Today's blog won't be too long I'm afraid, I'm mid-way in exams!
However, I am still blogging today! Hurrah! I was browsing the web when I stumbled upon a little gem which I thought might help my readers whenever they write up their adventures.

The software is called Masterplan. It enables DMs to actively write a story, prepare encounters and even design the maps themselves. I've played around with it for about 20 minutes today and it's absolutely fantastic. I'll break it down a bit so you can understand it a bit easier:
Writing the plot:
The plot is obviously the biggest part in any D&D game. No plot means no story and therefore no adventure to go on! There are the exceptions of those dungeon crawling types where you just smash monsters in each room and find treasure with no goal in mind (aside from possibly exploring the whole place).
However, this piece of software enables DMs to write a plot but not just as a chunk of text...oh no, but actually as seperate plot points that you can link to each other. This enables the DM to break down the main story into digestable elements for the player, and also allows to maybe pop some side quests in there as well.
The plot writing aspect of the software can help DMs keep track of where they are within the main plot and can type notes of character's actions etc without having to fumble around for pieces of paper or looking up the place to type it in a word document. A very useful tool.

You can create maps using this software. You can download additional tiles from other places, however after looking around I couldn't find any (any help would be great with this! Leave a comment if you find anything!). The tiles can easily be dragged and dropped to a large grid and can easily be connected together to create a dungeon. Tiles include dungeon floor, water and doors just to name a few of them. Once you've created your dungeon you can save it and load it back whenever you wish.

Encounters can also be created. You can create traps, hazards, skill checks or combat encounters. The nifty thing is, it works out the Encounter Level (how hard the encounter will be) so you can assess how hard or easy it will be for your players to over come. This applys to all encounters you can create. I played around mainly with making a monster encounter and realised there is a grey bar at the bottom that fills up the more difficult it becomes and provides an encounter level. Very useful if you want to mix and match some of the monsters. On top of this, if you have made a map you can also drag your monsters to their starting positions in your dungeon!
Regards to combat encounters, you can add the players onto the map and then run the combat how you would. The software automatically rolls for initiatives for the monsters, you just have to fill in the players and place them on the board. Then, it orders the initiative for you and you can move the monsters/players around the board for the combat. I thought this was a brilliant part of the system, but I didn't find an in-built dice roller? However, you don't want to completely take away the player experience, they have to do something to be involved...which leads me to a final point...
Player view
The software assumes you will hook up the computer to a monitor or another laptop/related device that the players can look at. This enables the DM, from his computer/laptop to display to the players what their characters can see. The DM simply clicks on "Player View" and this enables the players to see where their characters are in relation to all the monsters. You can include cool features such as "fog of war" or "line of sight" which shows only what the character can see within the dungeon. An absolutely fantastic addition to the software!

Concluding thoughts
All in all I am very impressed with this software. It can be a bit confusing at first and muddle your mind up a bit but once you have the basics it will be able to save so much time for a DM when he prepares. With already pre-made monsters, the DM doesn't have to fumble around the Monster Manual to look for a goblin when he has the stats right in front of him. If you're a D&D insider you can apparently download tiles and monsters from there. But apparently you can get them for free if you search on the internet...but anyone can contribute here if you like! The fact you can show the maps and encounters on another screen I thought was absolutely fantastic, and best of all, it's free.

Yes, FREE: Get it here!

Anyone used this software? What did they think? What about those extra tiles and monsters...did anyone find anywhere else you can download them?
This was seen to be a big issue. Those geeks in the 1980s that were locked down in the basement with their 3 manuals battling goblins and finding treasure were seen as sinners. Why? Well before I explore that issue, I stumbled across a comic on the internet which I thought was first of all ment to be a comical can be found here but I've played it below for your convinence:
D&D was seen as evil and sinful because it was associated with witchcraft and occultism. They assume that players would attempt to cast real spells like they would with their character in the game. Or the player could join a cult in real life after being influenced by the game. The figurines and the stories apparently are associated with evil, they represent evil and the bible teaches to keep away from all evils. The manuals apparently contain "authentic magical rituals" which could be re-enacted in real life and associated with Satan (the devil). The game blurs the boundaries about what is right or wrong, as alot of a character's actions in D&D are usually justified somehow but not seen as right and wrong completely. Also, the fact that a character can choose to follow several deities at once shudders the foundations of Christianity -- They believe an individual most follow one God.

But what are the effects of playing such an evil game?
Individuals have apparently performed rituals or acted out fantasy moments in the game by sacrificing their own friends. The game enables demons to possess an individual and to do bad things. The demon tricks them and enters thoughts in their minds to do these things. The website mainly reports people who were in their teens who have performed such terrible deeds. The most interesting one to me that was reported was how an 18-year-old girl was murdered by two friends that she played D&D with frequently. The killers were also heavily into D & D. The victim was bound and gagged and died by strangulation. It sends shivers down my spine as it reminds me of the cruelty of human nature. The game desentises indiviuals which enables to perform such cruel deeds coldly without thought.

Maybe D&D is evil...I have to admit I've only played 3.5 and a bit of 4th and 3rd edition but were the first few issues of D&D very demonic and voilent? Did they involve alot of demons? Rituals? Killings? You think that maybe D&D has toned down alot over the issues published?

I can understand how people can be worried about the effects of D&D on their children and themselves, it does, at it's core (aside from role-playing) involve alot of combat and killing. The most creative DMs have the ability to creatively guide the players on very disturbing stories. Even if the Christian view (well...the hardcore Christians) that D&D is evil and you don't believe it, don't you think that's telling us something?
One of the worst things that can happen in a D&D game. The players get bored, but what should you do as a DM?

