Monday, September 30, 2013

Day 30: Best DM I've Ever Had.

Jim D.

Hands down. His games were brutal and challenging.

Often times, we'd bring misery upon ourselves because we weren't paying attention. It'd get late in the session, or some of us would have come off a hard week of school or work and were just tired.

For example, when we heard about the "biggest owlbear ever!", we decided to go look for it in the hidden valley where it supposedly lived. It was a "side trek" which had little importance to the main plot. We figured, why not? Let's go kill an owlbear. But we didn't expect an owlbear the size of King Kong...

Another time, after exploring the Sunless Citadel, we returned to town to inform a shop keeper than her son and daughter had died in the dungeon. For whatever reason, we decided to send in the group's half-orc to tell her this sorry news. The half-orc need to buy some equipment anyway. Little did we know was that the shop keeper was racist against half-orcs, and tried to price gouge him. The half orc got mad. told her the news, she screamed, he drew his weapon, and next thing you know we're kicked out of town!

To this day, I'm not sure about the reasoning behind sending it the half-orc.

(I'm not even going to relate what happened to Meepo, the kobold.)

See, in Jim's games, you had to pay attention. There wasn't much wiggle room for failure. In combat, you had to use teamwork to get every bonus available. Jim wasn't going to pull punches. It amazes me we didn't have more TPKs, given some of the mistake we've made. Characters did die, but it was usually a character who's player said the infamous: "Come'on guys! They're only 1st level fighters!" 

Thanks for the great times, Jim!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Day 29: What do I always seem to roll on a d20?

I have no fraking clue. But I do have an interesting story about a cursed d20, told to me by an acquaintance of mine long ago.

He was playing D&D, and his character was in the middle of combat. To his dismay, he rolled three "1s" in a row on the same d20. The other players asked him if he has a weighted die. He assured them it wasn't the case. He rolled it again. Another "1."

Then he got pissed. He through the d20 across the room. It bounced off the wall and the floor, before it rolled back toward him, stopping at his foot.

His jaw dropped, as did everybody else's who saw the result: another "1," the fifth in a row.

He threw the die away. Somebody else said he should burn it.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Day 28: A character I will never play again.

I think it'd be a better topic if it was: "A character I refuse to play again."

Because there's many characters I'll never play again. There is one in particular, that I doubt any DM would allow into his games--Ulrick Hammerstein.

First, he's an AD&D Second Edition Character. These days 2e seems to be over looked by many, though I'd like to play it again, where it not for the gripes about Thac0.

Second, he was rolled up using splatbooks and even some things out of the Skills and Powers line. (Hey, when I asked the DM, "What books can we use to roll up characters?" He said, "All of them."

Third, on top of this, Ulrick is the only character I've ever rolled an 18/00 strength.

Ulrick made it to 4th level. He could wield a bastard sword in each hand with optimized specialization and ambidexterity. All of his bonuses from specialization and strength easily overcame the penalties for using a bastard sword in each hand. To this day I maintain that Ulrick isn't a Drizzt clone, since Ulrick was human.

He was a weapon of mass destruction, getting something like 3-5 attacks every round. He would take the lead, armored up in platemail he'd bought with a gem he'd found in his first adventure. Often he'd kill monsters before the other PCs could get to hack at them. This annoyed the other players to no end, because the DM ruled that if you didn't participate in combat, you didn't get experience points. So if Ulrick stood at a doorway, and fought the monsters all by himself, he'd get all of the XP. (Not like that ever happened...)

The campaign Ulrick was in folded only after a few sessions because, in part, the other players where both annoyed and bored. I can't blame them. Playing a maxed out character was fun, at first, but it soon became boring, because combat wasn't a challenge. Low level monsters were just cannon fodder. But if the DM threw mid-level monsters at us, the group would be hurting (Ulrick would probably do okay though). So the campaign ended.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Day 27: Character I want to play in the future.

It's hard to say. If you're talking about "official" D&D, I really don't want to play 4e again. For 3.5e, I'd like to play a bard again, straight up, likewise for Pathfinder (though I've never played a bard in Pathfinder).

Yet right now I just want to play old school D&D, 2e or earlier, or a retroclone. I'd be happy playing a fighter or thief, or even a bard in those systems. Right now I'm really keen on DCC RPG. I'm running it, but would love to play any of the classes in that game. Such is often the life of a game master--nearly always running games but hardly ever getting to actually play.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Day 26: Favorite Non-Magic Item

from wikipedia
The halberd.

