Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Dungeon Master: Bad Endings and Outcomes

Players try their best to change the worlds they play in. However, that may not always lead to the results they expect. This is a bit of a difficult topic though. While this makes sense, players don't often like seeing their actions lead to ruin. The question that remains is how do we handle it then? How do we handle bad outcomes and bad endings? This piece is the results of my thoughts on the matter.

Is It A Problem?

The first question that comes up as a result of this line of thinking is whether or not a bad ending is something that is inherently a bad thing. When I say that, I mean an ending where the players don't quite accomplish what they set out to do. They fell short. They may have made great changes that in the long run make all the difference, but it might not feel like enough. Again, like I've said so many times before, I think this will depend heavily on your group. Having a deserved bad ending could very well be what players expect and want. It's the other side of being able to influence the world they are playing in. However, in these situations the actions of players still influence the ending. It's just that the result is far from desirable. On the other hand, some players would prefer that they fell short of their victory instead of actively resulting in a worse situation. What this means can vary greatly as well. It could be that by failing their goal things lead to a bad outcome but they were close to accomplishing it, or it could mean that the outcome, while better than where things started, was less than what they had hoped to achieve.

Earned Outcome

Regardless of the outcome that results, it needs to feel earned. This is quite the nebulous term, just like what a bad ending really is, and what feels earned will depend on your group. In some circumstances and in some groups, a “good ending” may seem too far fetched. They are expecting something bitter sweet. Others might expect that if they do things right and try hard enough, they'll still be able to pull off a perfect ending. It also depends on the kind of campaign you are running. Having an ending that breaks the tone cultivated through the rest of the campaign probably won't feel earned. It's really more of an art than a science like many elements of tabletop gaming.

Still Leaving Their Mark

I've touched on this idea lightly, but I also feel it needs to be addressed directly. Just because things didn't go as planned doesn't mean that the players didn't leave a mark on the story. In fact, if you are playing a tabletop game and the players didn't leave a mark on the events of the campaign in some way, I'd be very surprised. It's in the nature of collaborative story telling that players will shape events no matter how hard you try to plan things. Even if things lead to disaster it should be the player's disaster. Simply leading to the same disaster probably won't be satisfying.

The Classic Bitter Sweet

The safest approach for a “bad ending” is to aim for a bitter sweet one. The players still influenced events and lead to outcomes, but didn't get everything that they wanted. This involves letting players leave their mark, but also letting them succeed to some extent. It's that combination of failure and success that tends to make this kind of ending palatable and often seeming like the most realistic outcome of events. Not every ending will require this, of course, but when talking about bad endings it's one type that deserves to be mentioned specifically.

The Importance of Consequence

All of this feeds back into the idea of consequences for actions. The players acted. This leads to results. These results lead to the ending. If they have failed, that ending will be a bad one. The specifics and the means by which this chain gets created leaves a lot of freedom, but maintaining this chain in some way is generally a good idea. The next campaign could be trying to clean up the mistakes of their previous characters, or it could be tackling the same campaign knowing their previous faults. There are a lot of things that can happen here. However, the idea that leads us to this point, forces us to thinking about this topic, and makes bad endings a viable way to end a campaign is consequence. And these consequences should be earned and shaped by the players.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

DRAGONLOCK Ultimate: Dungeon Separate Walls Review

Review copy courtesy of Fat Dragon Games.

  • Variety of wall components provided allow for all kinds of corners and attachments
  • Can be used with the other sets in order to fill holes and define different kinds of areas
  • Easy to print and I had no issues with warping
  • Results in a good fit when used with the Dragon Bite V3 clips
  • Allows for very versatile layouts that would take multiple sets using the previous Fat Dragon method (narrow hallways, wide rooms, etc.) if you commit to the new design
  • Includes instructions complete with images and recommended settings. You don't realize how badly you miss these things until you don't have them

Could Go Either Way
  • Instead of the 1/2 square borders that the other sets had for wall pieces, this set results in no such border when linked to a floor piece. If you didn't like the old system this is great. If you did like that extra border in order to allow space for parts of miniatures that poke outside their base size, you might not like this.
  • Combing this set with the sample set allows you almost every kind of room layout you could ever want. However, when combined with the sample wall you'll have one side that has a 1/2 square border and another that does not. The difference in layout can be useful and allow for more variety, but some would like it more consistent. Personally, I like the extra option.
  • There are no alternate floor pieces included. One of the big advantage to this kind of system is that you can replace floors without needing to spend filament on brand new walls too. An alternate smooth floor would've just pushed the value over the top (this is a bit of a nitpick)
DRAGONLOCK Seperate Walls
Corner piece made from the pieces included in the set. As you can see, it lacks the 1/2 square outer edge. Still looks nice though.


