I have always been sort of amused by how much most players exaggerate the penalties for below 10 scores when they bemoan the limited benefits of above 10 scores until they get to 16 or even 18.
For most practical purposes (especially role-playing purposes) there would be no more meaningful difference between playing a 10 or 8 int character and playing a 10 or 12 int character. I don't know anyone who would argue that an int of 12 creates a remarkably intelligent character, yet many players feel an int of 8 creates a "Hulk SMASH" sort of character.
Scores of 8 should be played as being well within the "normal" range of human ability, just as scores of 12 should be.
LOL, I totally agree with Avatar-1. I spend quite a bit of time on political messageboards. I've yet to have anyone on these boards actually threaten to kill me (and my family), and I've only been compared to Hitler or Stalin once or twice in several years, instead of once or twice a day...
These boards are virtually a peaceful paradise compared to most boards I've been to.
And in terms of just RPG boards, I have to think some people have never been to Wizards' forums if they think these boards are bad.
If you have Colorado on your list, Boulder is probably the most suitable city for your situation. Ft. Collins is probably much better than Aurora in that regard, but Ft. Collins is more like Colorado Springs than Boulder.
Colorado Springs and most of southern Colorado is heavily influenced by a large and growing Hispanic population.
None of these cities satisfy your desire to be near a coast though. In fact it's hard to get farther from the coast than Colorado.
Great mountain outdoor activities though.
There are some basic storytelling techniques that many GMs could use to improve their players' game experience. Among those are:
1. Have a compelling antagonist. Make the conflict personal.
Every once in a great while someone in our group will make a comment about metagaming by another player. It is always a good-natured ribbing, not accusatory or judgmental, and usually the targeted player will sheepishly admit "Yeah, I guess that was metagaming."
It has been my observation over the years that the vast majority of metagaming is unintentional or unconscious, not some deliberate attempt to "game" the session for some sort of advantage.
In the case of most iconic monsters, including skeletons, zombies, trolls, dragons, lycanthropes, vampires, etc., the default assumption of our group is that virtually anyone who was born into and grew up in a world where such creatures were actually roaming around the landscape would know the general tendencies and vulnerabilities of those monsters. We consider it to be absolutely common sense that your average villager, much less your average adventurer, would just know that trolls are vulnerable to fire and acid, skeletons go down easier if you bludgeon them, vampires avoid daylight and silver weapons are useful against the odd man-wolf.
It is only relatively uncommon or rare monsters where I would even bother to question a PC's knowledge of how to fight them. And even then I'd be likely to err on the side of the PC knowing something that came through some old bedtime story or something. After all, I know the "proper" means of dealing with bears, cougars, snakes, alligators and a host of other wild animals just because I see and remember advice about such things. I figure your typical villager has done the same in their environment. This also covers things like recognizing commonly used spells, understanding ways to deal with invisibility, and knowing about the existence and basic use of a wide range of potions or scrolls.
What level and feats? A level 10 archer with rapid shot and manyshot will use up a lot of arrows.
In general we don't track individual ammo except in cases where each round can use up five or six arrows, then we care.
We typically just use a dry erase marker and mark off how many arrows we've used until we have to get another bundle out of the bag of holding...
I totally meant the wizard PLAYER says to the barbarian PLAYER, completely out of character, "Hey Bob, your barbarian should kick down the door."
If the barbarian PLAYER figures out a puzzle the group is trying to solve I see no problem with the barbarian PLAYER telling the wizard PLAYER "Hey Joe, I think this is probably a magic cube problem, if so, the answer is probably to punch the button on the side with the 6, so have your wizard go click the 6 button."
This is a cooperative game and sometimes that means cooperating in character and sometimes it means cooperating out of character.
If I were playing with a group and we struggled with a puzzle for thirty minutes and then clicked the 4 button and got blasted for it, if the barbarian player then said "Dude, I totally knew the answer was 6, but my barbarian's stupid and never would have figured it out", I'd suggest to him that perhaps in the future he could share his brilliant insight with the group in those situations.
