would roll a D 100.
To to see if one of these random things happen. Like they grow a beard or they turn invisible or they teleport somewhere, or the fireball spell gets cast accidentally somewhere kind of thing. That’s where D one hundreds kind of. Fall under, usually it’s a DM thing, but sometime, so player will get it. But for, uh, for the other dice, the D 12, 10, eight, six, for those dice, um, the easiest.
The easiest scenarios to think about is with weapons because not every weapon is the same. You know, a short bow is not going to do the same amount of damage as a glaze, holding a spear with one hand. He’s not going to do the same amount of damage as holding the spear with two hands, you know, uh, holding it with one hands.
That’s a D six with two handsets, a da, um, holding a, uh, like a whip is not going to do as much damage as like a great sword. So the. It’s it’s best to think that the lower, the lower end of the dice, at least for weapons are for those like, um, quote unquote, they’re not weaker weapons there
Allie: so much range of damage.
Greg: Yeah. Per, per strike, you know, like the great weapons, like the great sword, the mall, the battleax. Those are on the higher end of the spectrum because you’re carrying them with two hands they’re up close and personal, you know, so for the great sword in the mall, that’s two D sixes. And for the battle ax, that’s a D 12.
Now why they did that?
Allie: It’s two D sixes. That’s 12. So why not just roll the D 12?
Greg: I don’t know why that was the case. Oh, what I think, because it, so balance also plays a role here. And, um, the, the, I believe it’s the half work. I believe it’s the half work that they have a special ability with battle axes that like increases the.
The number of D 12 dice that you roll kind of thing that they don’t have with like great swords Vermont’s. So I think that’s a very special case. Um, but like the whip is a D for a dagger is a D for,
Allie: so you would, so if, if we’re playing and we’re in combat, or if I’m fighting a goblin and I have a dagger.
And I want to lunge and try to stab goblin. You would tell me to roll
Greg: no, I’d say roll. Make an attack roll, which would be the .
Allie: So that would tell me the. Spectrum the level of success or failure if I’ve missed, if I hit et cetera. And then I would roll the Defour to say how much damage if I, if I succeeded, if I didn’t miss, I would roll a D four to tell me how much damage I did.
Allie: Yeah. So the, okay, so the D four, I can kind of understand. That’s like, yeah, you’re, you’re minimal attack weapon. I’m still confused about. Okay,
Greg: so we’ll get up. So, uh, the Defour yeah, it’s like the minimal attack weapons. Um, there’s a little bit of balance involved because you can throw daggers and the whip has a 10 foot reach.
Um, So it’s like you contrast that with like the short sword, which is a D six, the, if you have a 10 foot reach with a whip, you can kind of like skirmish around, um, enemies from a 10 foot range and still hit them. Whereas like a short sword, you get a little bit more into danger, but the trade-off is, you’re doing a little bit more damage.
Um, Short bow is a D six long bow is a D eight.
Allie: So these are all just the rules that the books.
Greg: Yeah. And I mean, they’re basing it on. The strength and the usefulness of the weapons in general, like a long sword is going to do far more damage. If you hit then, you know, a dagger kind of thing. Of course. Yeah.
You can kill someone with a dagger and you can kill someone with that long sword, but, um, That would be a discussion of hip points and, and what hip points actually represent. Cause you doing damage to the opponents, hip points or them doing damage to your hip points. Doesn’t really reflect them, actually hitting you.
Like if I, if, if you attack me with the long sword and you hit it doesn’t mean you cleaved into my shoulder. What it could mean is that the, the hit was, um, it was so close that I really had to. Strain myself to block it or to Dodge out of the way, like hit points. Aren’t just health, but it’s also your endurance over time.
And it’s like, if you think of it, like, yeah, you might get a, an actual hit here and there, but you’re also getting tired. And as your hip points are winding down, that’s when like a fatal strike could hit you kind of thing. You know? So it’s like the long sword, which is a da is like, Four times the length of a dagger.
So that window of the long sword possibly hitting you, those near misses is
Allie: so simply put is four years spectrum of success to failure. And then all the other ones below that are dependent on what weapon you’re using.
Greg: Right. And then, Oh, that’s so simple. Yeah. It’s very simple. So it’s simple for the weapons.
Then on the other end, you have. The classes, whenever you gain a level in a certain class, you can either choose the average amount of hip points to increase as you level, or you can roll for your hip points and depending on your class, you would have different dice. So like a barbarian, their, um, their dice is a D 12, whereas a wizard is, uh, I believe
no, it’s a D
Allie: we’re pulling out the boat,
Greg: pulling out.
Allie: This is, uh, an instance in which having, we talked, um, an episode or two ago about being familiar or looking through the player’s handbook before you play. So this is a good. Uh, if you, if you’ve decided on your class, like knowing what you’re doing, what this value is out of the player.
Greg: Yeah, I got it. Yeah. Barbarian is a D 12 wizard is a D six. Um, and then the, the other classes kind of fall in that range because if this represents your health, you know, uh, Barbarians going to be working out. They’re going to be, you know, yeah. Getting buff and Jack
Allie: and then a wizard is just, uh, a weak scrawny.
Greg: Yeah. Yeah. book flipping wizard. Um, so, so those, those hit, they call them hit dice. Those represent your characters. Um, overall constitution increase and it’s like, yeah. If, if you gain a level as a barbarian and you’re rolling and you get like a, a two and the wizard rolls a six, like, that, that’s just, that’s just how it happened.
But on average or burying is going to, um, get a higher number than the wizard. Over time. Um, but, but then this goes back to it’s a game of probability. Like what if as a barbarian, you continuously roll twelves or like 10 or more, or whatever on your hit dice, you’re going to get so much beef here. But I think what’s great is that this means you can’t really, really, there’s a certain level of planning that goes into the character creation, but you.
You can’t plan for everything. Yeah. Completely.
Allie: So much of it is luck
Greg: and chance. Yeah. And I, and I think what’s great about that is that that adds to your ability to improvise because you cannot, you can’t count on your attack doing the maximum damage every time. You know, sometimes you are going to roll that one and it’s like, yeah, that’s be needed.
Like. Two more damage to, to fall, and then they knock you out and your party has to, you know, deal with that. So it’s like you, you can’t actively plan. So that’s weapons hit dice. You also have like with healing potions, you might have like, Oh, you roll 44. Or 64, like depending on the level of the potion kind of thing, um,
Allie: you lost
Greg: me for four sided dice.
Allie: Yeah. So you roll it four times and, and then you add all those,
Greg: add them all up and, and that’s how much you heal.
Allie: Okay. Why not just roll a D 12 and a D four.
Greg: The more dice that are actually rolled the higher, the average actually is. Yeah. So if you think of it with a D for the average roll you’ll get is a 2.5.
Okay. With 2d fours, that would be five as an average. And then with 3d fours, they’ll be 7.5, right? With a D 12, your averages, 6.5. So they’re kind of skewing it into the players’ favor or the DMS favor depending, um,
Allie: healing potion. Wouldn’t just automatically have, like, I mean, I’m thinking of like a video game potion with this restores.
Greg: Excellent. Well, uh, think about, think about this. Someone needs to make the healing potion. And so the, the health potion, like let’s say it’s a potion of greater healing. Not all potions of greater healing are the same because the person that made them, maybe they, they, they didn’t add the exact amount of ingredients.
It’s like cooking, you know, like
Allie: that’s like such a level of detail.
Greg: Yeah. But it, but it’s something people don’t think about because they just see the, those dice numbers and to put to a lot of players in a, and even DMZ are just sinking. Oh, just roll 44. But it’s like, If all of those were ones, then this is some serious water down, you know, like maybe this, maybe this person is skimming off the top or something and, and maybe that’s something to investigate.
Yeah. Yeah. Or like with the great sword being 2d six versus the battleax, the battleax average dice would be a, uh, a 6.5 or is it a great sword? Would be a 7.5. I think not only with the whole half fork thing, that they have a special thing where battle or not battle axes, great axes, they have a special thing with great axes.
I also think a great sword and a mall are easier weapons to wield than a great ax. Um, cause a great sword. You have the blade going through the whole thing. Mm, through the, the, the length of the weapon, the mall is this giant hammer. So it’s like if you’re hitting something it’s getting hurt, no matter what.
Um, whereas the great acts, it’s a much smaller double blade at the top that there’s more room for missing or not, or less room, less precision. I feel in that weapon than, than the others. Um, so yeah, so like you have like healing potions in spells fireball be like roll 66 or depending on, and here’s where it gets interesting with spells.
You can cast the spell at a higher level because you have spell slots, you have level one spouse, level two spells all the way up to level nine now. A PR a character that is low level, isn’t going to have access to those higher level spells. Right. Um, But as they gain levels, the, the creators don’t want the spells that you’ve already learned to become obsolete.
So some spells you can cast at a higher level, and if those are damaged, spells your healing spells, they say, Oh, add an additional dice for each level. You hire that. You cast it, you know, or like, um, with. A, uh, like a can trip or some Eldridge glasses. It’s like the warlock can trip. It’s you fire one beam at a creature and it does one D 10 damage.
But once you reach certain levels, it adds two beams or three beams or four beams. And, um, each of those do one D 10. So it’s. You’re adding, you’re adding more dice to that single spell. what what’s great with D&D is that if how to, if how to read, if how to look at the index kind of thing, you can find all the rules and it’s.
