What’s the Crock Pot? Just a simmering bowl of lentils and herbs, with a dash of DMing observations. Don’t be afraid to dip in your ladle and stir, or throw in something from your own spice rack.
I finally picked up the Fourth Edition DM’s screen. (I was waiting for that perfect confluence of events: store coupon, item in stock and cash on hand). You know the screen I’m talking about, the one that supposed to be durable enough to repel dice attacks from dissatisfied players.
Well, I can’t yet attest to the “duck’n’cover” quality of the screen – though it certainly seems durable enough. (One never knows for certain about these things until you’ve actually told a player he’s failed a saving throw, and dodged the requisite response).
Before this, I’ve had to rely on my heavy cardstock AC2 D&D Combat Shield and Mini-Adventure (please note, the word “shield” is actually used in its descriptor – just to prove that dice throwing is not a new sport). It’s brown and has an Easley cover of a troll, an owlbear and a plant monster on the front.
The cover on the new screen is pleasing enough. My 5-year-old son was very excited to see his favorite monster – umber hulk – depicted. (Why does my 5-year-old even know what an umber hulk is, you ask? The short answer: D&D Miniatures.) For myself, I’m just happy it’s of an underground scene. (It’s both Dungeons and Dragons, you know.)
Charts upon charts
The reason for a DM screen is the display of charts.Â Here’s where DM screens and I have parted company in the past. Either the needed charts weren’t included – or there was little logic in how the charts are arranged. A good screen has what you need at your fingertips. If you’re back to thumbing through DM’s Guide too often, it’s a sure bet the screen is deficient.
I was pleased to see that the target DCs chart was prominent in the center screen. Good placement. Very useable.
Whaddya mean it’s wrong?
So, of course, as soon as I had spent my hard-earned money, it was pointed out that the target DCs in the DMG were wrong. Wrong? How could they be wrong, I ask. They’ve been updated in the errata, I was told.
Errata … for target DCs? Let me guess, I said, they made things easier for low level characters. Why yes they did, I was told. How’d you guess?
Does anyone else just ignore this stuff?
Look, I’ll be honest, for the most part, I ignore errata.* If the game is that broken, the designers should’ve gotten it right from the start. Otherwise, just play through the hiccups. Besides, 4E was a game years in development, it underwent a thorough playtesting (well, Wizards said it did) and there is errata right off the bat?
Moreover, I’ve never felt like pasting updated material into my books (and I’m certainly not gluing something onto my brand-spanking new DM screen). Honestly, my sense of order requires they not be cluttered by stray sheets of paper, even if I have plenty of Aileen’s Tacky Glue and liquid paper handy. Knowing whether a monster’s strength should be read as a 14 instead of a 15 never struck me as all that important.
If a book like Rules Compendium makes the polymorph rules clarified, and I happen to have such a book in hand, that’s one thing. But I’m not going to make myself crazy trying to keep up with all the updates.
So, gentle readers of Gnome Stew: Do you bother with errata? Do you make a meticulous downloading of these updates, then provide them to your players so that everyone is on the same sticky note. Or do you hand-wave it?
Or is your approach somewhere in between? Is some errata judged to be more important than other? Where do you draw the line? Should players be expected to stay up on this themselves? Are there some situtations you know will come up often in your game, so you’ve paid attention to that errata, leaving the rest to fend for itself.
Just thinking about this, makes me want to throw some dice at a DM screen.
I am a bit more respectful of the 4e errata than I was in 3.5. By the time I even knew there was errata it was late 2006-2007. I was fairly entrenched in my own way of playing by then. The 4e ruleset hasn’t completely solidifed for me. Plus the 4e errata improved on some things that I had already come across and seen as needing fixing: skill challenges, stealth rules, and a couple wizard powers. I’ve done the math on the new suggested DCs, and they seem a bit low. As in, if you’ve got a trained skill under your best ability score, you can barely fail a medium DC check with it. It would be nice if they spent a little more text on the process of setting up encounters that work whether players fail or not, rather than simply insuring that players never fail. So I probably won’t be using the new DCs. The Jump spell being a free action(rather than move) I can get behind, since the power was virtually useless before the errata.
Since I don’t do 4e, I can’t comment on the errata there but let’s look at your questions.