This is a restatement of the common grognard complaint that "it was just so much better then."
I should know, I'm a grognard myself who has made comments about how the game was different and better in some ways back when I started playing during the Carter administration. (Wow, time flies...)
I would agree that today's default game dynamic is much less lethal than "ye olde days". I'm not entirely certain that I agree that it was "better" then. I had a lot of characters die back then.
On the other hand, that made it feel like much more of an accomplishment to have a character survive and even thrive. As has been pointed out many times on these boards, back in 1978 if you managed to get a wizard (called "magic-user" back then) to level 5, that meant your whole player group had accomplished something noteworthy and that the reward for your skillful playing was about to be realized with the regular release of room-clearing fireballs.
Ah, those were the days...
These days it is much, much harder to kill a starting character, games are designed much more to cater to character power limitations and there is far less demand on mapping, solving puzzles and real outside-the-box thinking required to play the game.
On the other hand, it is much, much harder to kill a starting character, games are designed much more to cater to character power limitations and there is far less demand on mapping, solving puzzles and real outside-the-box thinking required to play the game.
In the end it's still plenty fun for me.
With all due respect, "No staff response is needed" is not a very good response (all irony aside). It leaves way too much up in the air for too many questions that people want answered.
"Rules function as written" at least gives specific information that the rule being questioned is, in the opinion of the Paizo dev team, clear enough that it doesn't need to be clarified.
"Rules intentionally left to GM ruling" at least gives specific information that the dev team felt that this was one of those times that the Paizo dev team deliberately left the rule in the realm of GM fiat.
"No staff response is needed" provides nothing but "Paizo staff doesn't feel like answering this question."
Which is why it bugs people.
IMHO it is never "good metagaming" to have a character act in any way based on information the player has but the character lacks.
The main problem with any discussion over what is or isn't "good metagaming" is that it is highly unlikely that you could get three people together to agree what metagaming itself is, much less what constitutes "good" vs "bad" versions of it.
Building a character is metagaming. Leveling up a character is metagaming. Choosing sorcerer spells or witch hexes is metagaming. Anything that you do with your character that is not based entirely on what that character would know from their own experience is metagaming. That includes determining successful hits, calculating damage, making saving throws, determining skill difficulty or pretty much anything to do with rolling dice.
So in that sense "good metagaming" is when you allow all those myriad sorts of metagame activities to drive your character's reaction as opposed to having your character's actions directly influence any of those things.
If someone really wants to cheat, they will find a way. I frankly have more important things to do with my time as a GM than babysit the players to ensure that nobody is cheating.
When I suspect something like that is going on I have a talk with the player and do my best to bring them around to the understanding that they are just cheating themselves. I use golf analogies a lot to explain what I mean.
So far it's always worked. But then again, I have a pretty solid maturity filter in place for selecting players, so I haven't had much problem with playing with immature players in the first place.
3.5 Loyalist wrote:
The way that the military works is that the most experienced and capable units are supposed to be deployed to the most critical areas that need to be defended.
So if that's the Keep on the Borderlands, then fine. But if it's the city, then that's where the best guards should be. That's a decision made by the military brass. In many cases the Keep on the Borderlands might well be considered to be a training ground for new recruits to weed out the dead weight and find the best soldiers to promote.
If I were the military brass making the decision myself, I'd probably have a mix of troops in both locations, and rotate them about fairly regularly. However, I'd also have an elite set of guards in the city whose primary job was to protect the city's rulers.
I am enjoying the side paths that people have taken this discussion. Especially the comments about NPCs "leveling up" without adventuring. Some great posts there.
As far as my comment about being "the best swordsman on the continent" being hostile to players, I find that somewhat humorous. If a player wants to view themselves as an "awesome swordsman" and strut around bragging about their mastery of the sword, that is an entirely different thing than actually being the actual "best swordsman on the continent."