And it’s clear. Cut. What w what makes it tricky is decision-making I feel like that’s where players get tripped up is making the decisions, but once you’ve made that decision, it’s you just follow the rules, you know, on the character sheet, it will tell you exactly what amount of dice to roll for this attack.
Allie: and it also like. I know in the games that we played. One of the things that frustrates me is like how slowed down the game gets when you have to figure out, okay, I w I want to do this. So like, what are the, what do I need to roll? And then what do I need to add to that? And like the other day, when we were watching, um, We started watching some critical role.
And then we watched the one shot with VIN diesel chef’s
Greg: kiss. Excellent.
Allie: Um, and it was just so fast. Like it was so fast paced. It was so quick, like everyone just knew exactly what to do and what to roll and had everything figured out. And like, that’s always the thing that frustrates me about playing.
It’s like, I don’t know. I don’t know what dice to roll off half of my head. And so I have to figure that out and I feel like, yeah, you’re right. Like once you, if you can like nail down the rules, like the more black and white aspects of it, like the dice, then it’s just the making the decisions. Right.
Which if you look at it in the right way, it can be really fun because you’re. You’re weighing your options.
Greg: You know,
Allie: I think strategic being sneaky, whatever.
Greg: Yeah. And I think, um, as a dungeon master for a new player, just say , unless I say something else because that is the dice roll, because it’s like, if you miss an attack, you don’t need it.
Roll those other dice.
Allie: Well, yeah, I guess you’re right. Like I w I wish somebody had said to me, , but if you, if we’re doing combat and you end up using a weapon and being successful, then we’re going to look like giving a generalized concept of one. We’re going to pull out the other dice more frequently.
Greg: Yeah, I would. I would, um,
Allie: I know at least I’m kind of prepared. Oh, that hit was successful. I know I have to roll another tie. Which one do I have to roll? Or if I only have one weapon, like say I’m using a dagger exclusively. I know.
Greg: Yeah, I, I would encourage which players to kind of arrange, like organize their dice, to like, look at your character sheet, see which.
Which attacks do I have? Which ones am I going to rely on? Most, you have your in the spot that’s most accessible. And then you organize your dice based on priority. Cause some, some players might not use a D 12 ever. You know, it just won’t come into play unless the DM ha. And events some reason, you know, but also there are special class abilities that might say, Oh, like the Bard is a perfect example.
Um, bardic inspiration. They get a number of that they can give to another player so that when they roll, like they’re, . They can add a D six to that role to potentially turn that into a success, you know, or the wizard has, um, the portent ability where it’s like at the beginning of. Um, at the beginning of a game day, you know, so you wake up, you roll, um, you roll for it and you write down, you re you, you make two rolls and you write down those numbers.
And at some point in the day, you can choose to use one of those numbers. So the rules could, because that’s part of the divination school of magic. So it’s like, you’re kind of seeing into the future sort of thing. Um, so yeah, for, for, I feel like that’s the, like, you know, one of the biggest, um, pitfalls for, for players and dice is.
You know, I think the table needs to help. The player kind of organized, like the more organization you have, the better, um, D&D beyond has taken immense steps to the point where if, if you have a character sheet on D , you can literally click on Oh, knowledge or kinda click on that. Plus four, it will roll a dice for you.
Add that for. And that is your dice, or, you know, click on that 2d six for your great sword. It will roll 2d six, add whatever modifiers to it. And that’s your role like D&D beyond has made it so simple. Um,
Allie: I was going to ask you, like, when I think of. You know, a video game, like a Skyrim or a bloodborne or something where you have lots of these.
Um, it is, it is kind of D&D ish, where you have these encounters and you’re fighting these, you go through Dungeons, you’re, you know, whatever. Um, you don’t have all this, right. You pull out a weapon and you, you just use it. And it does however much damage it does. You pull out a health potion to heal and it just works like it does it.
Hits the, the amount of increased health that it hit hits. Do you think that it is a, yeah.
Do you think that having this more complex system of like adding different things together and using different dice for different circumstances, do you think that that’s a benefit of the game considering how confusing it can be to new players? Or do you think that it is a. It’s like a hindrance.
Greg: I think, I think it’s the benefit because it, it generates this excitement.
There’s this access like, am I going to roll at 20:00 AM? Am I going to roll enough to make this a success? Is this going to be a catastrophic failure? Um, You know, when someone role, like when someone attacks with that great sword and they roll a critical hit and a critical hit. So, so in combat, I mean, so normally even outside of combat, uh, 20 is, uh, as a success, it communicates a success.
In some way, and it should be a success that is more meaningful than just, you know, rolling an 18 or whatever, but in combat with a critical hit, when you roll that, when you roll a 20, you take the number of dice that you would roll for the damage and double it. Or, um, some tables will say roll the same number of dice, add your modifiers and then just double the damage.
Right. You know? And so when you roll that critical hit, and then, you know, you roll 2d six and you get both fives or whatever, and you double that damage plus whatever modifiers and you just end up doing like 25. Yeah. It’s. Or, um, if you’re playing a Paladin, which, um, I mean, we’ll get into classes, but like a Paladin, they have a power where it’s divine smite.
They can sacrifice their spell slots to add a da to their damage. When they hit with an attack and they, depending on the level of spell slot, that’s extra da. So if they sacrifice a fifth level spell that’s five D eight that they add to their damage when they hit with an attack. So. Paladins are typically called the boss killers, because like, if you roll that critical hit and you can choose when to do the divine smite, you roll that critical hit.
Let’s say with your, your great sword, that’s 2d six, plus your damage modifier, which will probably be a plus five divine smite dropping like a third level spell that’s 3d eights on top of that. And then you double that. You’re probably going to kill that boss in one or two rounds. And it’s like, that is just an incredible feeling.
Allie: Yeah. Um, I’m like kind of being devil’s advocate here because I totally understand what you’re saying, but I’m trying to just kind of pick it, pick it apart. You get that when you, um, you know, when you’re playing something like Pokemon and you get
Greg: critical. Yeah.
Allie: You get critical hits where it’s like the there’s a, there’s a random probability of that.
Like if you don’t do anything special, but like yeah. Sometimes you do an attack and it just like goes above and beyond and it’s, you know, destroys the other person. Um, So, like, I don’t know. It just seems like couldn’t there be a way to have all of this with less complexity.
Greg: No, because I feel well. I mean, there is, I think it would just be a more boring game because I feel like more complexity means more things that you can exploit in the game.
There’s more ways to think about things because, so for example, um, I could do. My divine smite or whatever against this, this boss, or I could shove him off this cliff and do a D six or the damage for every 10 feet that they fall. You know, well, you can just make
Allie: that up and decide to do that.
Greg: No, like that’s in the game rules, like a creature will take, um, for every 10 feet they fall, it will be, uh, one D six worth of damage.
So it’s like, you can explain those things or let’s say, I don’t want to kill this person cause we need to interrogate them or we need to bring them wherever. So. Um, I’m going to use my I’m gonna use my fists instead of like my sword, you know? So it, it allows for extra creativity. You also players also feel the weight of different effects.
Like they know that. Fireball is way more powerful than acid splash because of the numerical representation of the dice. But it’s also like, Oh, Maybe maybe my, my Firebaugh had terrible aim and didn’t do as much damage, but my acid splash was like head on and I rolled like the maximum number of times.
Allie: So it makes it more, um, what’s the word I’m looking for? Spontaneous.
Greg: Yes. Spontaneous. And the DM can, the DM can take that and run with it because it’s like, Oh, they threw you through the fireball, but you, you through a little bit too, too long. And so. Where it exploded. The enemy was just at the edge of the explosion, whereas the assets flash you through right in their face, you know, cause you rule.
And so it’s like, it’s not just about. The number that you rolled, but the image that it produces. So
Allie: otherwise, otherwise you’re just kind of playing battleship right. Where it’s like, it, it, it missed.
Greg: Yeah. So it’s like if the, if the cleric does cast cure wounds on you, maybe the CLA like, and they rolled, you know, they, they got like five, you know, out of all those dice rolls.
The DM could easily say like, Oh, the, your character was very exhausted when they’re casting that spell. But then if you know, the celestial warlock comes and heals you for like 15, you know, the warlock was calm, they were meditating. They, you know, They said all the right words and stuff like that. So it’s, once you get into the mindset that you are living through a story, the numbers are just a great DM.
We’ll use those numbers as like paint on a canvas and they will paint that perfect picture of what those numbers should meet kind of thing. It’s just, um, As a new player, it’s like, you want to get all the rules. Right. But I mean, you saw me, I just pulled up the book. So yeah, I think the game is better off for its complexity.
Um, I feel like more complex games. It’s just, it’s just time you take,
Allie: so, so would you ever play a video? Say, say they read it bloodborne, but you had to roll. You have to stop and roll, like, like a D&D do you think, do you think video games would be better if they added more of a system like this, where you had to compound different factors in order to create a result rather than just, you know, being able to button mash X and those store the box?
Greg: Well, I mean, there’s. It really just depends on how fun they can make the game because, um, you know, a lot of Japanese RPGs, the, uh, the amount of damage you do, or whether or not there’s a critical hit or whether or not you hit is a random number, number generator. Um, and I mean, they still managed to make it fun.
I think as far as like, Because, so there’s like a psychological thing involved. If I had to roll dice on a video game, it would not be as fun with D&D because with D&D your physics, like you can hold the dice. He could physically roll that. Like there, you know, humans, we have this tactile need to manipulate things.