My only problem is that no game system has adequately statted out this great multi-purpose weapon. It's often given 1d8 or 1d10 damage and that's that. I'd say, if used as a spear, it does 1d6 damage but can be set to recieve a charge for double damage. The axe-head can do the normal 1d8 or 1d10 (depending on the system). The hook-point opposite of the axe gains a +2 to hit against opponents in medium or heavy armor and does 1d4 damage, but if swung against a mounted opponent, the rider must making a saving throw or ride check to avoid being dismounted and knocked prone.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Day 25: Favorite Magic Item

The Wand of Wonder, just because you never know what its going to do next.

Back in my late middle-school and early high school days, I developed my own Wand of Wonder with different results than the one in DMG. One of my players owned the DMG, and had read its description. Even with the randomness, I still wanted to surprise the player when he found his own Wand of Wonder. 

I added powers than only a middle-schooler would appreciate, like the stinking cloud feature making a loud fart sound that could deafen everybody within a certain radius.

I also remember the day one of the PCs used the wand's summon dead cow ability. A group of orcs were chasing the PCs, who were low on hit points and trying to escape, up a flight of stairs. The PC with the wand used it as a last ditch effort. Suddenly, the rotting and stinking carcass of a bloated dead cow appeared over the heads of the orcs. It crushed the orcs up front and rolled down the stairs, forcing the others to retreat.

The PCs fled the dungeon, laughing all the way.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I'm tempted to come up with my own D&D 30 Day Challenge.

These middle entries ("Favorite X") really aren't that thought provoking. The best topics are toward the beginning and the end of the list.

Where I to make a list, it'd have stuff like:

Greyhawk: how a campaign should be published or just an old antique?

Elminster: should he live or die?

Do you allow Monty Python quotes at the tabletop? Why or why not?

Why to you love/hate/feel indifferent to 4e?

Is your character drunk yet?

Is D&D Next D&D last?

Do you spend more time talking/posting about gaming than actualy playing?

How do you kill a flumph?

What were the last words of your last character who died?

Do you think you're addicted to D&D?

Day 24: Favorite Energy Type


Monday, September 23, 2013

Day 23: Least Favorite Monster

Never thought much about it before. D&D has produced some pretty bad monsters over the years.

But my vote goes toward Kender. Man I hate Kender. Do I have to go into the reasons?

Sure, Kender aren't technically monsters--but any creature that's steals from my character gives up their right to be called a "character race"--especially in Dragonlance when said creature steals my character's sword of dragonslaying. You kinda need those in Dragolance.

My character ended up burning down half of a Kender village because of that theft.

Fun times.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Day 22: Favorite Monster


Yes. Humans make the best monsters because you never know what to expect.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Day 20: Favorite Dragon Color/Type.

Yeah, posting just before midnight--I still made it.

My favorite dragon is from the movie Excalibur:

Friday, September 20, 2013

Favorite Humanoid, 4e, Rebecca Black, and the Power of Marketing

Day 20--Favorite Humanoid: Hob-gobel. 

What the hell is that? I don't expect you to know. I have properly marketed that term. Hob-gobel were once human, according to the Word of Virtoaa, but they've been cursed by God for their sinful ways. They degenerated into more beast-like forms which plague mankind. Now, I anticipate, that whenever I get going with publishing materials for Domikka, some critics will howl: "Hob-gobel are just orcs and goblins with a different back story."

That's fine by me. If critics say this, then I know my materials have reached the wrong market. Some people aren't looking for anything new. Let's take this a leap further.

What do Rebecca Black and D&D 4e have in common? 

Both have huge audiences who revile them, despise them, think they're inferior and wish them the worst. If you didn't know, in 2011 Rebecca Black created "Friday" both the song and video about teenagers celebrating the start of the weekend. D&D 4e, of course, caused a huge schism among gamers. Oddly enough, both Rebecca Black and D&D 4e have core followings.

Yes... people bought into Rebecca Black's repetitive lyrics and digitized voice, just as people bought into 4e's concept of bringing World of Warcraft to the tabletop and having generic magic items in the Player's Handbook. Believe it or not. For Black, "Friday" was a success. She donated a lot of her money to her school and later the Japan Earthquake relief fund.

As for 4e... well, WotC will never tells us the numbers. But we know that Pathfinder surpassed 4e in sales. We also know that D&D Essentials came out in 2010 which seemed to appeal to older gamers. I attribute 4e's lack of desired success to botched marketing. WotC was trying to target a younger generation of gamers, but instead they got the older generations howling for blood (hence the launch of the OSR and Pathfinder success).

Certainly, 4e was a break from what had gone before, but I think it would have worked better had not WotC (either intentionally or unintentionally) excluded older generations. Their 2007-8 marketing campaign basically said you're a moron for playing older editions. 

At least, that's what I got from it. And I didn't like that message. Yet I still ran 4e for about three months and ended up dumping it. What happened? It said was D&D. It still had d20s, but it played very different from what had come before. Even worse, I felt old. I got the impression that 4e was supposed to bring younger people into the game (more on that another time). 