Assuming that we are talking about Pathfinder here, it should be assumed that there is a level 20 fighter, ranger or other character swinging a sword around somewhere on the continent. So if your character isn't level 20, it should be assumed that your character isn't close to the "best swordsman on the continent" and probably not even the "best swordsman in the city" if the city is of any significant size.
As far as the whole discussion around how NPCs develop their own levels, this is one of my issues with some of the game assumptions that people have. The idea that NPCs must have, or even should have developed skills, abilities, even LEVELS the same as PCs.
This is a sort of fundamental game design assumption issue where some people feel that NPCs should be treated exactly the same as PCs. I don't feel that way. NPCs are not PCs, and how they got their skills or abilities, in my humble opinion, is really not relevant to how the players develop the skills or abilities of their characters. The rules for PC development are too restrictive for my purposes of NPC development. I might have an NPC who became a great warrior by making a pact with a demon, for example. Or who was granted powers by a deity. Or who is some sort of mutant.
I feel no compulsion whatsoever to have my NPCs follow any rules about how they got to be what they are. They just need to be consistent with the story line and a challenge to the players. Everything else is just bookkeeping.
So do a little replacement Pippi. Let's say the original authors said "If I helped strengthen the brotherhood [of male sci-fi writers] ...." would that give you pause?
I gotta tell you guys who want to play "the best swordsman on the continent" that you may as well not play in my games, because the "best swordsman on the continent" is almost certainly going to be your nemesis. Eventually, at the very, very, very end of your epic campaign you might meet and beat that nemesis, and THEN you might be "the best swordsman on the continent".
But then I'll be packing up my books and getting ready for the next campaign.
Of course not Hitdice. But I see plenty of it. Especially among women in their late teens and early twenties, which just happens to be when most people (man or woman) are considered the most attractive.
If you think I notice this stuff, you should hear my wife and daughter...
Besides, that was my point anyway Hitdice. A woman can wear a wide range of bathing suits of varying degrees of modesty, but a very large fraction of young women choose to wear the most revealing suits possible. Why anyone would wear something that makes them look butt-naked from the back is a mystery to me, but I see a lot of it on the beach.
This appears to be a logical fallacy. A woman not wanting to be treated like a sex object is fully compatible with the fact that, on a beach on a really hot day, they may also not want to wear fur coats. One is about objectification and the other is about comfort.
Yes, it is obvious that in the area of outdoor comfort we are restricted to wearing tiny little butt-floss thongs with postage stamp sized boob-covers or else we must wear a fur coat.
Your logic is infallible.
Pippi, would it offend you if I said that my empathy for the aggrieved woman sci-fi author declined significantly when she opined "and if I helped strengthen the sisterhood and made other women feel better, then it was all worth it"?
I mean, how is that not sexist? Does that clue you in on what I mean by "wanting to have it both ways" and the rampant hypocrisy so often on display?
Pippi, I'm not "defending" or "attacking" any point of view. I'm simply pointing out that people tend to complain about the weather.
Sorry your lunch was affected. Have a good weekend. Go to the beach. :)
LOL, a couple of points.
First of all, I cannot begin to tell you the number of things I find hilarious in Hollywood movies when I watch actors doing things in character that I actually do for real. Things like shooting guns, shooting bows, riding horses, using telescopes, taking photos, playing golf... Whatever.
I have seen entire sports related movies where the main character is attempting to do sports things in such incompetent ways that I have to turn my head and snort every time they are portrayed on field. In fact this is so bad in Hollywood that instead of noting bad examples of sports portrayals in the movies, it is far, far easier to note the very, very few movies and actors who portrayed their sporting activities in any convincing way at all. Here's my list:
1. Burt Reynolds in "The Longest Yard." The guy actually knows how to throw a football. Even his footwork is relatively accurate.
That's about it. So to knock Evangeline here for how she holds a bow is pretty silly.
Besides, it's not Evangeline. It's Tauriel. She's an elf, and elf women don't shoot a bow the same way as a human does. Everyone knows that.