Um, whereas like in a, in a video game, um, it’s. If, if there is some other means of you had to randomly pick numbers or something like that, I would not represent that in the form of dice because I know how dice feel in real life. And I feel like it would just be weird. Yeah. Yeah. On a, on a game
Allie: with a video game.
No matter what you do. I mean, you have these open-ended like, life is strange, like, uh, Detroit, like where you can make lots of decisions and stuff like that. But at the end of the day, the game is determined. Like there are options, there are endings that are determined for you. You cannot create something brand new.
Um, whereas in, in D&D it’s like you can, there’s only a set. Potential number of outcomes. When you rolled the dice, you know, you roll a D 20, you’re only going to get between serve and 20. Um, but there’s an infinite number of possibilities as far as like what your DM is going to interpret up that.
Greg: Right. Which
Allie: I feel like to me, that’s what makes it worthwhile to have to learn all the things and take the time to do it because you’re going to get. A rabbit pulled out of a hat. Like you’re going to get something that you could not have expected versus in a video game. It’s like, okay, I know that it doesn’t, it goes back to what you’re talking about before.
Like I know that if I end up rolling this, you’d probably be able to eventually predict if I rolled this, this is what’s going to happen because that’s how software works. You know, they have to program in a response to a input. Um, so yeah, I feel like that would, and then you’re gonna end up with like, People putting those up online.
So you’d like, you could just go on Reddit and find out like, all right. If I, if I rolled this, this is what I’m going to get. And that takes all the fun out of it.
Greg: Yeah. Yeah. Or it’s like, um, well, here’s where it gets really interesting. Let’s say you’re all a natural 20, and it’s a critical hit against a werewolf with your, um, with your long sword.
And then you will, you know, You roll a da and add your modifiers or whatever, and you double the damage. And the DM says you didn’t even scratch its skin and the players, but we did, I did so much damage. And you realize that the werewolf has immunity to non silvered weapons. And so you’re taking the, again, the expectation, the, that excitement, and now you’re turning it into fear because you’re unprepared, you know, and you wouldn’t, and you know, so it’s,
Allie: I mean, it is kind of like that feeling of like, what are we watching the day where like the new dark souls game of PS five when he attacked?
Greg: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So, um, yeah, you play you that it’s another thing to play with for the DM to, to use. And I think that’s important for the game. Yeah.
Allie: Alrighty. So we’re going to go ahead and end it there. I have a much better understanding now. Thank you. Um, how the, that, like, I feel like. If we play again in the future, I’m not making any promises
Greg: next session.
Allie: If we play, I will be all more confident and I’ll be able to line up with dice properly. And now I understand where people spend a ton of money on like cute, fancy sparkly
Greg: or gold dice, like solid gold dice or.
Allie: Yeah. I’ve been looking at a lot
Allie: Instagram accounts where they’re like see through and they put like
Allie: Okay, cool. Cool. Well, thank you so much for listening to us ramble on about dice for 15 minutes. If you liked anything that we just said, or even if you didn’t and you take issue with anything we said, go ahead and leave us a review on. Whatever platform. You’re listening to this on. Please subscribe so that you get new episodes.
We are publishing a session every single Monday. If you subscribe, you’ll definitely get those. And as of this being recorded, we have a website it’s called romance podcast.com and you can get transcripts there. It’s mostly what is their first transcript? So you can also listen to the episodes, but yeah, all the transcripts are there at which, um, let me get a little easier for you to enjoy the episode.
If that’s something that you enjoy.
Greg: Yeah. We’ll we’ll play next time.
Allie: Probably not. We’re not going to play.
Greg: We don’t play.
Allie: We don’t play on this podcast.
Greg: Why are we even talking about
Allie: that so that when we do play and when other people play, it makes more sense. Okay.
Greg: It is about other people
Allie: and it’s led other people.
All right. Other people
We’ll see you next time. Bye.
Allie: So would you say someone driven by revenge is – would be, like, revenge… and like they want justice, right, for somebody. Would that be then a chaotic good or is that kind of… I would think that would be kind of like, neutral because it’s selfish.
Greg: There is where the alignment system kind of breaks down because the alignment system is assuming that people don’t change.
Welcome to Roll Mates, the DnD podcasts, where I teach my wife and you about Dungeons and Dragons. I’m Greg.
Allie: I’m Allie. Welcome to session one: our official, very first episode of all time!
Greg: We can start the campaign now, right? Well, we’re not-
Allie: –we’re not playing. We don’t play DnD in this podcast.
Greg: We don’t play, we don’t play on this podcast. You’re in the wrong podcast.
Allie: If you want to listen to people playing that you’re not in the right place.
Greg: So what do we do on this podcast?
Allie: Well, I’m going to ask you questions about DnD for you to explain to me a newbie who doesn’t really know anything about DnD. Or who knows the very basics.
So, so my question for you today, Gregory, what is alignment? I see all these memes everywhere with these alignment charts and people are chaotic and they’re lawful and all these other things. And I have a general understanding of what all of that means, but I feel like a lot of times when you see memes of things, it’s not entirely accurate.
So if I’m sitting down and I’m getting ready to create my character or I’m playing and I’ve already set my alignment, what do I need? What do I need to know? What are the actual rules about, you know, picking an alignment for your character? And then the way that, you know, the alignment for your character dictates the things that they do in the game and like how they act, how they behave, all of those sorts of things.
Greg: So the alignment system is a tool that is both a help and a hindrance to players. A DM that does their homework on alignment will come to understand the nuances of alignment. So alignment is a system by which we frame our morality and our attitudes toward society. Would you like to know what the official rule book says of alignment?
All right. So, um, page 122 of the player’s handbook.
Allie: How long is the player’s handbook? How many pages in total?
Greg: Um, so like counting the index,
Greg: Counting the index. It is 316 pages.
Allie: Oh my gosh. Yeah. So when you get ready to get to go play, like for the first time, do you have to read all that?
Greg: Um, no, not really. What’s helpful with the player’s handbook is like rules are like… it has the classes, the base classes, the base races, you know, rules on combat and, uh, spell casting and stuff like that, that the player should at least familiarize themselves a bit with those core rules.
Allie: So like read the SparkNotes.
Greg: Yeah. And actually in the player’s handbook, they do have like a SparkNotes actually in every rule book or in every book. There’s a section toward the beginning. It’s addressed at the end, but you should – players should see it too, it’s the things you need to know most.
And outside of that, you could just refer to a book if you want to go in depth and stuff like that. Okay.
Allie: So we got really off topic with the- let’s look at what it actually says about alignments.
What are alignments?
Greg: [Reading from book] A typical creature in the worlds of Dungeons and Dragons has an alignment. Which broadly describes its moral and personal attitudes.
Alignment is a combination of two factors. One identifies morality.” So that’s good, evil or neutral. And the other describes attitudes towards society and order and its lawful chaotic or neutral, thus nine distinct alignments define the possible combinations. Right.
Allie: So you can make combinations of all of those things together.
Greg: Yeah. Right. So just to roll through them. We have:
- lawful good
- neutral good
- chaotic good
- lawful neutral
- chaotic neutral
- lawful evil
- neutral evil
- chaotic evil.
If you’ve seen social media or anything on the internet, at some point, you’ll probably come across a chart of your favorite pop culture, TV show, book, or video game.
And it’ll have the characters arrayed on this chart by their “alignment”. Right.
Allie: Which I feel like are pretty handy, like quick reference, if you just want to get a general idea of like what the alignments mean. Cause they’re probably pretty handy, but they’re probably not like super accurate, right?
Greg: I mean, yeah. They’re…
Greg: To Wizards of the Coast’s credit, they’ve taken many steps at simplifying the game and the alignment system goes way back. Um, there are instances in the game where a spell or some kind of effect is dependent on an alignment. Yeah. So like, there might be a magic item, like a Holy sword that ca only be attuned by a good Cleric or Paladin or something like that. And an evil creature, if they try to use it, it will harm them or something like that. There’s a detect good and evil spell where it can detect a creature of that kind of alignment. But what alignment basically is, is it’s an easy way for players to get into the mindset of… it’s like, in addition to your characters personality, and how they view the world and make decisions.
Why are alignments helpful for players?
Greg: And I say, it’s helpful because, you know, let’s say I make a character. I make a barbarian and my barbarian is chaotic. Good. Right? I’m as a player, if I’m new to the game, I’m gonna seek to do good things, but I’m not gonna do good things because the law says they’re good. But it’s more, my own moral code is saying they’re good.
Allie: It’s a “beat of your own drum” sort of thing.
Greg: Exactly, yeah. It’s by the beat of your own drum. Whereas a lawful good character might, um, do it because this is the law and and it is this act of, you know, altruism. Like me catching a bandit is a good thing cause we don’t like bandits. But it’s also a lawful thing. But if I find out that this bandit is stealing to feed their starving brother, it might pull at my heart strings and I let them go.
Allie: Even if you’re lawful?
Greg: Well no, if I’m not a lawful character, you know, but if I’m a neutral good character who kind of, you know..
Allie: You might bend the rules a little bit.
Greg: Yeah. You’d bend the rules and stuff like that. Um, so it can be helpful, especially for new players, because when new players- they’re getting bombarded with all kinds of information. And it’s just an- especially if they’re new and they don’t have, you know, especially if they’re new to role-playing in general and they don’t have a focus, it’s helpful for them to just say, this is my alignment.
I am going to, I’m going to adhere to this and that it will be like a crutch for role-playing.