At this point it should come as no surprise that I like terrain and tiles. While I am perfectly capable of playing using theatre of mind, I tend to prefer the precision that tiles give. There is no confusion about where things are when you lay down some awesome looking tiles and miniatures on the table. And with my recent acquisition of a 3D printer as well as look at 3D printable terrain, it should also come as no surprise that I've been itching for some 3D printed terrain. That's where the DRAGONLOCK Ultimate: Dungeon Separate Walls set comes in. In general I think it's a very good set and quite versatile, but let's jump straight into it. My apologies for my less than stellar pictures in advance.

The four non-diagonal wall pieces. I use them to make a corner piece further down.

Printer Settings

Everything here was printed with a 0.4mm nozzle. The door itself was printed at 100 microns but everything else was done at 150. One thing I have to give the sets that Fat Dragon make is that they always have complete instructions complete with images.

What's Included

The set you get here is rather complete. You get a square base, and a triangle base to attach the walls to. The walls themselves are interesting. There is a every size of wall you could want in order to add walls to the perimeter of your tiles. This is done by creating 4 different sizes of walls that can be attached by the DRAGONLOCK system. On top of that, there is a door piece that prints in 3 parts, a 1/2 square edge (though this doesn't help to recreate the old style as a result of geometry and that only one side has a connector slot), and a wall that print in 2 parts. This allows you to switch the tops of the walls and by doing so decide if you want pegs or not. This was a rather nice addition and surprise, though I tend to prefer the single piece variants at this point.

Sounds like a good diversity of pieces, right? There are also diagonal walls included as well, which I think are best seen to be understood. They are a nice additional and I'm glad they are included, though they are more niche in their application.

As mentioned earlier, one of the big advantages of this kind of design is that it easily lets you swap out the design of the floor while using the same walls or vice-versa. As a result, it would have been nice to have one alternate design that would have had a smoother look to the stone. If it had that, it would leave me with few complaints. It was probably unreasonable to expect such a thing, but would've really pushed the value over the edge.

DRAGONLOCK Ultimate: Seperate Walls door
Pretty nice looking door piece, isn't it? Being able to put these where-ever you want is rather useful and I'd say that the ability to do so is one of the most powerful parts of these kinds of sets. It fit together rather nicely.


If you've seen the sample set, you know what to expect here. It is very much in the same style. One thing I've commented on in the past is that I really like the texture of the terrain that Fat Dragon make. That positive is very much kept here. Don't expect much from the base 2x2 piece though, as it appears to be the same as the one from the sample set. I wouldn't hold it against them as it's convenient and I don't expect them to go to the trouble of making minor changes to it, especially when it already looked good. The wall pieces, however, do seem to be different from the walls used in the other tiles. The layout of the bricks is different and I like the difference compared to the wall pieces from the sample set, though I also have to admit that it could have been closer to one of the sets that I don't have.

I would suggest taking a look at the sample set. While it isn't exactly the same, it gives a very close impression of what you'd be getting. It can also be used with the walls in this set. I'm a big proponent for trying something before buying if you can as it often gives the best impression.


One of the concerns that I immediately have with these kinds of tiles is the connections. The way the tiles connect together is rather important for any 3D terrain. At the very least you don't want it to shift as players move their minis around the tiles. And naturally, as you have and more connections, things tend to get more wobbly. That's just how things are. One solid piece is more stable than the same sized piece made with connectors. The V3 connectors result in rather close connections and while there is small amount of wobble, the way that the clips wrap around a post inside the tile means that there is very little change of the pieces separating unless you apply significant force to do so. Put another way, while they might wobble a bit they won't detach. The walls don't connect to each other in this design: they instead connect to the base. When places on the table the wobble is far less noticeable as well, though still more than the previous design. To really understand what I mean you really should print out a couple of pieces and try it but I doubt it would bother many people. It's really rather impressively solid. 

Ease of Printing

I found these tiles very easy to print. I had quite a few problems printing other separate wall sets because they would lift and warp. These, however, had no such problems. Not a single one I printed experienced lifting or warping despite how much less surface area they have compared to the old style found in the sample set. Good job Fat Dragon. I'm impressed and like this very much. It wouldn't have been much of an issue if it required a brim, and if you find that you aren't as lucky as me you may want to use one, but it is rather convenient that I didn't need one. It doesn't take very long to remove a brim but it can add up with many models and it's just nice to not need to deal with it.