Radbod Jarl wrote:
Yeah, this is part of the point I've been snarkily making.
The other part is that the idea that fantasy art is in any way different than People Magazine photos, summer blockbuster movies or beer commercials is ludicrous in the extreme.
Sexy renditions of the female form have been part of human culture as far back as anthropologists have been able to dig sculptures out of the dirt. Just as phallic renditions of the male form have been.
You don't hear a lot of complaints about all the overt phallic symbolism of the male part of the population though. But there's always some hoopla going on about how women are "sexualized" by our culture.
Ever visit the Washington Monument?
LOL, again, I think I understand it better than you seem to. The idea that women act the way they do because they are reacting to men is deeply insulting to womens' ability to think for themselves.
That's something you won't find me doing. I think women are quite capable of controlling their own lives and making their own decisions.
Radbod Jarl wrote:
There's a Doonesbury cartoon that I remember where BD's girlfriend Boopsie is being lectured by the feminist character about how BD is "exploiting" her. Her response was "Exploiting!? That sounds sexy!"
A Bloom County cartoon discussing women posing for Playboy also addresses this when Milo Bloom asks why women would appear in Playboy and is told "I hear there is free will involved."
Cartoons can be quite good at distilling issues like these down to reveal things many people like to pretend don't exist.
No, I don't think I am.
This brings up another subject that intrigues me. The whole concept of pre-planned characters and how that works in a role-played context.
I admit that I have never pre-planned my characters more than a level or two in advance. Partly that's because I really am not interested in theory-crafting and I find playing off the characters' personality, motivations and personal goals to be much more fun and interesting than pursuing any mechanical objectives. Also I tend to view my characters as clay that is being molded as they go, and who react to their experiences to guide their own future.
Also, since I don't tend to multi-class much, most of my characters tend to be single-class anyway, so all the options leveling brings tend to be within that class (with exceptions, I have had some characters suddenly decide to pursue the abilities associated with another class).
That's a taste thing though, and there are some limitations or exceptions to that approach. I might know, for example, that a character will pursue a certain feat tree, or a certain school of magic. But that's about as far as I pre-plan things.
LOL, next time you are in a grocery store, take a good look at the front covers of mens' magazines. Then take a good look at the front covers of womens' magazines.
Tell me how different you find the women pictured on those covers to be.
Next, go to google and research the amount of money spent on plastic surgery and cosmetics by women.
Then tell me how men are the ones consumed by looks.
Well, you are seriously under-estimating the timeline of Tolkien's descriptive asides. He generally provides eons worth of descriptive exposition, not a mere human lifespan.
I don't "need" it either. But then again I don't "need" any fantasy story. I read them because I enjoy them. And, yes, I do enjoy the extensive descriptive exposition that Tolkien provides.
An example that stands out in my memory is when the Fellowship is traveling through a wild land Legalos takes a moment to listen to the land after Aragorn mentions that he heard that elves once lived there. This is the relevant quote from the book:
Legalos in LotR wrote:
'That is true,' said Legolas. `But the Elves of this land were of a race strange to us of the silvan folk, and the trees and the grass do not now remember them: Only I hear the stones lament them: deep they delved us, fair they wrought us, high they builded us; but they are gone. They are gone. They sought the Havens long ago.'
That is just one example of how Tolkien paints this amazing picture of a world where even the rocks and stone have a story to tell, and Legalos can hear that story, and it is a story that is so ancient and has retreated so far into the past that only the stones are able to remember it. Legalos himself is centuries old already, and even to his perspective this is an ancient story fading into the realm of myth and mystery.
Sure, it means nothing to the immediate story.
But then LotR is hardly ever really about the immediate story. This is a point that Tolkien made several times in his interviews and his writings, and he explicitly stated it several times in the book itself. As Frodo and Sam are sitting in the volcanic aftermath of Mt. Doom, Frodo and Sam talk about how their part was just a small part in a much larger story.