Allie: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, because I feel like it’s tough sometimes. Like I’ve experienced that with writing. Like I’m trying to write a story. To write… how would the- not how would I approach this problem, which feels very natural. But how would my character approach the problem? So like when you face, I guess when you’re playing, you’re faced with a decision, it’s kind of like a, “What Would Jesus Do,” but it’s what would a true neutral person do? Or what would a lawful good person do?
So give me, let’s look at each one.
I’m curious, like to understand, like… okay, so take lawful good. You’re talking about lawful good just now. Give me an example of like a character who would fall into the lawful good slot, or maybe like one you see frequently that could fall into that, but like maybe it doesn’t exactly…
Greg: Yeah. So a lawful good slot. It would be like Superman. Superman is lawful good because-
Allie: He’s a vigilante, vigilantes operate outside of the law.
Greg: Superman is interesting because he’s not really a vigilante. No, no. So like in the comics, people kind of expect him to show up, like, it’s not like-
Allie: Wouldn’t you say more like Captain America.
Greg: I’d say both. I think both.
Allie: Yeah it’s not really exclusive.
Greg: Yeah. I mean, okay. Let’s… DC and Marvel. We don’t to pick sides. I’m neutral on both of them. So, uh, captain America, or, you know, Superman. In Captain America’s case, he is a state sanctioned, right? Superman’s case, he’s more of a society sanctioned superhero.
Like the government had didn’t come out and just say, yeah, Superman is officially law enforcement. In The Dark Knight returns where Frank Miller tried to push the two, like Superman and Batman to their furthest extremes. Superman did become a government sanctioned like crony kind of thing.
But they’re both good examples of lawful good because they want to do the good thing. But it in accordance to what society thinks.
Allie: Yeah. So like they don’t kill people. They don’t use like excessive violence…
Greg: Right. Superman… yes, he does- everyone has their own moral code, of course. But Superman does his best to act within the limits of the law or what the law says.
Um, same as Captain America. Okay. Um-
Allie: So you just mentioned Batman. What does Batman fall?
Greg: Batman’s an interesting case. Yeah. Batman, I would say, is a neutral good character. Okay. Because he-
Allie: Are we thinking like Christopher Nolan Batman? Are we talking Adam West Batman? Like, does it matter? I feel like it kind of matters.
Greg: Kind of, yeah, because –
Allie: Adam West Batman was chaotic good. I’m sorry. And it was insane.
Greg: No, his methods were chaotic. Well, no, the, the writers were chaotic. But it does kind of matter cause the Adam West Batman, as far as I’m aware was it was.. He was kind of a state sanctioned Batman
It was like Superman where the cops are just happy to see him. Then, you know, everyone loved him in the modern comic books. Tim Burton Batman, Christopher Nolan Batman. He’s not state sanctioned. He is clearly vigilante. He like he apprehends criminals that are deemed criminals by law. Like they break crimes at society.
Allie: He doesn’t decide who he’s going to attack. Like he waits for them to commit a crime and then he goes up to them-
Greg: Yeah. But at the same time, He knows the system is corrupt. And so if he does encounter a law, that’s kind of icky he’s not really going to say, “Oh, this law says this person’s a criminal.”
No, he he’s. He, he does operate- and he’s a vigilante. He is breaking the law, doing his thing. So I would say he’s neutral good because he has his own moral compass. He’s a free agent. He acts according to that. And he makes a conscious effort to keep the spirit of the law in mind versus what the law should be.
Yeah, because his thing is not to follow the law. It’s to fix the system.
Allie: Or I would argue it’s not even that, he sees the every day- like due to his like experiences, his parents, he sees the everyday effect of violence and crime on the streets. And so he’s like… if I can pick up one criminal today, that makes the street safer.
I mean, I guess Bruce Wayne addresses the issues on a more overarching level by like, doing like the asylum and like giving money to the charities and all that kind of stuff. But Batman is like, no, I’m going to get that criminal. And I’m going to get that criminal and like… I don’t, I never saw Batman as like, “Oh, I want to fix the system!”
Greg: That’s true.
Allie: Yeah. I wanna prevent that one kid from getting murdered right now.
Greg: That’s more of his like lawyer friends. Yeah, he actually, yeah. You’re right.
Allie: Interesting question: Would you say Batman and Bruce Wayne have different alignments?
Allie: But Bruce Wayne, I would argue, is more lawful good, because he is this upright, upstanding citizen who, you know, operates within the law.
He doesn’t… he does everything like by the book, he starts businesses and charities and funds and like, does things that way. And then he turns around in his Batman who does things in a more vigilante way.
Greg: But yeah, but that’s him presenting this persona that doesn’t exist. Like his inner morality, his way of thinking about the system and viewing the system didn’t change.
It’s his presentation, you know. He’s deceiving people, but, but you are right. Um, he-
Allie: But like, if you just knew Bruce Wayne is Bruce Wayne, you didn’t know Batman, you just thought Bruce Wayne was who he was on the surface. You would say that’s a lawful good person.
Greg: I mean, he might be chaotic. He gets into parties, a Playboy and all that stuff.
Allie: So then, okay, so we have Superman, Captain America is lawful good. Batman is neutral good. Gimme a chaotic good.
Greg: Classic: Robin Hood.
Allie: Oh shit, yeah.
Greg: Easy. He steals from the rich gives the poor, like he’s breaking the law. But according to him, it’s, you know, these people are squandering- or not squandering – but these people are withholding from people who are less well off.
And this is his moral compass: That stealing, at least from the rich, is an acceptable trade-off to feeding people.
Allie: I like that a lot, because I feel like Robin hood is a very, like, single-minded… like he has one mission. He’s very focused. He’s organized. He has a team. He gets away with it all the time.
Like he’s not just this like insane person, but it has to do with like his, his decision about what rules to follow. Is he going to follow the rules on paper or is he going to follow the rules of like ethics and morality and fairness and justice and that kind of stuff. So I feel like a chaotic good person still has like, rules that govern what they do. It’s just which side of the fence those rules are on.
Greg: And I mean, if you want to like start diving into pop culture: Arya Stark is an iconic chaotic good. I mean, that girl was wild.
Allie: So would you say someone driven by revenge is, would be like… revenge and like they want justice, right? For somebody. Would that be then a chaotic good or is that, I kind of, I would think that would be kind of like neutral because it’s selfish.
Greg: This is where the alignment system kind of breaks down. Because the alignment system is assuming that people don’t change. Arya Stark, when, you know, in the first book she’s-
Allie: Yeah don’t recognize the TV show on this podcast. We don’t acknowledge that.
Greg: Season One does exist.
Allie: Well, season one is the book. They are one in the same.
Greg: So in the beginning Arya stark is, you know, all about, “I want my own castle. I want to be a knight.” Being a lady of society is just not a thing for her. She doesn’t care what’s expected of her. It’s what she wants to do.
And she wants to do good. She does want to please her parents, she wants to fit in, in a way, but she wants to fit in in her own way. So she goes out of her way to, you know, show up Bran in archery. And she wants to practice with the sword and stuff like that.
And then over the course of the series, she starts seeing stuff. And realizes that maybe, you know the world is a lot crueler than I thought and I have to harden myself up to that. She doesn’t necessarily lose that chaotic sense in her.
Allie: But so you’re saying she kind of goes from like chaotic good to chaotic neutral a little bit?
Greg: Yeah, I would say so. So, and you mentioned like vengeance. Batman is fueled by vengeance. He’s fueled by vengeance, not, not toward a specific criminal, but to like the idea of crime.
Allie: Yeah. But the difference between him and Aria is he’s like, well, my parents are dead. I can’t do anything about that, but I can help prevent other people’s parents from dying and Aria is just like, I’m going to kill the people who are mean to me. And that’s it. (Laughter)
Greg: Yes. But also in some interpretations of, of Batman, his viewpoint is… every time I stopped crime, to him, it’s the possibility of bringing his parents back in some way.
Allie: That’s messed up. That’s dark.
Greg: Yeah. I mean they’re just interpretations of him that, you know-
Allie: Like that that’s what makes it hard to put comic book characters into these things too, because a lot of these characters have existed in so many different facets.
Greg: I mean, there’s like a spectrum to their personality, but to some, the most iconic of the comic book characters, they have kind of fallen into this sort of specific ground.
How Alignments Change
Allie: I would find it really hard to “sort” and air quotes, like, like Tony stark, if you’re looking at the films.
Greg: He’s chaotic good.
Allie: Right, he is chaotic good. But I feel like closer to the end of, you know, the Avengers series, he gets a little bit less chaotic and it goes a little bit- cause he argued for those Accords and like he gets to be, maybe not fully lawful, but I feel like he starts to inch up back a little bit along this spectrum. He like settles down with Pepper.
Greg: He pushes toward neutral.
Allie: Yeah. He like kind of chills down a little bit. So yeah. I like that idea that, you know, maybe… I always liked that you could be a GriffinClaw, right? Like you could straddle Gryffindor and Ravenclaw.
So I like the idea that you could kind of straddle – or your character can straddle – two alignments.
Greg: Yeah. An that eventually becomes the crutch that starts to pull out the seams in the campaign and the role-playing when you have a player who’s lawful good. And they’re thinking, “Oh, well my character won’t do this.”
Well. Yeah, your character can, you know, because maybe your character does have a change of heart or maybe your character just can’t accept what is going on and they have to change it. And even that doesn’t just completely change your alignment. Unless it’s, you know, really egregious. But the alignments should be fluid and as you become more and more experienced in Dungeons and Dragons, you become less reliant on them.