The great thing about these walls is that they can be used to enhance designs mainly created by the other tile sets as well as being used on their own. This typically takes the form of thinner alcoves or walling off areas to make smaller but more interesting layouts. You could make similar layouts without the walls, but they would result in larger tile layouts or needing more sets. The versatility gained from this is very nice. I took a look through the other sets and besides the starter sets, I think this would be one of the sets I would naturally gravitate to first. However, you get the most benefit from it if you decide to completely embrace the new style and don't mix it with the previous system. This is less than ideal if you have many of the previous sets. In those cases, you'll find yourself using it to supplement what you already have. It's still useful in this way and allows for improvising if you don't have enough pieces as well as different layouts. It's just not as useful and easy compared to completely embracing the new style. 

DRAGONLOCK Seperate Walls
Corner piece made from the pieces included in the set. As you can see, it lacks the 1/2 square outer edge. Still looks nice though.
DRAGONLOCK Seperate Walls with Classic
What can happen when not carefully mixing the two styles of tiles. It can be avoided but requires planning or completely embracing the new style. Of course, there are use cases where you might want something like this as well. These pieces are linked together using the DRAGONBITE clip.


The set costs $8.99 USD here. It's not a bad price due to the versatility I think, but some might like to have more tiles in a set or to wait on sale. As always this is one of the more subjective parts of a review and I hope what I've said so far helps you reads make a choice you are happy with.


I think it's worth mentioning that Fat Dragon have a newsletter, and they give out free 3D models every now and then. The last one was a 3D printable crate. Use this knowledge as you will but I felt it was worth mentioning. It's a good way to keep up to date with their work and see some samples if you are interested. 


In the past, DRAGONLOCK tiles used a different system of locking. I've been informed that they all now use the DRAGONBITE locking system, so they should all be easily compatible with each other from that perspective. Locking system incompatibility can definitely be a concern so it's good to know that you can just pick out the sets you like instead of also doing your homework on what kind of locking system they use.


It's a good set and allows for many different layouts. When combined with the sample set, it allows for a large number of different layouts to be created. The advantages of separate walls help extend the usefulness of this set and probably makes it the most powerful set Fat Dragon made. It allows you to do in a few pieces what it would previously take multiple sets to do. Long narrow hallways? Easy. Hideaways from 3 walls? Also easy. And if you prefer to make layouts without the 1/2 square gaps found in the normal Fat Dragon tiles but love the appearance, you'll be happy with this set. The best results are felt when completely committing to the new design. However, you can still get a surprising amount of mileage through combing these new walls with other sets. This leaves few reasons to avoid this set, in my opinion, unless you'd prefer the classic design where the wall is incorporated into the tile, you'd prefer a different and more specialized set, or you like a different brand of tiles.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Compilation For New Players and Campaigns

It's the start to a brand new year. What better time to start a campaign? You've never run a campaign before or maybe even played a tabletop session before? That's fine too. You have to start sometime and somewhere. Alright, there isn't a bad time to start a new campaign but it can be quite challenge at first. I really do recommend it though. It's something special, it involves interaction and your imagination is the limit. No need to wait for an expansion or something. You've got a grand adventure waiting next session. I also realized that by now I've written quite a bit on the topic. Some of it is more helpful than others but I thought this would be a good time to compile everything into one spot for those of us who are getting into it for the first time.

Which System?

I'd personally recommend grabbing the basic rules for the current edition of D&D and running with it. There is enough there for different kinds of characters, your Dungeon Master can come up with new feats or abilities to expand things farther, and it's rather nicely streamlined in my opinion while still having complexity. Go get it here (http://dnd.wizards.com/articles/features/basicrules). You can also get more monsters and everything else in the SRD(http://dnd.wizards.com/articles/features/systems-reference-document-srd).

First Adventure

Well, it depends what you like. I've been using the adventure Death House as an introduction adventure for a little bit. It's quite a deadly adventure so you might want to adjust it a little bit for a new players. You can also run straight into Curse of Strahd afterwards. It's a bit harder to coherently run it into something else but you can use the event to gain some group's adventure (maybe an adventurer's guild?) which can run into your own campaign. It's just not as clean this way. It's also a pretty good place to steal some elements such as encounters, ideas and maps.

My Own Work

As I mentioned earlier, I've had the chance to write quite a bit of stuff over the years I've been writing for this blog. Those of you who read it, thank you for the attention. I hope you got something out of it. Out of those, I believe the following are probably the most useful to new players:
Don't take them as the law. They are meant to inspire and help you. Also feel free to have a look around. Maybe you'll find something else you'll like.

Small Words of Advice

There are a few things I want to say to those of you who are getting into tabletop role-playing or running campaigns for the first time.
  • Do what's fun for both your players and yourself
  • Know what your players like
  • Remember, the rules are there to assist you. If they hinder you, you can play by ear instead
  • Have a general, very high level idea of what you do and what will happen without player involvement. Then let your players mix it up.