I just don't think 4e appealed to younger people (and video gamers) as much as WotC hoped. This goes back to marketing. Somehow, they'd missed their target market demographic (or maybe they were dead on but thought the market would be larger). But they did piss off a lot of people outside that market. Something similar happened with Rebecca Black's "Friday."

From both the examples of 4e and Rebecca Black, I've learned something: If I find something new rather odd or strange, or gives me gut reaction of dislike, then I'm probably not the target audience.  

Which is fine by me. It helps explain why companies sometimes do what appear to be screwy things. At least it makes it less personal. Businesses have to strive to reach new markets, new target demographics, to survive as older markets become saturated or spent.

So, if and when 5e comes out and you don't like it, or you hear a brand new song on the radio or Youtube that's stupid, just relax. You're probably not part of the target audience. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Day 19: Favorite Elemental

The Earth Elemental.

I like the raw power of Earth.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Day 18: Favorite Immortal/Outsider

A like the Agathion, an angelic spirit that can take the form of a human, animal, or even a talisman, bottle, or magic ring.

I've never used an Agathion in my games, but have always wanted to since I first read about them in the AD&D Monster Manual II.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Day 17: Favorite Animal/Vermin

Man, I feel like we're hitting the doldrums of this challenge. 

My one word response: giant spiders. 

My rant: 

Most animals and vermin just aren't scary in D&D. Years of them being used as low-level fodder, I believe, have dulled PCs senses toward such creatures. For example, a group of 1st level characters enters a dungeon-what do they encounter besides the kobolds? Giant rats. And at second level they might be able to handle the large centipedes. 

Even animals--except maybe wolves--don't get much respect. Over the summer one of my players threw a rock at a wild boar just for fun. The boar killed two characters. But that didn't stop the players from eagerly attacking a giant badger later on.  

Giant spiders, however, are universally scary. When players encounter them, they often think: poison! Spiders, even small ones, are just so damn creepy and possess such a foreign and malign intelligence--every aspect of their nature its to hunt and trap prey. Vampires are scary because they look human and suck blood. Giant spiders are terrifying because they can paralyze their victim, wrap them up for later while their organs dissolve into a goo the giant spider can easily suck out. 

Giant snakes and scorpions may also strike fear into the hearts of PCs, but they don't compare to giant spiders. Snakes are just crawlling esophagusus. Scorpions are kinda creepy, but not as creepy as spiders despite having stingers and pincers. 

Now here's a video of a tarantula goliath. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Day 16: Favorite Aberration


Why bother with any lesser aberrations?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Day 15: Favorite Monster (Undead)

The Lich

The lich is the wise old man gone tyrant.

The lich, in life, could not stop for death so he became death.

The lich is immortality gone wrong.

The lich can also turn into a one-dimensional geriatic Skeletor joke if not played right.

My problem with liches is that they're often depicted as cardboard cut-out villains. Yes, they are terrifying to face, but DMs should give a lich different motivations besides accumulate more power. Sure, all lichs want more power, but we're talking about a creature that has the potential to "live" forever. Give them other goals.

For example: In Middle-Earth, the Witch King of Angmar's original purpose was to erradicate the Dunedain kingdoms in the North. It took "only" 500 years.

Also, who says liches have to look like withered corpses and skeletons? Maybe they look human, but if you cut them they do not bleed. You'd think with their command of magicks they'd know how to conceal themselves. In Ravenloft, Azalin, the ruler of Darkon, is able to do this.

One of the best supplement out there is the old AD&D 2e Van Richten's Guide to the Lich. This tome has lots of great idea to "flesh out" a lich, from his lair to his motivations. I hope WotC publishes the pdf soon.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

"Upgrading" to Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG

The time has come for me to run a more "standard" campaign. I no longer have time to run weekly sessions of Expeditions in the Northlands sandbox campaign using Swords & Wizardry.-The player characters had explored a lot of the "low level areas just prior to the last TPK and I just don't feel like restocking them. So, I figured it'd be good time to change things up. It'll still be the Expeditions in the Northlands, but it'll use adventure hooks (as opposed to players finding their own) and DCC RPG.

I've been yearning to run DCC RPG since I bought the hard cover last year. The reason I've waited so long is because the game is really meant for veteran players. I was also in a transition period where I was without a steady group. But now I've found a core group of players and we're ready to play. (Now I just need to track down some Zocchi dice).

I'm looking forward to warrior PCs performing Mighty Deeds by pushing or blinding their opponents;  Clerics who don't just cast "generic" cure light wounds spells, but can heal bones and cure diseases--the effectiveness depends on the alignment of the recipient; Thieves whose skill bonuses are based on their alignment; critical hit charts; fumble charts; wizards saving themselves from destruction by burning Luck; calling upon a Patron for aid... the list goes on.