This was actually a major goal of Tolkien's work, to create this much larger story that overlaid and provided the context for the immediate story. I hesitate to say it, but overlooking that aspect of the book, or considering it to be extraneous, seems to me to be missing out on one of the most sublime and compelling aspects of the book. In fact I would say that ignoring or avoiding that deeper story absolutely and completely misses the whole point of the book.
LOL, I love all this constant hyper-analylsis of our "misogynist" tendencies in any number of hobbies, genres or whatever. The cries of "misogynist!" run rampant when any photo or picture of a girl is created that drips with raw sexuality. "That's not fair to women!" I hear. "Women don't want to be presented that way! We are more than just sex objects!"
Then I go to the beach and look around.
I suppose it's a taste thing. I find Tolkien's writing to be magical. His descriptions of characters, items and events is, to me, like savoring a rich multi-course meal with layers upon layers of meaning.
I first read LotR when I was about 14. Of course I was also at that time reading "The Iliad", "The Odyssey", "Ulysses" and other great classics of literature like "Moby Dick" or "Great Expectations." I suppose many people would find most, if not all, of those books equally stilted and difficult to wade through.
But not me. All of these books are written by wordsmiths whose every word has a meaning and a reason for its use and placement. Tolkien in particular would use words with symbolic importance deliberately to evoke a sort of dual story experience. The first story was the action taking place on the page, but the deeper symbolic story was the one he was really working hard to paint. He has a rhythm and pace to his story telling that is part of the story itself. It is rare to go a page, or even a paragraph, without encountering some fragment of his larger morality tale and piecing those fragments together into the epic story of which "LotR" is only a small part is one of the real joys of reading the book to me.
Back when I first started playing D&D, which was mostly done during clan rituals where we served brontosaurus burgers, I used to care a whole lot about leveling my characters up. In fact leveling up was a driving force behind my desire to play the game. I was always looking for some new spell level, or ability or magic item to add to my characters' repertoire.
Nowadays I find that I don't actually care that much about leveling up. It's nice when it happens, and I enjoy the process of picking new feats, spells, abilities, etc. but I have a number of characters I would be fine playing at their current level if they never leveled up again.
I wonder if I am unique in this regard. There are times when we reach a new level and I find myself saying "Dang! I haven't fully explored all the synergies of the stuff I just gained with our LAST level, now I have to add more to it?"
When I was playing 4e I was constantly feeling like my character was leveling up far too easily and quickly and that I was retiring powers that I had barely used. (4e has the concept of limited level-based powers so when you reach, say, level 14, to gain a new power you have to retire an older, lower level, one to make room for the new one.)
In general I feel I need about half a dozen sessions at least at any one level for me to feel like I've mastered the new capabilities and am ready to move on. In some cases even that's not enough.
I've also found that some levels are particularly comfortable to play and that moving up a level changes the party dynamic enough that I sometimes feel that the party has actually lost effectiveness as new, mostly untested and untried, abilities become the favorite tactic of a character whose previous tactics were reliable and predictable.
In general I guess I feel that my characters level up too fast for my taste. Of course holding my character back is not an option since he/she would rapidly become useless in a party of much higher level characters, but I'm sort of wondering if anyone else feels that they are sometimes rushed into the process of learning a new level before they really had a chance to appreciate their previous level.
I've never played a character in D&D* or Pathfinder higher than level 18. That is in large part because I believe the game becomes much less fun at those levels. If I want to play superheroes, there are, I believe, better game systems for that level of power.
The vast majority of my gaming has been at levels between 3 and 12.
Having said that, the campaign where I went from level 1 to level 18 took two years of steady gaming, playing at least once a week.
(*caveat - I have played D&D 4e from level 8 up to level 26, but I don't consider the games to be similar enough for the comparison to be that meaningful. That also took about two years.)
Tolkien's style is highly descriptive and evocative. He savors words and wordplay. His prose is littered with subtle inflections, connotations and inferences where words play against other words and everything ties back to a deeper connection that has some symbolic meaning.