Allie: So talk to me about like… I’ve always been confused by true neutral. Like, to me, that just sounds like, okay, you’re not, you’re not good, you’re not bad, you’re in that like neutral zone that I kind of get. But like the first neutral of like… I dunno. Give me an example of a true neutral character.
Greg: So a true neutral character is someone who doesn’t want to take sides, you know, they don’t want to get into the middle of things.
Allie: Sounds so boring. It sounds like a boring character.
Greg: Well, no, in many ways, it’s interesting because they have the most potential for growth in any direction.
Allie: I Googled true neutral, just cause I’m curious to see some examples and I want to see if you agree with them. The first one is Thanos.
Greg: No, that doesn’t make sense.
Allie: The second one, I love a lot. Ben Wyatt from Parks and Recreation.
Greg: No, no.
Allie: This one has four true neutral characters. James Bond, Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen. Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey and.. . oh, this guy from that movie that we watched…? Dr. Strangelove.
So this is saying that they are all true neutral. Do you think any of those are?
Greg: The one that I would say is true neutral out of those four is Dr. Manhattan.
Allie: Yeah, he just goes and sits on the moon and doesn’t-
Greg: do anything because he’s done with it. The thing with him is he’s turned into a being that has taken him beyond humanity and morality is meaningless to him.
Allie: He’s essentially like a God.
Greg: Yeah. Everyone is an ant to him. Whatever world events happen, don’t really matter. Um, I mean, do
Allie: How how do you play that as a character in DnD? Like, you’re in an adventure you’re supposed to be driven by something, right? You’re supposed to be driven by some desire or some goal. And you have these characters around you that you’re supposed to form like camaraderie with.
So how do you play true neutral if you don’t care about anything?
Greg: So, yeah, that’s very difficult. And it’s something that a player really needs to sit down and have a clear character concept in mind. One way of doing it, I think that is actually perfect, is Finn from Force Awakens, um, at least Finn in the… The second half of the first act.
Allie: Can this be reliable since they basically stopped writing his character after the first movie?
Greg: Yes, it can. Because in the first movie he is a character. He’s a person
Allie: And he’s true neutral?
Greg: Yes, because… so in the beginning of the movie, he’s, he’s a child soldier.
He like, he was like grown, he was bred up to be this soldier, have no emotion whatsoever. Just do the thing. But something in him, when he sees his comrade die, he’s like, I don’t like this, you know? And a lot of people point to that as that’s the first time the force has awaken in him.
Allie: The force awakens!
Greg: The force awakens! (Laughter)
Throughout much of the movie, he wants to get away.
It’s completely about survival for him. He doesn’t want to be a part of first order. He doesn’t want to be a part of the resistance. Whatever his thoughts as to who’s right, who’s wrong… Those are his actions. He doesn’t want to be a part of it. And whether or not something is… whatever circumstances he finds himself in, his driving motivation is survival and to just get out of it, remove himself from all of these circumstances.
Allie: Would you say the same thing about like Han solo, at least at the beginning of the original trilogy where he’s just like, I don’t want to be involved in any of this. I just want to do crimes and-
Greg: Han Solo’s totally chaotic.
Allie: Chaotic what, chaotic neutral? I’m talking about when you first meet him.
Greg: I mean, yeah, chaotic neutral at first. Yeah. I would say… I would still lean on chaotic good a bit because, you know, he doesn’t go out and just kill random people.
Allie: No but I think one of the appeals of Han Solo to so many people is that he is this morally gray….He will lie. He will cheat. He will steal…
Allie: He’s not going to hold to his word.
Greg: That’s the chaotic side of-
Allie: Right. But he’s like very, self-serving.
Greg: Yes, yes. That’s true.
Allie: Talking about his moral compass, at least at the beginning. And like that’s such, that’s such an important thing to think about is that, what makes stories good, when you think about the really good stories, there is almost always a change in how what alignment the person would be at the beginning and what alignment they would be at the end, right? With those really good characters.
And I think that’s why people like characters like Han Solo, because they see this kind of selfish kind of childish person. Who realizes that there is a, like a calling above him. Like he doesn’t have to have the force. He just sees like, there’s good to be done. And I have the means to do it. I can give you, like my ship and stuff. And it’s really gratifying to watch.
And I wish that Fin had had more of that…
Greg: But see, so here’s the thing. That is why Fin is a character. And we gave an example of a chaotic neutral – Han Solo – and a neutral – Fin. A lawful neutral would be Ned Stark from-
Allie: He’s not lawful good?
Greg: Oh, no. Sorry.
Allie: Ned is lawful good.
Allie: Don’t do Sean Bean like that.
Greg: So yes, yes, yes. No, he is lawful. He is lawful good. Stannis is lawful neutral.
Allie: Book Stannis.
Greg: Book Stannis is… I don’t know what he is.
Allie: Burned his child alive… something evil.
Greg: Lawful stupid.
But with Han solo and Finn.. and this is why I think neutral is so interesting because you can nudge them in any direction and when a character goes from neutral to towards good, it’s typically because they care about someone. Yeah. Like for Finn, it was Rey. For Han, it was Leia.
Allie: He cared about both.
Greg: Yeah. He cared about his friend.
Allie: But he also wanted to bone Leia. He’s like-
Greg: Totally, because in the middle of, or not in the middle, but in the beginning of Empire Strikes Back, he’s like, I got to clear my debt. I’m out of this rebellion and Leia is arguing with him about it, but then, you know, it becomes all about Leia. Yeah.
But they care about someone because at the end of the day, you know, we seek connections with people and that’s what we’re gonna go toward.
Um, I would argue in his early days, Albus Dumbledore was lawful natural. I think.
Allie: In his early- like his Grindelwald days?
Greg: Yeah, his Grindelwald days
Allie: He wanted to enslave all the muggles. That’s not lawful.
Greg: For their own. Well-
Allie: No, no, no. I disagree with that hard.
Greg: Yeah, no, no. So his thinking was that it was for their own good. I’m not saying whether the act itself-
Allie: But they were still talking about basically staging an uprising.
Like, if you look into history and look at rebellions or uprisings that were, yeah. They believed it was for the good of society. It’s still not lawful. Think of like the French Revolution or the Haitian Revolution or the American Revolution. Like they did believe it was for everyone’s own good morally, but they broke all the laws in order to do it because they wanted it to change the law. Right? So I wouldn’t argue that that was lawful at all. I would say beginning of like Sorcerer’s Stone Dumbledore was more lawful neutral because he was just teaching. Not really doing anything, not causing any trouble. He wouldn’t argue with anybody like the Ministry in each book is doing more and more stupid shit and he’s just like, I’m out of it. I’m not involved.
Greg: His early days are kind of weird.
Allie: His early days are kind of weird cause he’s like floating in the background, but it’s because he’s just kind of like letting things play out. With slight little nudges here and there, but he’s operating within the law. He’s not doing anything that is lawfully reprehensible by anyone’s definition, but he’s not like out there doing super good deeds and like, you know, fighting for whatever, he’s not even teaching teaching. He’s just sitting in his office alone with a bird and he’s not doing anything evil, obviously. So I would say more, you know, first four books before they start the Order of the Phoenix.
Allie: Maybe I would say he’s more lawful neutral then.
Greg: Well, okay. Yeah, that is, yeah. You do make a good point. So lawful neutral. Yeah. I was trying to think and so obvious to me: religious zealots.
Allie: Can you be lawful chaotic?
Greg: Not the ones that go crazy and, you know, do all kinds of crazy acts, but, ones who see their, you know, book or their tenants, their commandments, whatever
Allie: That to them is law.
Greg: That to them is law. That is how they live their life. Doesn’t matter what other people think about it. They’re not open to interpretation at all. What is written here is how it goes. That is the thing. And so-
Allie: But if they’re zealots, how are they neutral? Cause doesn’t “zealots” mean like they are kind of intense, like really intense. And like-
Greg: Well yeah you can be passionate and intense without killing someone.
Allie: Well, does the evil column of the alignment mean you’re a murderer?
Greg: Well, the evil column is more like you are acting purely in self-interest without regards to others. Aand even if, so, basically if you come to a decision that could harm others, you have no qualms about taking that.
Allie: But there are religious zealots who are into like, uh, you know, conversion, like torturing gay kids to make them straight and robbing Native Americans of their culture to make them Christians. Like that to me is a religious zealot. And that’s awful evil.
Greg: Yeah. So that is where alignments start to break down.
Allie: Okay but you use the term zealot.I think I know what you’re getting at as far as like the lawful neutral, like religion being the law, but I don’t think a zealot is a neutral person. I think that is like automatically by definition in the evil category or at least very, very, very, very close. So not a good example.
Greg: No, because Jesus Christ was a zealot.
Allie: Yeah. And he wasn’t neutral. That guy was-
Greg: He was lawful good.
Allie: –chaotic as heck.I wouldn’t say lawful because he intentionally was going against what the law of the time was.
Greg: Uh, but that’s the law of society, but not the law of his religion. So there-
Allie: But Christianity didn’t exist yet. He made all that stuff up.
Greg: But Judaism did. He’s following Judaism.
Allie: (laughter) When you forget that Jesus was actually Jewish.
Greg: And that’s the thing, he didn’t make up Christianity, his followers-
Allie: It’s based off of him.
Greg: It’s based off his teachings. So, but that’s the thing is he’s operating on two different axes that… Yes, there is that…. because here’s the thing.