I'm even envisioning the "mood" of the campaign changing from mere survival and exploration to more of a brooding gravitas as the player-characters complete quests to perhaps restore the Northlands to their former glory.

I'm recalling the opening scene from the movie Excalibur as an example of this "mood." I might even play "Siegfried's Funeral March" at the start of the next session.

I'm also remembering the words on page 6 of the Keep on the Borderlands:

The Realm of mankind is narrow and constricted. Always the forces of Chaos press upon its borders, seeking to enslave its populace, rape its riches, and steal its treasures. If it were not for a stout few, many in the Realm would indeed fall prey to the evil which surrounds them...

Yet the characters in DCC RPG aren't knights; first and foremost, they're adventurers. They can be lawful, but they start off broke, desperate. They'll loot each others corpses during the "funnelling" process. Some might be as chaotic as the forces they are fighting against. Which reminds me of another passage, this one from In Search of the Unknown, describing the background of the vanished heroes Rogahn the Fearless and Zelligar the Unknown:

Some say, and perhaps rightly so, that their motives were based on greed and some kind of vague (or chaotic) evil. No one knows for sure.

They may have saved civilization from a barbarian army, but they did it for their own purposes. And now their gone and others want to plunder their home. How anti-heroic. Gravitas. 

I can't wait to play "Merlin's Spell" from the Excalibur Movie Soundtrack--which is unfortunately so hard to find now--when the PCs discover a (unique) mysterious magic item--like sword of power.  

I'm pulling ideas from books about haunted castles ruins, Celtic and Norse myths, atlases of mysterious places. I really want the Northlands to be mysterious place shrouded by the fog of myths and legends--and real fog, too. Once again things are unknown. 

This is why even the prospect of running DCC RPG excites me. The d20 mechanic is familiar, but I still don't know the nuisances of the system. Magic itself at first seems Vancian, but its once again mysterious--you don't know what exactly it will do. Even the gods can be capricious and unpredictable bestowing their powers on to mortals. 

DCC RPG brings back the mystery of when It'd flip through my brother's AD&D books when I was kid, not knowing anything about the monsters or really what the game was about. Today, D&D is explained, the monsters are all statistics, characters are just constructs to min-max to "beat" the game. 

Where's the mystery? Where's the fear of the unknown?

Day 14: Favorite NPC

Favorite NPC? 

Gideon, a wandering vagabond from The War for the City of Peace Campaign. The PCs first encountered Gideon on a stormy night while staying at an Inn. They thought he was just an eccentric beggar, bearing only the clothes on his back, a backpack, quarterstaff, and numerous charms dangling from his neck, who often hums to himself. 

It was fun playing the humming part. Because every time the PCs would ask, "what are you humming?" He'd say, "humming? I'm not humming." 

He even came with his own theme music when he first met the PCs (Just listen to the music--ignore the horse playing soccer).

That's "Concerto in C Major for Sopranino Recorder" by Karl Stangenberg on 99 Darkest Pieces of Classical Music.

The PCs hired Gideon as a guide to lead them through some unknown territory on a quest to find "The Miracle Hermit." 

Little did the PCs know that Gideon had actually sought them out, after hearing about their dealings with the arch-villain of the campaign. He knew the villain's backstory, but first wanted to see if the characters were who they said they were. 

Gideon had the powers of both a druid and a bard, but I never statted him up. There wasn't any need. The PCs thought he was a low-level nobody, so they protected him from combat. They even told him he should leave the group when they when to assault an evil temple. Gideon, a bit annoyed, left. 

The PCs forgot all about him until an adventure or two later in the campaign, when the finally were going to track down the main villain. The player who took copious notes remembered something Gideon had said offhand. Everybody else went, "huh? Who's Gideon?"

"We have to find him! He knows something."

And so they spent a session tracking down Gideon. 

So, if you're ever a player in my campaign, you should pay attention whenever an NPC enters with his own theme music.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Day 13: Favorite Trap/Puzzle

The Delvermatic Dicer and Malingerer Trap. It comes from Grimtooth's Traps. I find most of the traps in that tome rather overcomplicated. But the idea of mangling and killer an entire party for just opening a secret door  holds a certain appeal to the evil DM side of me.

Google it. 

Edit: added the picture--

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Day 12: Favorite Dungeon type/location

Rappan Athuk.

Hands down.

If somebody every were to bend my arm to run 3.5e again, I'd run Rappan Athuk Reloaded straight up with all of the wilderness and side treks and everything. I've used Rappan Athuk as part of a campaign where the player-characters "raided" it for a special artifact. They went, almost had a TPK, found the artifact and got right back out. But they'd found quite a bit of other treasure, and wanted to go back for more.