There are a few signs of boredom that plays display and you, as the DM, should look out for. The signs described below are also useful for everyday life, if you're chatting to a friend or chatting up someone you like, you should look out for these signs and react appropriately by changing the subject of conversation.

The signs to look out for:

The player is looking around a lot -- He or she is looking at everything else but the board game. Everything in the room suddenly becomes more interesting then the game at hand. The behaviour can be amplified if there are distractions in the room such as a radio and TV playing in the background. The player is very bored if they keep looking at the door as well. Whenever the player performs this behaviour, it is as if to say "I want to exit from this situation, because I am bored".

Hand to the cheek gesture -- You maybe aware of this one. Whenever a player has his cheek in his hand, then it displays boredom. The more the face is resting on the hand, the more bored they are. Usually the gesture starts with hand on the chin, and then gradually the hand moves to the should realise they are bored when they have fallen asleep!

Having a "half-arsed" attitude -- Being "half-arsed" means only putting half the effort in. When the player is asked to do something such as rolling the dice or role playing they may perform the action lazily. They can't be bothered playing the game anymore.

The problem is, because we humans are empathic, we tend to mimic other people's behaviour. In other words...when one person is bored, it's most likely other people will be bored too! Have you ever seen someone yawn, only to yawn yourself? That's a form of empathy. So it's important to remedy that bored player as soon as possible before it spreads to the other players, and even you! But how does one do that? Well there are some tips for that as well, just below:

Take a break -- Probably one of the best tips out there. Regardless of any activities we do, we need a break at some point! Even if we are doing something we enjoy we still need to take a break because we get tired. We change activities so our mind can think differently about things. Have you ever had a really hard math problem, only to dwell on it for an hour...then you take a mini-break and then realise how to answer it? This is the idea I'm getting at. Take a break, do anything else apart from the game for 10 minutes, don't even talk about it!

Rearrange the game -- Yup, nothing is stopping you from re-arranging the game...yes it can be frustrating because you spent hours preparing the adventure but on the other hand you don't need to do any preparation for when your group meets up next! I think this should be a last resort.

Change the pace -- Yup, you could be going too slowly and some players would like you to speed up to get on with the story. On the other hand you could be going fast and you could have some players lost...then again it's better to be confused then to be bored!

Have a sudden change in story -- This sometimes does work and doesn't work, it depends on how bored the players are. Just have a subtle change like 3 goblins suddenly jump out of a bush and attack, a bar fight suddenly occurs or a tumble of rocks suddenly rush towards the players (which could knock one or two off the edge and some of the players could have to save them!).

So try and counter boredom as soon as possible, as this can spread to other players and make it a boring experience for everyone. If you are in doubt if the players are bored then you should ask them to react accordingly. If the players are continually bored, then maybe you should change the story or maybe look for a new set of players.

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I just recently stumbled across this video.

How cool does this look! Imagine how interactive games would need for boards, but apparently you still need the miniatures. It would probably take less time for the DM to prepare as he can drag elements into the game quickly and easily. It's like a giant iPhone with a stupidly big application. I like it, but I think I would probably spill my drink all over it to be honest...

It would probably bring the younger generation in but maybe scare away the older audiences to have such an intimidating piece of machinery, it looks huge and you can't really shift it a couple of inches like you can the TV when it has a massive sun glare on it.

However, it looks fun, poking a screen instead of poking a keyboard seems the way forward. Also, if you have a couple of thousands lying around, over £8,000, then you might as well give it a try. Are you suprised it's from Micro$oft? The money grabbers?
Ever considered this question? Are miniatures really worth it? What about the paper ones, can they pull off the same magical effect of telling a story? What about using the imagination?

Miniatures, you know, the plastic figurines that can be plonked on the board anywhere. The hero figure which looks like it's face has been sat on by an ogre, or that really cool red dragon that takes up an epic 2x2 tile space only to be taken by your younger sister to be involved in a carefree tea party, where teddy bears have ears missing. Speaking to my group they say it enhances their experience, they enjoy it more and provides clarity of what's happening. That's an almost indirect way of saying...yeah I have no imagination...sorry DM! They are nice to look at and they do add a nice touch to your Dungeons and Dragon's game but it does add the cost up a bit...lets say I've spent over £50 on figurines so far *bites tounge* eeep! There's also the annoying case that you want to get something to represent a hill giant...only to find that a small gnome figurine (well I think it was) does the trick!

Then there's the paper version...or just have cut outs of the characters and monsters and you can just whack them on the board. It's basically a 2d version of the 3d figurines explained above a.k.a. crappier (Well depending on your drawing skills, and it would be funny to have a Mona Lisa floating around the board). If you don't have the right one, you can easily quickly create one within minutes and add it to your collection. Obviously a cheaper option compared to above.

Finally...there are those hardcore players. Yeah, the lets-use-our-imagination group who use more brain power and get their creative juices following to keep up with the plot. Combat can be a bit complicated...From my experience the combat was random, the monsters kept changing targets every round and I wasn't allowed to flank (Well, suppose that's a good thing, considering I was playing a wizard). However, visualising what was going seemed more magical then just staring at some blobs of plastic on a board. This seems to be the cheapest and quickest method for setting a story.

So, what do you guys think? Are figurines worth it? Should people be more imaginative with their games? Are they fun to use? Leave a comment below!