To be human is to be a hypocrite. It’s that even though there are state laws, there are also other laws. And in this case would be religious laws. Now some of those are in alignment with each other. When you have a theocracy it’s in complete alignment, but then when you have a state that has certain laws and a religion that has other laws that may or may not conflict, are you going to be a pure Patriot or a pure zealot?
So that’s why a zealot can fall on any… And I mean, even the barbarian has a path of the zealot kind of thing. But it’s like, to me, a zealot is someone who is so gung-ho for whatever their belief is that they are living their life according to this.
Now, it goes back to… When we get to the good or evil part of it: Does my religion or does my law state say this? You can have lawful neutral people. I mean, the Supreme Court’s supposed to be lawful neutral, but )laughter) but it’s like, does the law say this or does the commandments say this?
Allie: Supreme Court is not supposed to be lawful good?
Greg: No, because they are, they’re supposed to say, “What does the constitution say? And what did the the framers intend for the constitution?”
Allie: They don’t make morality calls. They make… what do the books say?
Greg: They can’t make morality calls because… good morality today could be evil 30 years from now, and that can just swing back and forth and back and forth like it’s done forever. But they are supposed to be lawful neutral. If you are a… for Christianity, like just you – actually, all religions – they say you should be a good person. You should do acts of kindness. You should show compassion.
But then there are those who say, “I’m living my life according to whatever this says. Now, does that mean I kill this other person for not following this? Or does it mean I should reach out to this person because they’re not following this?”
You know, to me, zealotry has nothing to do with good and evil. I think it’s taken that way because there is extremism, there is fundamentalism.
But it’s their actions that, to me, determine good and evil.
Allie: Okay. We’re getting in like a-
Greg: Yeah, I know, philosophical. You know, learning is important.
Allie: Let’s touch on the only ones we haven’t touched on so far. We’re coming close to time, but the ones we haven’t touched on so far are the chaotic line.
So we touched on chaotic good, but we haven’t talked about chaotic neutral and chaotic evil.
So I feel like chaotic evil is just sort of like bat shit crazy. Like, the Joker is chaotic evil.
Greg: Or like most of the people in Madmax.
Allie: Yeah, yeah. Like the just crazy villainous… like absolutely no regard for other people or the law.
Like that one to me is kind of easy and I feel like, again, probably pretty hard to play as a real character. If you’re taking it seriously.
Greg: No, because… and let’s just take Madmax as a full example. Furiosa: Chaotic good. To the max. Mad Max himself: I would say chaotic neutral.
So explain to me how you can be chaotic neutral. Cause chaotic to me just is like… Yeah. Explain to me how you can be chaotic neutral.
Greg: To me, Max, he doesn’t want a part of any of this. He’s like, I want, you know, I watched my family die. I seen some shit. Yeah. And I’m just like, I don’t want to be a part of these crazy people here and these crazy people here.
I want to do my own thing. I want to, you know, I want to travel. Travel around, be in my car and just not take a side in this. And when you see him in the movie, you know, in Fury Road, he gets captured, like, he’s being used as a blood bag and to him now it’s just survival. I’m going to get out of this no matter what. When he-
Allie: So, the means by which he accomplishes that end are chaotic.
Greg: Yes. Yes.
Allie: Okay. That makes a lot of sense.
Greg: And I mean, to be fair, that whole movie, it’s hard to think of a lawful person there.
Allie: Is that a good formula of like… if you are chaotic neutral, what you want is fairly neutral. But the means that you use to accomplish what you want is chaotic.
So like, if you are lawful good, you want to do good. And the means by which you choose to accomplish that are lawful.
Greg: Yeah. So you’re not breaking into that house.
Allie: I found the formula!
Greg: Yeah. You’re not, you’re not breaking into that house. No, I’m trying to think of… so you want to do good, right? Oh, well we just saw Bob’s Burgers.
Allie: Yeah we just watched some Bob’s Burgers.
Greg: The kids, they messed up and they were trying to get their dad a part.
Allie: For the grill.
Greg: Yeah so they tracked down the part and they’re like, Oh man, like if we just get the part.
Allie: They were going to steal it by breaking a window.
Greg: Yeah. Break a window, steal it, leave a note.
Allie: Spoilers for Bob’s Burgers.
Greg: Yeah, I know. (Laughter) Say we’re borrowing it for a day and then we’ll pay for it later. They’re trying to do good. It’s chaotic. They’re breaking the law to do it.
Allie: But it’s very Robin Hood-y.
Greg: Yeah. But a lawful character wouldn’t do that. So, yeah, chaotic means you are going to break into a house to get a-
Greg: It’s your means to achieving an end. So, uh, let’s go all the way to evil.
Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic Evil
Allie: Great. So yeah, I missed that one. So we didn’t talk about lawful evil.
Greg: We didn’t talk about lawful evil or chaotic evil, or neutral evil. And the reason why players are discouraged from being evil is because it ruins the party dynamic. Because at the end of the day-
Allie: Cause we should say too, like, the alignments are not just for players. They’re also for like, NPCs and other creatures and stuff, right?
Greg: Yeah. It’s for the non-player characters, creatures have them. So like, you know, there are good aligned dragons. Some of them, like the gold dragon, is lawful good. The copper dragon is chaotic good. But then there’s also evil aligned dragons.
You know? So a chaotic evil character is just going to go nuts. They’re going to go on murder sprees. They’re going to be like the Joker in Batman of course, or Harley Quinn. They don’t care. I mean, most criminals you see…. It doesn’t even have to fall into violence, but they’ll be like chaotic evil. In DnD demons are chaotic evil.
On the other side, devils are lawful evil. Devils in the nine Hells, there is a strict hierarchy.
Allie: That reminds me of, I don’t think you watched…. I watched The Good Place last year. I don’t think you really watched much of it with me, but that makes me think of like in the Bad Place you have all these, basically demons, but it’s this huge bureaucracy. So that’s what makes me like, yeah, they were very lawful evil because they like used copiers and printer machines and fax machines, but they were evil demons in hell. (Laughter)
Greg: Actually that’s, that’s great because the places that some of these beings inhabit are indicative of the alignment. So like the abyss where the demons are is just a chaotic warping… Yeah. Like the landscape changes and the layers realign themselves. And it’s just crazy. And the demons… when they make an incursion into the material plane it’s describing like an infection.
Allie: So the material plane is like, like where we would be.
Greg: Where we would be. Yeah. Yeah. The nine Hells, there are nine layers of Hells. There’s a whole hierarchy you have… You have the Dukes. The Dukes like the arch devils. And you have ranks of devils. And in the Blood War, which is the war between the devils and the demons.
I mean, the demons come out, they’re monstrous, just like destroying things left and right. The devils are regimented, you know, like they had their bat battalions and their legions and their… It is orderly. And so lawful evil characters or villains, they believe they can bring order to this universe.
So Thanos? Lawful evil. Because his reasoning, in the Marvel universe, in the movies, his reasoning is there’s way too many people. It’s a struggle for resources. This is too chaotic, so I’m going to cut everything in half so that everyone has an equal-
Allie: Spoilers for Avengers, by the way. (Laughter)
Greg: Oh, well if you haven’t seen it… Well, I don’t know what to do for you.
Same with Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine or when Darth Vader… When Darth Vader tells Luke, “I’m your father” he’s like, join me and together we can bring order to the galaxy. The Sith-
Allie: But do the Sith really want to bring order? I thought they were just a bunch of like horny emotional babies.
Greg: Well, no, because think of it- think about what their end goal was.
Allie: Oh my God, I just upset any like Star Wars stans listening right now. (Laughter)
Greg: But look at what their goal was. It was to overthrow the Republic and replace it with an Empire. Basically a lawful evil character wants to upset the current order and create their own… like they want to rule over everything. Sauron wants to rule over everything.
Allie: I guess that’s where I keep kind of getting stuck is like, when I think of lawful, I want to think of like… good laws.
Greg: You want to think of good laws.
Allie: But no throwing and ruling over other people. So would you say that Hitler…?
Greg: Lawfully evil.
Greg: Tyrants. That’s where tyrants, dictators, that’s where they come from. Like Stalin. I mean, he kind of makes his own laws, but, that is lawful evil. Now neutral evil might be a serial killer. Because they’re not just running around, just like randomly killing people.
Allie: It’s based on like their own personal individual desires.
Greg: Yeah. They’re very selective. And that’s a key thing with lawful and chaotic. You’re kind of, “Oh, the law, or my personal law is saying this, I’m going to do this.” Chaotic: I’m doing whatever. I’m doing whatever means necessary to achieve this. Neutral is… I want to achieve it in my own way. And that could change, you know, every now and then.
Allie: So real question. This is the most important question.
The Mandalorian. Would you say…? My argument is that he started the show as true neutral. And he, now that he has a son… A biological natural born son. He is moving to neutral good. Because he cares about baby Yoda and he wants what’s best for him.
And so in like season two (spoilers for The Mandalorian) he’s doing all these good deeds, saving people, like liberating people, delivering fish babies, doing all this good shit because he cares about his son.
Greg: Well, I would say… I would say he’s actually in the beginning lawful neutral. And the reason is he-
Allie: But bounty hunters… is that under the law?
That’s not under the law. That’s very, very under the table.
Greg: The bounty hunting isn’t. But…. “This is the way.”
Allie: Oh, by the law of his society, damn. Okay.
Greg: He’s sticking to the Mandalorian code. Because even when he’s bounty hunting, as soon as he sees bescar… He’s like, give me that bescar. Where did you get that armor?