In another campaign, a group of high level characters sacked the Upper Temple of Orcus. About a quarter of the group died, the rest were so weakened that they ran away from the mere spectres from a nearby room. (This is also where I learned that high level games in 3.5e can slow to a crawl).

In my opinion, there's two dungeons that if players have some success in navigating, they've got bragging rights:

The Tomb of Horrors


Rappan Athuk

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Day 11: Favorite Adventure I've Run

That'd been the finale of the War for the City of Peace Campaign. I ran it almost two years ago.

It was the culmination of campaign ideas I'd been putting together for almost ten years. I'd run the campaign three or four times before either time caught up with us of the group just drifted apart. Finally, it ended!

After fighting and defeating Tiamat, engaging dragons above a burning city, fighting their arch-nemesis inside an opera house, discovering the secret of the Monolith, jumping aboard the Leviathan, defeating Lilith yes (the Lilith), the campaign ended with an epic battle where they had to actually defend their arch-nemesis from an even worse opponent from the dim past. Most of the group died.

It was the most intense adventure I'd ever run. It ended like campaigns should end, with a bang, and period of reflection.

You can find special soundtrack list I made for the adventure here:

My novella, Murder on the Hot Flats, is loosely based on the War for the City of Peace Campaign.

I can be purchased on Amazon.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Day 10: Craziest thing that's happened that I saw...

Oh man. Where do I begin... how do I choose?

My Expeditions in the Northlands campaign this last years been pretty crazy. We've had 3 TPKs, 40+ character deaths. Yeah. Very bloody. I've never been a killer DM. A tough DM. But never a killer DM.
I guess everybody's getting used to "old school" play where character deaths were far more common and not as big of a deal.

With a lot my other stories, you just have had to be there. But several years ago I was in a group with an overly enthusiastic player who would do the craziest things:

"Come'on guys, they're only 1st level fighters. Think of the experience!" Yes. We were 5th level. And they were 1st level. But there were 50 of them, each with two-handed swords, and only 5 of us. The PC stood his ground while the rest of us retreated.

When his cleric died, he rolled up a paladin. After an adventure, he discovered he had just enough gold to convert his masterwork sword into a +1 sword that could emit light. So he spent all of his money to do this. He was dead broke. He couldn't afford to stay at the Inn with the rest of us. None of us, fed up at his antics, would loan him money, so his paladin had to sleep in the alley.

When his character awoke the next morning, he found that his new magical sword had been stolen.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Day 9: Favorite Character I Haven't Played

It's tough to say. Once I rolled up a character with three 18s (I had witnesses), but the campaign never got off the ground. 

I remember back in middle school being all gaga over the Heroes of the Lance in... wouldn't it be awesome to play Raistlin? And go through those Dragonlance modules? But on second thought, I think I did play Raistlin, and we started the first module, but didn't get very far. The DM didn't like how it deviated from the book... ha!

I've never played a character going from 1st level to 20th level (or whatever's considered the highest level in a given edition), in all the years I've been playing D&D. I think it'd be pretty cool to do that. But most campaigns just don't last that long. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Day 8: Favorite Character Played

I played the bard Stephano Alandorf back in 8th Grade (yeah, I know, a long time ago) in my best friend's Dragonlance Campaign. Sure, the rules said no bards but that didn't stop me... er, us. The catch is that when Stephano reached 7th level and started casting 3rd level spells he had to go to the Tower of High Sorcery for the Test.

Stephano was a smartass, which probably had something to do with me being a teenage smartass. He was chaotic neutral, and had a penchant of being the sole survivor of various expeditions. He also liked to go off by himself when other players weren't playing smart (hence his penchant for being the sole survivor.

I'm not going to bore you with all of his exploits. He made it to 7th level, even passing the tests, bordering on 8th before I must have pissed off the DM. (I think it had something to do with using Stephano in a one-shot with another DM's game...)

One day, as Stephano was walking through the woods, a tree branch suddenly fell on his head--no saving throw. Next thing he knew he was standing in a room with his long-lost brother (huh?) with a portal. His brother told him they had to join hands to prevent the great evil from coming through the portal. There was no way out. So Stephano joined hands and both he and his brother turned to stone, somehow sealing the portal.

What a railroad. After giving into my complaints, the DM let Stephano come back. After one adventure, suddenly a portal opened up and Stephano got sucked inside. There, he had to fight the great evil he was supposed to prevent from coming to the the world: A Pit Fiend. 

Yeah... Stephano died. The DM really wanted to kill my character.