It is a style that is poorly suited to the modern fifteen-second attention span world.
Which is a real damn shame.
Tolkien would have been unhappy, I believe, with the movie not including the Scouring of the Shire. In Tolkien's mind that was what the Hobbits were being trained for and the message that each of us needs to mind our own affairs in our own little part of the world was a significant part of the overall message of LotR. Tolkien believed that great evil could only be countered by the diligence and bravery of the most common of folk, and the Hobbits represented that sort of "typical little village" community that Tolkien believed had to rebel against evil for evil to be defeated. It was also important to Tolkien that no part of Middle Earth was spared the destructive power of the ring's corruption, and in the movie, the Hobbits just blissfully live in complete ignorance of the great events transpiring around them.
Tom Bombadil has always been an intriguing figure in the books, but to me the more important omission from the story was Frodo confronting the Barrow Wight alone, in the dark, unarmed and unaided. In the movie Frodo came off as a bit of a wimp and whiner. In the book Frodo proved his mettle first in the encounter with the barrow wight, where he earned his first sword and saved the lives of his friends.
My main problem with the movie compared to the book is how Jackson neutered Frodo and weakened the bond between Frodo and Sam to the point that Frodo turned on Sam. That was a very sad moment for me indeed since the bond between Frodo and Sam was one of Tolkien's most critical story elements and which Tolkien himself said was based on Achilles bond with Patroclus, and was a self-reference to relationships Tolkien had with fellow soldiers while in the trenches of WWI.
It has been my experience that this is a conversation you need to have with your gaming group. It is part of the social contract you are setting up with your players, whether it is explicit or implied. And how well you conform to the expectations of that social contract will have a lot to do with how well the players think you are doing as a GM. This goes for more than just killing PCs, but killing PCs is one of the most obvious examples. You should also discuss with your group what sorts of campaigns they like to play, how stringently they want the rules to be enforced and how the group handles things like eating pizza and drinking beer. Oh, and how you deal with "mature" subject matter like in-game sexual activity or potential player-vs-player actions.
I've played with groups where the death of a PC would be like dumping a load of dead fish on the table, and I've played with groups where if PCs don't die fairly regularly, the players get bored. It's all up to the group.
I don't recall the first Hobbit movie having particularly bad CGI. Of course I don't consider myself a CGI aficionado either. As far as how good of a movie "The Hobbit" was, well let me just say that my expectations for movies in the modern era where "The Hangover" is considered an instant classic and Adam Sandler and Sasha Baron Cohen are considered comic geniuses, are pretty low expectations indeed.
I've never had any problem with any nicknames my players have given any of my NPCs. In fact I view that as a good indication that they are into the game so, if anything, I encourage it.
What sometimes does cause some table consternation is when the other players (or worse, the GM!) gives a PC an unflattering nickname. In our current game we have a player whose wizard is a rather uppity and pushy fellow with an unfortunate name that I can't remember, but I remember that the rest of the table has decided to call him "Lord Testicles".
My own halfling detective is named "Sparky" but due to an unfortunate misreading of my handwritten character name, is now being referred to as "Spanky".
For the most part though, it just adds to the fun.
I have been running D&D (and other system) games for 35 or so years now. I have had periods where I've had less enthusiasm, and periods where I've had more.
It has been my experience that how much free time I have has virtually no correlation whatsoever to how much I enjoy running a game, or how well I do at it. If my enthusiasm is high, I manage to scrape together the time I need to do what I want with the game. If my enthusiasm is low I don't do much with the game no matter how much free time I have.
This is true of most things in my life, btw, not just gaming. How well I do at anything is far more related to how much interest I have in doing it than how much time I have to devote to it. If I'm highly motivated and enthusiastic I can do more in two hours than I can get done in two weeks if I'm not into the endeavor.
