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Console Cleric #1: d6 Ways ‘Gears of War 3’ Can Aid D&D Games

Written by MythicParty - Published on October 15, 2011
If you read DungeonMastering.com,  then you most likely play or at least come across video games.  Console Cleric looks at various video titles to see what digital counterparts can add to tabletop sessions.  This month, Epic Games’ Gears Of War 3 , which, unless you live on a planet other than Earth or Sera, you’ve heard about.  Here are d6 lessons from GoW3 elements that will improve your D&D sessions:
  1. Backstory: At the conclusion of GoW2, the PC’s destroyed the last sizable human city to flood the Hollow (Underdark) where the Locusts (reptilian bad guys) live.  In GoW3 the good guys are now scattered/rebuilding but the bad guys are too- that earlier PC-created flood killed a bunch of Locusts but also has made the rest leave their underground world.  This is alluded to at the end of GoW2 where the Locust Queen (BBEG) refers to unintended legacies.  So when your PCs do things especially noteworthy ones, then there needs to be logical consequences to whatever they’ve done. Sort of the game-based Newton’s Third Law.  Have their world always respond appropriately.
  2. Gameplay: The heroes in GoW do truly heroic acts, slaying horrific monsters like Brumaks (T-Rex with guns), Corpsers (armored spiders), & Reavers (flying octopi) all while recovering from damage that shatters an average soldier.  PCs even climb ladders one handed & can roll up stairs.  The 3rd game allows them to tag enemies which lets other PCs know where that particular bad guy is, trade guns/ammo amongst themselves, & destroy certain kinds of cover-providing terrain.  The series stresses how important cover is, referring to it as the ‘Golden Rule of the Gears: Take cover or die.’  Hiding behind stuff is a lifelike tactic on any battlefield, as is ruining the enemies’ protection.  So think about having monsters more often utilize terrain to their advantage as well as having monsters trying to mess up any cover that adventurers themselves try to use.
  3. Sound:  My Turtle Beach headphones saved my virtual ass in GoW3 countless times, whether helping me identify where a Ticker (mine-like bug) was coming from or warning that the Mauler (yelling minotaur) was swinging his explosive flail nearby.  Of course every weapon in GoW has it’s own distinct sound, which is the ‘voice’ in a weapon’s personality.  So consider giving weapons, spells, & monsters in your game distinctive noises that will make them recognizable. And no discussion about GoW would be complete without mention of thehaunting trailers such as Mad World by Gary Jules for GoW1 & Last Day by DeVotchKa for GoW2.  GoW3 has 2 such musical twists: ‘Dust to Dust‘ by Mazzy Star + ‘Ashes to Ashes’ by Sun Kil Moon. So if you have a full playlist of battle tracks, add slow songs such as these for a memorable combat.
  4. Equipment: The game’s backstory introduces a ‘retro lancer,’ which is a precursor to the chainsaw gun iconic to GoW.  This retro model is more powerful, but far less accurate, meaning it’s balanced.  Other such revisions include that Smoke Grenades now cause a larger cloud but no longer stun, Snub Pistols (sucky base gun) are stronger, & Scorchers (flame throwers) do less damage but have longer range.  All of these changes were in response to feedback.  So if a magic item/spell in your games seems unbalanced because it’s too powerful, normally DMs just ban it.  If the magic item/spell is too weak, normally players just avoid it.  But a way to get use of something that doesn’t work in your game is to create another version of it, better modified.  This can be an ancient edition or a recent technological development.  Whatever fits the backstory.
  5. Ending: The ending to GoW3 is bittersweet.  One of the main PCs has died, a family member to another main PC has died, & while humanity has won, the victory is clearly Pyrrhic.  Civilization has collapsed.  The world is ruined.  And while there will indeed be a tomorrow for the good guys, the central PC seems lost. In short, it’s a believable ending because it’s realistic.  So never be afraid to let a PC to die, & never be afraid to let the PCs get the ending that they deserve.  Because that is what everyone- the characters, the players, & the DM- has earned.

Thats’s Console Cleric, recommending aspects of GoW3 that can make D&D better.  But remember that while video games are fun & fast, RPG’s are where you can try anything.  ‘Til next month.

Written by MythicParty

Dog-loving, movie-watching, pizza aficionado. Content Editor for DMing.com, Project Manager for AvatarArt.com, & player of the coolest characters in a weekly D&D game. Halflings are the real heroes.

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4 Responses to “Console Cleric #1: d6 Ways ‘Gears of War 3’ Can Aid D&D Games”
  1. Clay Chamblin says:

    I am surprised that no one has commented on this article yet; I like it a lot. Though I am brand-new to DM-ing, I am an old hand at video gaming. I think it would be foolish to ignore some of the better concepts that can only be conveyed through these mediums. For my first campaign ever (gasp!) I plan to borrow a lot of the cultural differences and setting from The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Wish me luck! ;)

  2. MythicParty says:

    Hi Clay.

    Thank you very much for the feedback & ‘adopting’ my orphaned article. I hope to do more of these pieces because you’re right- electronic games have some unique lessons they can teach the tabletop crowd.

    Please let us know what pen & paper RPG concepts you get from Morrowwind.

    Thanks Clay.

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