I wish I could say I've had other favorite D&D characters since then, yet I'm often the DM. Now, my favorite character of all time is probably Jericho, an Arbiter in Dark Heresy, who was the only character to survive from the beginning to the end in a Dark Heresy campaign, even though he had the worse of luck.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Day 7: Favorite Edition

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, First Edition

I'm reluctant to say it, however, because if I were to run the game now, I'd give it a massive overhall, probably to the point where even moderate purists would howl that it isn't D&D anymore. 

AD&D is the first edition I played, before quickly moving on to 2e. I like AD&D for the "feel," not necessarily the rules (first thing: use ascending AC). Maybe its nostaglia talking, but there's an aura mystery with those books, as if playing the game will really take you to another world. Sword and sorcery and all that. 

Just look at that cover of the PHB: who wouldn't want to try to get those gems on that idol? My question is: Are those thieves with the rest of the group? 

The rules themselves worked for their time, still do in many respects. But never liked minute combat rounds and segments. I few years ago I did run AD&D. People had fun, but problems arose whenever a player needed to level up his character--all the combat and saving throw tables were in the DMG. The Dungeon Master certainly held his cards close to his chest. 

But maybe that's good thing. Maybe players shouldn't be worried about the mechanics of the game. Maybe they should just focus on describing their actions to the DM, rather than pouring over their character sheets looking for an extra modifier. 

AD&D 2e, which I ran throughout the 1990s, codified the rules--but a lot that "mysterious feel" was lost. I've written about this before. 

With 3.0/3.5e the magic was pretty much gone. Oh sure, I had fun with it as player. But as a DM I found myself getting bogged down with all those rules and stat blocks. I found myself overly concerned with "balance," so whenever I created my own adventures I'd stat-out every customized monster and NPC. I got so sick of this, that after I awhile I just usually ran published adventures (I wonder that was the point with 3.0/3.5e, to force DMs to give up doing stuff on their own and buy modules--there were plenty available). 

As for 4e--what 4e? 

Right now I'm running Swords & Wizardry, which is a lot of fun and has brought back that First Edition "feel." I'm considering, however, switching to DCC RPG.  

Friday, September 6, 2013

Day 6: Favorite Deity



YHWH makes all the deities in D&D look like pansies. Seriously. Even the most evil of gods in D&D can't compare to ruthless smiting that YHWH does in the Old Testament, wiping out entire cities, promoting genocide, casting man out of paradise, sending a flood to destroy the world, making even the most wealthy and powerful of kings go crazy against their will. You just never know what YHWH is going to do next. He is a jealous God.

Most deities in D&D (except for one based on actually real-world mythology) are really blah when you think about it. Oooo... grrr.... Orcus is at it again, being the Prince of Undead and hiding out in Rappan Athuk. Oh boy, Paladine is walking around like a befuddled old man to fight the Queen of Darkness--whoop-dee-do--it took the entire Pantheon of Krynn to bring the Cataclysm and the tipping point was  knight named Lord Soth giving into his lusts--so everybody on Krynn had to suffer. YHWH flooded the entire world because the whole world except for a few were corrupt. And then the gods abandoned the world because of some Chaos diety before the beginning of time. Pansies.

Huh? Don't you have to pick a deity from D&D for the challenge? 

YHWH has been in my D&D Domikka Campaign setting for over twenty years. He's the God of the Imperik Race. He's known as Virtoaa. 

In AD&D 2e, a priest of YHWH's spheres are: Sun, Creation, and Protection.

In 3.5e, a priest of YHWH's domains are: Sun, Law, Destruction, and Protection.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Day 5: Favorite Dice

I'm continuing to update the list of blogs participating in the 30 day D&D Challenge. We're almost at 30!
You can see the list here:


Favorite Dice? 

I am superstitious when it comes to dice. But I don't have a particular favorite, save for the all the d6 my girfriend bought me for wargaming last spring. (They do roll much better than my old ones).

But I've never had a "favorite" set of polyhedrons for D&D.

A few years ago I did separate all of my "unlucky" dice from the rest. My players groaned at this. But I was getting sick of my NPCs and monsters getting thrashed without putting up much of a fight. I recall that one old orange d20 seemed to roll nothing higher than a 13. It had to go.

About the same time I was playing an Arbiter named Jericho in Dark Heresy. I used this little group of misfit d10s for percentage dice. In Dark Heresy, you want to roll low, but throughout one summer I always rolled high. My character could hardly do a damn thing, even after I took actions so that bonuses could stack (like aiming for a round in combat or shooting in close range, etc...).

Things got so bad that I started to think about ways to take actions that didn't require die rolls, actions not specifically covered by the rules.

It was frustrating, but overall it made me a better gamer, forcing myself to think outside the box and not be constrainted by all the statistics on a character sheet.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Day 4: Favorite Gameworld

First, here's a list of blogs doing the 30 Day D&D Challenge:

Know of any more blogs? Please send them to me so I can add them to the list.