I've never really bought into the idea of "burnout" either. Perhaps that's because I've never really experienced the condition. If I lose interest in something, it has never been because I've just gotten bored with it, it's been because something else has caught my attention and I am obsessed with learning and mastering the new thing.
What I've done over the years with my gaming is tried to adapt my gaming to benefit from my other obsessions. Right now I am heavily into building terrain, and I use gaming as an excuse to indulge my desire to create interesting physical worlds to game in. Bringing those elements to my gaming group as part of the game experience allows me to enhance their own gaming experience.
If you have some other interest that you can use to jump-start your gaming, that might be a way to get the spark back. Perhaps you can pick up some cheap unpainted miniatures and paint them to be NPCs in your game. Or better yet, maybe you can pick up some epoxy putty or poly clay and sculpt custom miniatures and then paint them to be NPCs in your game.
Or perhaps you have a hidden talent for painting fantasy scenes. Why not pick up some paints and find out? Or you may want to provide some mood music for your games using a cheap keyboard...
The options are really only limited by your imagination. And what it seems you need to do is rekindle that imaginative spark. It's that spark that keeps me going, both in gaming and out.
Peter Jackson has veered from "canon" a few times in both the LoTR movies and the first Hobbit movie. But in the main he has stuck very well to both the original story and the story's theme and plot. When he has veered from the story it has usually been to better take advantage of the visual medium available to him.
In the Hobbit movies he has borrowed liberally from other sources such as LoTR backstory, the Silmarillion, Tolkien's unpublished works and the notes Tolkien left behind. The result is that the Hobbit movies are both more and less than the book "The Hobbit." Peter Jackson set out not to make a movie of "The Hobbit" as much as he wanted to recreate the LoTR world and mythology so that fans of the movie could experience more of what they liked in "LoTR". That's why the Hobbit movies don't have the same charm as the book does, and instead replace that with more of the tension and drama of "Lord of the Rings." This was a conscious choice by Peter Jackson and he discusses it in interviews.
And it is probably the "right" choice for the millions (billions?) of fans of the LotR movies who never read, and never will read, "The Hobbit." As for those fans who did read the book and find the movies to be untrue to the source, Jackson figures (again most probably correctly) that most of them will pay to watch the movies anyway, even if they grumble about it on the internet.
My personal opinion of the first Hobbit movie was that it was entertaining and interesting. There were some things I didn't like (but there were some things I didn't like about the LotR movies), but overall I was pleased to see both that a favorite book from my youth was on the silver screen, and that the story seemed to be entertaining a new generation of young kids who probably never would have read the book. If some of them actually pick up the book and discover the quirky, charming story of the book is completely different than the movie they saw, I expect the book's charm will capture them as it did me anyway and then they'll have both the movies and the book to appreciate.
As far as extending the movie into three movies is concerned, I suppose I'd rather see the Hobbit expanded into three movies than see "Knight Rider" from the 80s turned into a full length movie. And it will be I feel certain.
As noted above, the primary difference between the saurian shaman and other shamans is the wide variety of dinosaur forms that the shaman gets. Many GMs allow templates like "huge" for other shamans which pretty much makes the difference less important.
For those who continue to suggest that shamans are less powerful than standard druids because "the +2 doesn't amount to much", let me just say that the ability to summon a shaman creature type in a standard action vs a full round is a huge, huge advantage for the shamans in my experience. At least I've been able to use it to good effect.
It has been my experience that most "cheating" at the table is done by intentionally mis-calculating dice modifiers, not by rolling the die and announcing a different number.
In many cases the "cheating" is entirely unintentional. Many players I've played with really just don't know the rules for how to total up dice modifiers for iterative attacks, and everyone seems to err towards bigger numbers.
I have only had one player I can recall where I had to actually sit down with them and explain that they were only cheating themselves when they cheated. It was an awkward, but not painful, conversation where I explained that by always "winning" they never had the thrill of actually overcoming the potential to "lose".
The player finally understood my point and became probably the most rigorously accurate dice roller I've played with.