You know, I’m setting aside whatever my bounty is right now to return what is mine back to my people.
Allie: He has a higher lawful code.
Greg: Yeah. He has a higher code than that. So lawful neutral for sure. In the beginning, moving toward… you know he did questionable things. Yeah. And he still does questionable things. That’s why alignment is whatever.
Allie: Not super questionable. I mean, even when he was bounty hunting, it wasn’t like killing people, bounty hunting. He would put them in a kryptonite. What the hell is that thing called?
Greg: (laughter) Carbonite?
Allie: Carbonite? Thank you. Oh God, I’m upsetting everybody. He puts them in kryptonite and like takes them to wherever it is that they get to go. So it was, it was actually very like kind of chill the way he would do it.
Greg: Yeah. Okay.
Allie: Cool. Well, we got to… so we touched on all nine.
Greg: Yeah we did. I think with the various, I mean, I think each alignment could have its own episode…. maybe we can revisit that.
Allie: Yeah, I think so.
Greg: Actually, we should, at least in regards to role play.
Allie: How bout this? If you liked this episode, if you like this conversation, you should leave us a review, let us know what you thought. And in that review, let us know what we should talk about. What questions should I ask Greg? Do you want us to dive deeper into one of the alignments? Do you take issue with one of Greg’s decisions about who is what?
We want to hear what you think. We want to hear that. And if you leave a review that lets us know that you’re listening and you’re picking up what we’re putting down and you want us to make more of these.
Did you have a good time?
Greg: Yeah, I feel neutral good about it.
Allie: Oh my God. I’m going to divorce you.
Greg: That’s a chaotic decision.
Allie: Yeah. What you just said makes me feel chaotic. It’s okay. I forgive you already. So. We will see you all in session two!
Greg: Yeah. Next step of our campaign.
Allie: Not a real campaign, we’re not playing now. It’s not a real campaign. Okay. But maybe another time, not on the podcast
Greg: Okay. Okay.
Welcome to Roll Mates!
Greg: Welcome to Roll Mates, the podcast where I teach my wife and you about Dungeons and Dragons. I’m Greg.
Allie: And I’m Allie, welcome to our very first ever episode.
Greg: Number one!
Allie: Number one!
Greg: This is awesome!
Allie: This is so cool. So in this episode, we are just going to kind of talk about:
- what you can expect from this podcast series
- some trigger warnings maybe for what we’re going to talk about
- what we might mention
- shat we’re interested in, like what we’re excited to talk about together
- and maybe our history a little bit, with D&D, and why we like it, and why we decided to start this podcast. Right?
Greg: Oh, so this is like a Session Zero, for real.
Allie: What is that?
What is a Session Zero?
Greg: Well, you have the DM, right? And the players.
Greg: DM for Dungeon Master. You could just pick up the books and make your characters and all that stuff and get started. But over time, it’s become a practice to run a Session 0, which may or may not have actual play involved. It’s when the dungeon master and the players get together and it’s where the dungeon master basically sets the tone for the campaign that he or she or they are going to run.
Allie: Cool. That’s exactly what this is. Sets the tone.
Greg: That’s important because it makes it clear what everyone’s getting into. And a lot of the things that you listed are things that they go over because not everyone gets into D and D for the same reason.
Allie: Yeah. That’s so cool. So it’s kind of like if somebody is new to D and D the session zero is a good chance for them to ask questions and figure out exactly what they need to know in order to play and actually have a good time and be successful at it.
Greg: Yeah, exactly. A good party and a good DM help the new players as they go, because it is easier to get into the game or learn the game while you’re playing, instead of just getting bombarded with all this information. But everyone, when they approach session zero, whether they’re new players or experienced players, they’re all on the same playing field coming in because they don’t really know what the campaign is about. They don’t know what kind of adventure they’re going to have. They don’t know the DM’s style. Of course, if they’ve played with the DM before then they might be familiar, but you never know if the DM wants to change things up and stuff like that. And so that’s the DM’s chance to let them know all that information.
So typically, everyone gets together. It’s not just about the game itself, but that’s where they decide logistics: how often they’re going to meet, who’s going to bring food, who’s going to host or if they’re going to meet at a game shop or something like that. They discuss trigger warnings because some DMs might have children die in their game and some people are just not into that.
Some DMs- there could be visceral descriptions of violence-
Allie: Nasty stuff-
Greg: -Yeah, yeah. Nasty stuff, as you say.
Allie: I don’t like nasty stuff- (laughs)
Greg: -And all that falls under the sun. I would say most D and D players and DMs don’t. Want to take their games to the extreme in terms of content. But there are some who do that and it’s best to just make that known first.
What you can expect from this podcast
Allie: First let’s just talk about like what to expect. What are we going to talk about? What can people expect from this series? In the car the other day, we just happened to devolve into this conversation about Dungeons and Dragons. I don’t know-
Greg: -As we do-
Allie: -Yeah, we do frequently. I don’t know what started it this time, but-
Greg: -uh, I think it was-
Allie: -we were talking about charisma.
Greg: Yeah. Intelligence, charisma and wisdom.
Allie: We were like listening to a whole different podcast. We started talking about that and it was like this 30 minute long conversation where you were explaining to me. The mechanics of the game, which I find really fun. I like learning from you about the game. I don’t really like playing Dungeons and Dragons. It’s just not for me. It’s not my bag, but I think on an intellectual level of like talking about the way the game works and the way that you can think about the different components, I find really interesting.
And so we were like- which I feel like a lot of people that’s how a podcast gets started, right? People are having a conversation. They’re think, “I bet other people would find this interesting.” So I thought it would be really cool and we thought it would be really cool and we should record this and put it out there because I’m sure there are other people who are interested in this facet of the game.
Right. But also maybe beginners. I still think of myself as a beginner because I haven’t I’ve played what, twice with you?
Allie: And on two different occasions. And they were basically one shots.
Greg: Well, the first time you made it to the character creation.
Allie: I got frustrated or bored or I don’t know-
Greg: I think frustrated.
We thought there would be other people who would be interested in learning from somebody like you, who you are an experienced dungeon master. How many times do you think you’ve DM’d games? How many sessions under your belt? A lot.
Greg’s experience with DnD
Greg: Oh yeah, a lot.
Allie: You played with friends since you were in like high school, right? You would play with friends. Um, so like, I would say 15 years you’ve been playing on and off.
Greg: Um, 50?
Allie: Games? 50 sessions. And then, you teach Dungeons and Dragons to a degree. So explain what, what, how that works and how you got into that.
Greg: My experience with D&D didn’t even start with D&D, it was a star Wars version of a 20 sided dice game. Basically my friends pitched it as D&D but Star Wars. And that’s basically what it was. You had the classes and the races, butof course, Star Wars has trillions more races.
But that’s what got me in. We played two separate campaigns. One of them, we were all paranoid about each other, which is the worst thing a party you can be-
Allie: -Paranoid, like mistrusted each other?
Greg: Exactly. Our characters all had secret pasts. And we just didn’t trust each other, unless two of the party members already knew each other. We came together throughout the course of the campaign, but it did end with some frustrations. Then the second time, it was a Sith campaign. So of course, we’re backstabbing each other and writing secret messages to the DM.
Allie: Yeah, full disclosure: that’s typically not the way that you’re supposed to play D&D. You’re supposed to play in a collaborative way with other people.
Greg: Yes, typically. That’s where a session zero is very important.
Allie: Yeah. No one is trying to win here. You’re not trying to win over the other people. You’re just trying to get through the story and solve problems.
Greg: From there, I discovered a Game of Thrones RPG, role-playing game. I ran that for a time and it was just a problem because this is pre-COVID. As a group we’re spread out across the United States. So the-
Allie: -Like your college friends?
Greg: Yeah. The technological infrastructure wasn’t really there, so it kind of fell apart.
But when I really started DMing was at the school. My friend over there… he wanted to start a D&D club at the school. And now it’s become-
Allie: -So you’re a teacher-
Allie: I don’t think we said that you teach. You used to co-teach at the time. Was it fifth graders? Was it fourth grade at the time?
Greg: time, it was fourth grade.
Allie: So one of your other teacher friends-
Greg: -Yeah, he was in the upper grades. He, I, and another started the D&D club and then another teacher joined in and some upper school kids joined in. And that (laughs)
Allie: It was wildly successful.
Greg: Yeah, it was. It was successful in some ways and crazy and others.
It was successful in that it generated a lot of interests amongst the kids. It changed the kids because of course with Dungeons and Dragons, you know, it’s a nerdy game for nerdy people. And not just nerdy people. It’s a game for everyone. If they know what they’re getting into; because like I said, people approach the game for different reasons.
And at the end of the day, it’s a game. People like games.
Allie: But it’s a very immersive game. If you look at someone and say, “Oh, they’re a nerd,” typically that’s a person who has become very passionate about a specific thing, right? And usually it’s like pop culture, media sort of stuff.
That’s what we think of: like a Star Wars or Harry Potter nerd or whatever. But I feel like D&D is good for that nerdy type of person because they understand what it means to completely immerse yourself in all of the details.
Greg: Right and nerds come in all shapes and sizes. But even with pop culture nerds, they can fall under a whole umbrella, of course, and D&D is the fantasy genre. I’d argue that the most popular genres tend to be, in no particular order: fantasy, romance, horror, and crime or mystery. I think because they have tropes that everyone is familiar with. Everyone is familiar with the boogeyman, or vampires, for better or for worse. Everyone’s familiar with Dungeons and Dragons.