Favorite Gameworld? 

That's easy: Domikka.

Domikka's my homebrew campaign setting I've worked on for over 20 years. It's about the decline of an Empire, the rise of an ancient race in the West, religious intolerance and fanaticism, the right to power. It mixes real-world history with fantasy. It's very anti-Tolkien (no elves, halfings, orc, etc.), but not quite as angsty as Moorcock.

That's five binders full of notes in the picture. This doesn't even count all of the documents I have on my computer. 

Domikka's kind of an odd name. Why two "k"s. I couldn't tell you what my 13-14 year old brain was thinking--something do with language. Maybe I should take the extra k out, but its stuck. 

The setting grew organically. Every time I'd run a new campaign, I used it as opportunity to develop another part of the main continent. 

I've self-published a novella for Domikka, Murder on the Hot Flats, which is available for Amazon's Kindle.

A runner up would be The World of Greyhawk, both pre and post-Greyhawk Wars.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge List of Blogs

Here's the list of the blogs that I know about participating in the D&D 30 Day Challenge!

Each link takes you to a blog's "Day 1" of the challenge.

Please let me know of more, or if you want to add your blog, and I'll update as we go forward.

Good reading!

("Patient Zero")
19. Dorkistan

Day 3: Favorite Playable Class

I'll be updating the list of all the blogs participating in the challenge sometime tonight.

Thanks to all who've added blogs so far!

Meanwhile, what's my favorite playable class?

The bard.

I think the bard class, when played right, can be the most powerful class.

A bard is a jack-of-all-trades, but a master of none. Therefore, he cannot rely on all of his cool powers, but his wits. This forces him to think outside of the box.

When playing the bard, you must think outside of the box since in each edition of D&D, they don't quite get the bard right.

In OD&D, the bard was a lyrical poet who could charm his enemies with his music.
In AD&D, the bard became the first prestige class--your character had to take levels in fighter and thief before taking up druidic studies as a bard. The bard was, in my opinion, the most powerful class for this reason.
In AD&D 2e, they made him into a toned down fighter/mage/thief in knowledge abilities.
In 3.0/3.5e, he became very much a supporting character--not as much fun to play.
In Pathfinder, the bard seemed to have been beefed up, but I haven't played Pathfinder. 
I haven't seen the bard in 4e, I really don't want to.

I wish somebody would design a bard class that feels more like the AD&D bard, but not as a prestige class. Because I think that was the original intention with the class.

Here's somebody with a pseudo-celtic background that's very knowledgeable, as is a cross between a fighter, thief, and druid.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Open Call: Who's all participating in the D&D 30 day challenge?

[EDIT: I've compiled the "official" list here ]

Has somebody set up a "command post" kind of like what Tenkar's Tavern did for Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day, where all the participants could look through the blogs.

This is the list I have so far--its very finite, given my confines to this little corner of the Internet.

Chronicles of Ganth
Codex Apocrypha
Murky Murky: Roleplaying Advice and Fiction
Random Wizard
Realms of Chirak
Tenkar's Tavern
The Disoriented Ranger
The Other Side
Wishful Gaming

Seven? Now that can't be right... I'm following far more RPG blogs than that, but a number of the usual suspects seem to have gone dark. [EDIT: Added Codex Apocrypha]

Post a comment below if you want your blog added to this list.

I hadn't intended on turning this into a blog hop, I just want to read what others have to say.

Maybe its something do with the I had a dream a few nights ago. I was at a swap meet/yard sale in a city park on a bright sunny day. Somebody was trying to sell me stones and sea shells at a picnic table. The stones and shells will placed on newspaper. I think I told the person I wasn't interested in crafts.

I passed these up and saw several white bankers boxes sitting in the grass, open. They had old books in them.

Upon closer look, they had old RPG books in them. Most of them were by third party companies I didn't quite recognize (I think TORG was in there).  But then I found a binder full of adventure notes and maps, written in my handwriting--stuff I had either lost or thrown out from my early days of gaming. I saw as plain as day the character sheet for Havoc the dwarven fighter, my first player-character, along with a version Stephano Alandorf, a Bard a I played in 8th grade and early High School. You'll hear about him on Day 8.

There were other binders in those boxes, which I'm sure were full of old D&D notes, character sheets, and adventures.

I was just about ready to ask the man at the picnic table the price for all of the boxes and binders, but then I woke up.

And then I read about this challenge.

Was one of your old binders in that box?

Day 2: Favorite Playable Race


I've played half-elves, dwarves, an elf once, but my favorite playable race is human.

I find humans fare more interesting to play than any other race.

You can read about it in post from last December:

Ecce Homo

I still have that philosophy (though I hope I'm writing my blog posts better now). I just like to see what humans can do, especially since they don't have all of the advantages other races often have.

