My Favorite Blogs: Points of Light
Occasionally I post about certain blogs on my blogroll. By no means do I intend to suggest that other blogs are better than the rest. Rather, these posts are about blogs that I follow for reasons I can clearly articulate to myself. Simply put: They’re being written about because I know how to say what I like about them.
Today I’m going to talk about Points of Light, which is written primarily by David Guyll with contributions from Victor Hurtado and Josh Sorensen. Their focus is squarely upon 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, though it’s fairly obvious that Guyll and his friends have experience with several editions of D&D as well as games like Rifts and Shadowrun. Guyll writes the majority of the posts, the bulk of which are reviews of third-party products for 4th Edition, supplemental material from D&D Insider and of course the various dead tree form products released by Wizards of the Coast.
The writing at Points of Light is very natural and easy to read which translates to a very unguarded style that is remarkably free of pretention and self-consciousness. This works very well when the blog turns its attention towards the widespread criticisms against 4th Edition and develops well honed counter arguments against them. Guyll doesn’t try to insist that other people’s preferences for other systems are invalid, even when he’s saying things like, “I got tired of Pathfinder back when it was called 3rd Edition.”
Instead Guyll and his friends have a clearly defined notion of what constitutes fun and how certain design conventions that we’ve grown accustomed to – such as Save or Die effects and challenges which single out classes that have exclusive access to specific skills or spells – are counter intuitive to their definition of fun; it’s a definition that embraces the idea that players hardcore or novice should be treated on egalitarian terms.
This is best illustrated in the post “Challenging Myths,” where Guyll does a wonderful job pointing out that many design elements that are arbitrary and frustrating have been nonchalantly accepted as ‘challenging’ whether its traps that players cannot anticipate or abilities, spells and magic spells that are functional in highly specific circumstances. For all you GNS Theory nuts, this translates to a blog that is openly biased towards the ‘gamist’ approach to D&D.
While I can appreciate some of the simulationist aspects of Shadowrun and the narrativist approach of World of Darkness, there’s no question in my mind that Guyll, as well as Sorensen, are gamists for very good reasons. They prefer the kind of D&D game that spends more time on fun, and less time justifying world details; a game that spends more time on solving problems as they encounter them, rather than randomly trying to anticipate them; one that lets players immerse themselves into their choices without punishing them for their lack of system mastery.
In effect, Guyll, Sorensen, et al are gamers who have exceptionally thought about what they want from pen and paper RPGs, and it’s the reason why always come back to their blog to remind myself why I appreciate 4th Edition so much. Furthermore, they produce thorough coverage of the new material that gets released. For every article that Guyll finds the time to read, you can be guarantee he’ll come back with a wonderful piece of crunch dissection. He also doesn’t shy away from being critical, such as in the recent post “Hybrid Versus Multiclassing, Part 2.”
Other favorite posts of mine include Sorensen’s “This Ain’t Your Daddy’s Paladin,” which lists many ways to envisioning an archetype for your paladin fluff-wise beyond the staples of an overzealous crusader or a do-no-wrong boy scout in plate mail and “Thinking Outside the Box” in which Guyll describes how he rules creative uses of powers while taking stock of balance considerations. I also enjoyed his design and development approach to the use of monsters and NPCs in “It’s People!” and his take on how rules-coded social skills add to role-playing in “Role-playing and Social Skills.”
Guyll, Sorensen, et al aren’t the only blog vigorously endorsing the merits of 4th Edition, but they provide razor sharp explanations for why its design is a step forward for an accessible game of action adventure that’s free of bullshit. I can’t say enough about what a great blog Points of Light is: it’s archives are worth scanning from the very first post to the very last.