Allie: What’s cool about D&D too is that you could take all those things that you just said and put them in a D&D campaign. You can have horror D&D campaigns. You have, um, what was the other stuff you said? (Laughs)
Greg: You have in the game. You could run a game of intrigued or-
Allie: -Crime, that was the other one.
Greg: Right, you could have something like an urban fantasy, you could have high fantasy or epic fantasy where it’s like-
Allie: -Lord of The Rings style.
Greg: Yeah. But to the nth degree for super nerds. The great thing with D&D is that it attracts all these people whose approach to fantasy and role play come from many different angles. It allows for many different ways of expressing oneself. So for the kids, this was a great outlet for them to pursue that expression.
But even through that pursuit, they became more assertive and more confident and not afraid to just be themselves kind of thing. When we all sit down at a table, like you said, it’s not a competitive thing. That is one thing about D&D, is if you’re coming at it from a competitive angle-
Allie: -You’re going to ruin it for everybody and yourself.
Greg: Yeah, exactly. And that’s the most important thing. Well, not the most important… Ruining it for everyone is the most important, but you will ruin it for yourself because you are creating unrealistic expectations.
Allie: And school is so competitive these days as it is.
I’m sure it was nice for them at the end of the day to sit down and do something completely creative where, while there are rules, it’s not as rigid a game like sports are. If you go afterschool and play sports, you’re kind of going to a drill sergeant basically and getting tortured. So you’re sitting down and playing a game where there are rules, but you can kind of do whatever you want. That must be super freeing for those kids.
Greg: Yeah and interesting because there are rules but the books continue to state that they’re not set in stone.
The DM can take the rules and insert their own creative freedom. If they decide a rule isn’t working for either their style or for the game, or if they’re running a pre-made campaign module and they decide that a section or a story point of the campaign isn’t really working, they don’t have to run it as is.
That is very freeing but it also sets up an interesting social dynamic because you come into the game and you have many different kinds of players. You have some players who are really shy and don’t. They don’t want to step on people’s toes. They don’t want to look like they don’t know what they’re doing. They don’t want-
Allie: -like afraid of role-playing or looking silly.
Greg: Yeah. They might be afraid of roleplaying, looking silly. Then you’ll have other players who want to be the star of the show or be the leader of the party or they want to show off that their character is so powerful in combat because on paper they-
Allie: -I mean, we have adult friends who do that.
Greg: Oh yeah, it’s everywhere. There are merits, but it’s like in acting where… By the way, I want to just say this podcast isn’t just for people who want to play D&D, but it’s for people who want to get better at improv or who want to design their own games.
People who want to see social dynamics of groups of strangers or groups of friends and how the roleplaying changes that. Because what you are in real life might be different in the game, especially if you’re playing different from yourself.
The format of the show
Allie: Yeah, we’re going to talk about all of those things. We haven’t really talked fully about like the format of the show, but basically, I have a whole list of questions about specific facets of the game or general facets of the game. And every episode, I’m just going to start by asking Greg a question like, “What are things people should know about role-playing?” or like dispelling that fear, that like discomfort with role-playing and like “What makes a good DM versus a bad DM?”
I know in at least one of the games that I played with you, we had a moment where you set up an environment and we just were kind of like, “Okay, I guess we’ll just sit down.”
How do you get past those moments where your players are just-
Greg: don’t know- (laughs)
Allie: -Just don’t know at all what to do. There’s so many concepts and things to talk about that we talk about on our own. We end up talking about going into all of these kind of psychological and philosophical topics about how people play, how people play games, how people think about problem solving, and all of these deeper kind of concepts.
I’m really interested in learning about all of those sub level things. I’m really interested in sociology and psychology and why people are the way that they are and why different people approach different things the way that they do. I think it would be so cool to have a study about what you can learn from someone based on the way that they played Dungeons and Dragons.
What can you learn about somebodies inner-self based on the class they pick, the race they pick, the attributes they choose, how they move through the game, how they collaborate with other people. You have to think that it’s informative in some way.
So it’s almost like a giant inkblot test. What do they see when they look into this world of possibility and they can reinvent themselves however they want. I’m interested in all of that sort of stuff. I feel that even though you know a lot about the game, in our conversations that we’ve had in the past I feel like you kind of dig up concepts or ideas that you’d never really thought of before, prior to talking it through. So what kind of things are you interested in digging deeper into and learning more about?
Greg: There’s so many. (laughs)
What Greg wants to explore
I like exploring the connections between world-building and how players process and interact with the dungeon master’s world and, in some ways, the player’s own world building. Because they’re creating not only the story, but they’re creating their own character.
And even if they just create a bare bones character that has no backstory, over time, that backstory could develop through the course of the game. Some players might come in with a heavy backstory, which both have their merits and have their drawbacks. But where they thought their character was going to go might not be where they end up. I’m really interested in the aspects of, of world building. As a creative person, that’s what I liked. That’s why I DM more than I play. I love playing because then I can be creative in my problem solving.
Allie: This is creativity in a different way.
Greg: Yeah, exactly. On the DM side, you think, “how can you be creative at creating problems?” On the player side, you think, “how can you be creative at solving problems?” I do like the creative side of D&D. Yeah. I also like the psychological side in the sense of how I can challenge players or how I can challenge other people’s perceptions of the game or of what they know. At the end of the day, you are playing a story and it can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. But to get players to keep coming back, you want to hit the hallmarks of great stories. You want it to be surprising. You want it to have some kind of message or moral argument or something.
You want to put those players into the shoes of those who have to make the decisions. That’s always a fascinating thing. When you get to know your players over time, then you know what buttons to push and how to challenge them. I’m, I’m also very curious about the mechanical interactions with the flavor of the game and how the mechanics weaves with the story. So, you have a charisma score, but what does that mean for your character? What does that signify or not signify? You have hit points. I know to some of you this might be gobbledegook.. What do those hip points actually represent because people have their own conceptions from video games as to what hit points are. There’s a difference between D&D and a video game, there’s the theater of the mind and wrapping your head around a conceptual thing versus watching it unfold on screen.
Allie: All the things you’re talking about…. It’s like all of these specific rules can be interpreted differently. This means that, it doesn’t mean that, or if you decide to be this class or this race, these are your limitations on your character, you have certain limitations, you have certain skills or bonuses or whatever.
There’s a shape that you’re in and you can play within that shape. And it’s really interesting to me how that shape, how you can be flexible, I guess, with that shape. They say you need to know the rules before you can break them, right? You need to master them before you can break them.
With D&D it’s really interesting how all of these designed pieces come together. Like how you use dice and what that means for what you can and cannot do in a game. If you roll a “1” you’re very limited with what you can and can’t do next. But you can be super creative about what happens next, you know what I mean? Or the DM can at least like, be creative. I’ve seen you take pity on people that roll really low and you think “I’m not going to have this thing kill the entire party because reasonably that’s what would happen. So I’m going to be creative and try and figure out a way for them to get out of this.”
Even though by the rules of the game, they should all be dead. That’s really fascinating to me. (Laughs)
Greg: Wizards of the Coast, which publish Dungeon and Dragons and Magic, the Gathering. They really make an effort to say that these are not rules that are set in stone. They are more “guidelines.” If the player rolls a 1, you don’t have to make up a catastrophic failure. You can make a failure that could potentially lead to another success, you know? Or if they roll a 20… By the definition of the rules, they should be successful, but that doesn’t mean-
Allie: -They win the entire encounter.
Greg: Right they don’t have to completely succeed, whatever it is they’re trying to achieve. There is a spectrum of success to failure because life isn’t just, “Oh yeah, I completely succeeded in starting up my business and it’s doing really well.”
Exactly. So it is very interpretive on both sides.
Some trigger warnings for the show
Allie: Yeah. So before we wrap up, we’ll briefly touch on trigger warnings. We will probably curse, but what we’ll do is put advisory warnings at the beginning of each episode, that there’s strong language in that episode.
Just in case we have young folk who would like to listen, we’ll have that advisory up there. I don’t think we’re going to get into any sensitive subject matter or, you know, intense anything really intense. If we do for some reason, we will put an advisory warning at the beginning of the episode and in the episode description.
But I think at the most, you can expect to some cuss words.
Greg: think, I don’t think we’ll get too deep into the sensitive. Only if there’s some education involved.
Allie: Cause we might have an episode about, “should you or should you not have really sensitive material in your campaign?”
Greg: Right, because this is educational and this is a conversation. These do crop up at tables and some tables struggle with these things. A player or a dungeon master might try to be edgy or something like that and they might not know how to… It’s very easy to write this stuff down and plan it out.
But as I’ve discovered over the years, things do not go as planned and it could make or break a table. Sensitive subjects will be addressed, but I don’t think we’re going to get in the nitty gritty.
Allie: We’re not going to beat it over the head and I’ll make sure to let you guys know what’s coming and when.
I think that wraps up our session zero. I feel prepared. Do you feel prepared?
Allie: Good. Cool. Alrighty. We’ll copy things off there and we’ll see you in the next session.
Greg: Yes. Session one. Where we actually play?
Allie: No, no, no. We’re not going to play.
Greg: Oh, we’re not playing in this podcast.
Allie: No, we’re not playing in this podcast.
Greg: That’s what you can expect.
Allie: Yeah. Nope. No actual playing just lots and lots of talking.
Allie: Okay. Bye!