Short answer is that sometimes I use errata. It really depends on the errata. If the errata is major, I’ll likely use it. Sometimes the errata is due to a printing mistake. In that case you are sort of forced to use the errata. Some errata is just plan useless, they try to clarify things that don’t need to be clarified. If the game system in question, has too much errata, I’m likely to just toss the game in the trashcan. If I do use errata, I do provide them to the players. Of course this brings up a side issue, if the players are aware of errata that I’m not aware of, I will likely only review the errata outside of normal gameplay. (I rather keep the game moving than try to determine the correct rules). Still, I don’t expect players to keep up with the errata. Most hardcore gamers will but those less hardcore will likely not. I think we tend to pay attention to the errata that deals with situations that come up when we play. All other errata is just kind of pushed off.
I use errata if I know about it… otherwise it’s tricky to use it…
i’ll read through the errata pages, but unless a particular change is major and clearly needed, i tend to ignore them.
Errata is annoying and unfortunately a major issue with WotC products. That said, I use errata wholeheartedly, especially when it fixes a glaring error or provides greater clarification on a specific implementation of a rule.
It would be nice and wonderful if errata wasn’t needed, but it isn’t realistic to expect zero errata in a product. Some clarifications are bound to be needed once the game is played for any length of time. Designers make mistakes that aren’t always apparent during extended playtesting.
I would like to see the errata remain as small as possible, because I certainly feel the frustrations of having to keep track of it. I’m just glad they release errata though, for it is better to get fixes and clarifications rather than be left hanging over unclear or controversial rules issues.
Question: Has using an updated rule originally as it was written resulted in any happy accidents in your game — thus proving the errata was unnecessary in the first place?
I rarely use errata for D&D. I find that the game becomes much less fun when you have 20 pages of errata floating around to keep track of.
However, with a game actively under development (specifically my pet game-system project), yes, I use the errata. But then again, virtually every session is a playtest.
@Troy E. Taylor – As far as I can recall, I’ve never had a broken or misunderstood rule create a happy accident in games, which proved that errata was unnecessary in the first place.
I have had many occassions where the errata showed that a change or clarification was neccessary. The errata helped improve the game or our understanding of how a particular rule was supposed to be applied.
I’ve usually thought, “Yeah, I thought that needed a fix or clarification,” rather than thinking, “Why did they need to errata that?”
Some of the errata from the PHB clarify stuff we were wondering about – such as moving through a Guardian of the Faith’s space. A lot of other stuff looks like it’s just in there to keep power gamers from going out of control – things like Hunter’s Quarry and Sneak Attack only working once per round, no matter what.
I wish I’d checked the MM errata a little sooner. My players were wondering why some random rats were so overpowered, and why had all gotten so sick from the bites.
I almost never bother with errata. If a player wants to look something up then bring it to my attention, I’ll consider using that piece if I think it really enhances the game. Usually, no one says anything anyway, and it’s almost always easier to use the rules in the book along with any house rules we find appropriate, rather than trying to stay up to date on any rules changes that come out.
Of course, I also feel like errata for tabletop games are like patches for PC or video games. All of these are things I feel are overused, so I tend to ignore them unless they’re absolutely necessary to improve the experience of the game. Otherwise, I’d rather stick to the same ruleset than learn new rules whenever they get changed.
Historically, I use errata. I haven’t downloaded the 4E errata yet, so I really can’t speak to it.
Once my group found out about the errata, we used it. It really hasn’t been an issue.
Simple method for tracking errata: Print the errata sheets, fold them in half, and stick them in the back of the book. If you have to use a post-it note to hold them in place, fine. Then go through the book with a few of the very small post-it notes, and place them directly over the changes. Write “Errata” on them as you go. This way, you know what’s changed, and have the sheets right there with you.
(Post-it notes may discolor some paper. But seriously, how important is it that your rulebooks remain absolutely virginal?)
Here’s how I decided to track errata in my 4th-edition books. (I have everything except Dungeon Delve, and plan on keeping all of them up-to-date.)
I printed out the errata PDFs, and trimmed off about an inch from the margins of every page. This makes them small enough for me to store them in the front of the book, between the dark pages facing the cover.
Next, I got a pack of little circle stickers (about $6 at Office Depot, has about 500 stickers). Next to each item that is altered in the errata, I placed a sticker, picking colors that stand out against the background (if any).
First time one of my players spotted one of the stickers in the PH, he immediately figured out it was a flag for the errata stuck in the front of the book.
@HeroForge – Interesting idea. It sounds like you’re very organized. Good for you!