Maybe its the writer in me.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Day 1: The Dark Forest (How it all started)

The Dark Forest 
A short solo Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure for a single 1st level dwarven fighter
played by somebody new at tabletop roleplaying games. 

by Stelios V. Perdios

The adventure begins in the character's hometown (decide on the name during character creation). The player is presumably new to the hobby, so make sure he or she understands his or her character sheet. Keep in mind that the dwarven +1 bonus to hit against orcs and -4 "bonus" to AC against ogres will come to play later in this adventure. Get the player to roleplay a little. Emphasize that this is a pseudo-medieval society without modern conveniences (no maps, few well-maintained roads, lots of serfs, etc.)

 When all is ready, explain to the player:

--There's little adventuring to be had here. The town is boring.
--The exciting world outside your home village awaits.
--You hear (via rumors or somebody posting a note in the town market place) that the village of Dukna is hiring mercenaries to deal with the monster raids from the Dark Forest.
--Dukna is located about two day's journey on foot to the North.
--There is a trail, but it is seldom traveled in these dark times.

The Journey to Dukna
--Great weather for traveling. A warm wind blows from the south.
--This is your first adventure, you against the world.
--Meet a merchant on the road, selling lucky trinkets. The merchant says the character will need some good luck. Creatures stalk the road at night. His lucky charms are non-magical, but range from 10 silver pieces to 2 gold piece in price.

Afternoon and evening:
--The good whether continues. No other travelers.
--That evening the wind shifts, blowing cold air from the north.

--Making camp? Making a fire? (Fire can keep animals away, but can attract monsters--you may want to tell this to the player).
--Ask if the character is sleeping.
--If the character has made a fire, two kobolds try to sneak up on the character around midnight (Thac0 20; AC 7; MV 6"; hp 2 each; DMG: 1d4 (daggers); XP 7 each; treasure: 12 cp each). Describe the clouds covering up the moon, the feeling of being watched. Does the character go to sleep? or pretend to go to sleep? Don't tell the player what a kobold is. Don't mention the word "kobold." Just describe the small humanoids with scaly skin and let the player's imagination do the rest.
--What does the character do with the bodies after combat?

The Next Day:
--It's colder. Grey clouds have covered the sky.
--No travelers on the trail.
--The character reaches Dukna on the southern edge of the Dark Forest just before nightfall.
--The village has only a crude stockage surrounding it--gaps.
--If the character states to the guards at the gate that he's looking for employment, they will take him to the village burgomeister (make up the burgomeister's name).

At Dukna
The Burgomeister:
--Explains that pig-faced humanoids, lead by a monstrous giant brute,
--Offers the following terms, payment of 3 silver pieces a day if the character scouts the forest, trying to find the source of the monster raids
--If the character mentions he has experience fighting such creatures (as evidenced by the bonus on his sheet), the Burgomeister raises the price to 5 silver pieces a day
--The character is expected to begin duty in the morning.

--There are many trails in the Dark Forest, but no guide can be found since the forest has become too dangerous.
--There are no maps of the Dark Forest.
--Healing can be had at the local temple, if a suitable donation (10 gp per hit point) is made.
--The Inn costs 2 sp per night.
--If the player-character dawdles around for a day or two, have another monster raid strike at night while the character is sleeping. In the morning the Burgomeister may summon the character and ask why he isn't doing his duty

The Dark Forest
The first expedition:
The character is traveling along (making a map of the trails?) when he encounters 4 orcs on the trail up ahead (Thac0 19; AC 6; HD 1; hp 3 each; Dmg 1d6 various weapons; XP 12 each; treasure: 2d6 cp, 1d6 sp).
--Let the character surprise the orcs, emphasizing stealth and surprise against a superior enemy. Ambush.

The second expedition:
--Same as the first. But not only does he encounter 4 orcs, but also an Ogre (Thac0 15; AC 4; HD 4+1, hp 15; Dmg 1d10; XP 165; Treasure: 1d6 gp, 2d6 sp, 3d6 cp.)
--This is meant to be a tough encounter. Does the character run away? Or confront the ogre?  It should teach you, the DM, how the player might handle future encounters--his or her style of play.

Wrapping Up 
--The player might believe that the ogre was the leader of the monsters, since it was the biggest and strongest.
--Burgomeister isn't so sure. The player is supposed to find the source of the monsters. There must be a lair out there somewhere.
--The Burgomeister insists the character do more investigating.

Where the orcs and ogres came from, and what possible masters they serve, is up to you, the Referee, to flesh out.

Hopefully, the player enjoyed the adventure, and will be hooked on Dungeons & Dragons as I have, since the day my brother ran me through the above scenario, almost 25 years ago...

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