An illustration from the 3.5e players handbook, showing 3 fighters in leather armor and wielding swords seeming to charge into battle. Next to them are the words "Advice Lookback" in large font.

Over the last couple of years, Divinations from the Collective has attempted to bring good information about boardgames, DnD, and other tabletop RPGs in our articles. This has included, of course, some places where our opinions contradict that of the general community. Sometimes it’s just the jokes, but it can also be the genuine advice that we tend to give to each other.

In each section of this article, you’ll find some of our more unique takes, a brief explanation, and a link to the longer (and more complete) article about each one.

 

Alignment Can Be a Useful Tool

The "Using Alignment" header. It shows an aasimar woman in golden armor with red hair and wings, flying upward and wielding a boadsword

Alignment is probably the most-often discarded mechanics in Dungeons and Dragons, for a few reasons. Most of them are pretty good, too.  The alignment chart can sometimes be confusing. What exactly “good”, “evil”, “chaotic”, and “lawful” mean might differ between campaigns and DMs, compounding that confusion. And rules as they are written sometimes associate a single alignment for an entire species, which when interpreted as being hard-and-fast for every member instead of the general culture/behavior can be pretty problematic.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that alignment is a bad mechanic, just a complicated one.

For one thing, it’s useful for hack-and-slash campaigns where you don’t want to bother with moral quandaries or sapient enemies. For another, a sufficiently well-thought set of definitions for the alignment chart clarifies any confusion and applies a pretty reasonable outline of behavior, rather than a restrictive one. It can also be used to control unruly or disruptive behavior in your group and add to the storytelling.

You can read the full article, with all out thoughts, here: Using Alignment for More Than Just Character Description (d20collective.com)

 

Combat XP Leveling Makes Perfect Sense

The header image from the "Case for Combat" article. It shows a man in armor, in front of an ocean background, staring dramatically into the distance, with the title of the article to the right of the image

Another often discarded mechanic in DnD is that of leveling with combat XP. I often see advice-givers deriding it in favor of checkpoint leveling (where players level at a predetermined point in the story, rather than earning enough XP to level by fighting things).

Checkpoint leveling is a lot easier on the DM. It keeps you from having to calculate the XP, and control exactly when your players reach their next level, preventing them from getting too powerful too fast. But plenty of groups prefer the freedom to grind XP and level when they feel an upcoming boss might be too powerful. And rewarding engagement with the story (which often means combat) is hardly something to deride.

Furthermore, I often see the argument that combat XP leveling doesn’t make sense from a worldbuilding perspective. That argument is shaky at best, for a number of reasons (that I explained more fully in the original article). Instead, giving XP for encounters (combat, social, and survival) probably makes the most sense, and gives the most freedom to your players.

You can read the full article, with all out thoughts, here: The Case for Combat (or Encounter) XP Leveling in DnD (d20collective.com)

 

 

Celebrity DM Advice Should Be Largely Ignored

An illustration of a "Combat Trapsmith" used in the Combat XP article. it shows a man with a short beard and hair in leather armor, kneeling with a hand on the ground

Part and parcel to the above opinion is the direct refutation of advice given by very respected celebrity DMs. Arguing against it can be controversial, of course, just for that reason, but it shouldn’t be. In fact, if a DM is known for running a webshow, liveplay, podcast, or otherwise streamed game, their advice should be taken with a grain of salt.

Not because they’re a bad DM. On the contrary, they’re great! Their players are clearly having a lot of fun, enjoying the story and the high production values that most games couldn’t even dream of. But you must remember, so are their viewers. Any DM who has an audience is, by nature of their job, writing for that audience as well as their party. This means that they have to run a very particular kind of game, in which the overall experience of watching the story, with its narrative arcs and emotional impact, has to be the focus of the campaign.

Home games don’t have to be like that – they often suffer for attempts to make them so. Your group might prefer something more strategic, survival, or combat focused than campaign. And even if they do want a narrative storytelling style game, you’re still going to want to consider adding elements that might not be fun to watch but are fun to engage with in the moment. There’s a lot of fun to be found there, after all.

You can read the full article, with all out thoughts, here: The Case for Combat (or Encounter) XP Leveling in DnD (d20collective.com)

 

 

Human Fighters Aren’t Boring

An illustration of various humans from a 3.5e sourcebook. It was used as a header in the "In Defense of Human Fighters" article

We’ve all had a good laugh about the unique race-class combinations that people can come up with in DnD, and about the lack of them. And nothing is less unique, more “boring”, than a human fighter. I often hear players deride the choice, saying that they don’t understand why anyone would choose something so dull when there are so many more fun choices available. As in the rest of this article, I disagree.

First, not everyone wants to play a “main character”. Attention-grabbing builds are great, especially for players who want to tell an epic tale, but not everyone wants that. Sometimes, they want a simple, grounded, and versatile character that can be useful to the problem-solving and strategy that they want to engage with. For various reasons, both ‘human’ and ‘fighter’ have almost always made great options for that.

Second, a human fighter can be interesting! It’s one of the easiest combinations for a player to relate and feel connected to. Even if the player doesn’t care about the functionality of the build, some people do feel fully confident making an interesting character without an “exotic” species and skillset.

You can read the full article, with all out thoughts, here: In Defense of Human Fighters - Why D&Ds Most 'Boring' Class-Race Combo (d20collective.com)

 

 

 

 

Do you agree with any of our controversial opinions about Dungeons and Dragons? Do you disagree? We’d love to hear what you think, and why, in the comments below!

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