The Evil DM

The Evil DM
The Evil DM

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Old Dark House

The Old Dark House trope is a common device where a group of character must spend a night in a possibly haunted mansion or castle. Something or someone kills the characters one by one. The movie, Friday the Thirteenth, follows this trope. One of the plot-holes in the trope is why do the characters stay in the house? I remember reading a review of the movie Alien. The reviewer said Alien was one of the few movies using the Old Dark House trope where it made sense for the characters to stay in the house.

I used the Old Dark House trope a few times in my games. I vividly remember one adventure I patterned after the first Friday the Thirteenth movie. Jason attacks one of the members of the party. In the movie, the teenagers never stay together. They always find some reason to go off on their own, usually to fornicate. Instead of being stupid, the party hunkered down and built a bunker. Jason attacked. Jason died. The party proceeded to dismember and burn the body. The players were upset when Jason’s mother came in the night and stole all the burnt body parts of her beloved boy. That adventure was many years ago.

In my current campaign, several months ago, the party found a large altar made of solid gold. They planned to come back later for the gold. The party first found the gold by going through an underground base, then up some stairs into a buried keep. The party had an idea for the location of the buried keep. They decided to dig into the keep instead of going through the underground base. This brings up the Old Dark House trope. The party is trying to reach the altar of gold. Varieties of creatures inhabit the keep making the task difficult.

The roll playing makes the adventures fun. Two of the characters have intelligence of only eight. In a recent adventure, after killing some creatures the party was hurt. Instead of resting, the party opens up the body bag containing a lich. They promptly ran away.

One question keeps popping into my mind. Should I close the door? That is, should I lock the party into the Old Dark House? Would that result in a total-party-kill? On the other hand, could the party fight their way through?

Friday, November 28, 2014

How Many Bodies Can You Stack in a Bedroom?

How many bodies can you stack into an eleven by fifteen foot room? In a scene reminiscent of the ending of a Few Dollars More, the party stacks the dead bodies resulting from last week’s adventure into a bedroom. They end up stacking the bodies four deep on the bed and floor. How long until a dead body smells? A lot depends on the temperature. The odor of the bodies could attract attention or some sort of carrion eater.

After stacking the bodies, the party returned down the stairs. They heard someone in authority dressing down a group of soldiers through the large window. The party opened the window. Melee began. The party managed to kill several more. One creature, managed to escape. What will the party do next?

Based on the graphic found here.

I have to give credit for the idea to this.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

It Looks Friendly

I read an article about the Predatory Glow Worms in the Peruvian Amazon. Sounds like a fun variant of the Purple Worm. Only hope you never run into a horny adolescent giant radioactive carnivorous mutant predatory glowing worm or you could end up like a penguin being molested by a seal.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Playing with Your Food

Anyone who has read Dracula knows vampires play with their food. Then I saw the video of a seal sexual harassing a penguin. The seals often eat the penguin after they finish. This could explain the presence of half-trolls. Occasionally, the female escapes rather instead of the troll consuming the victim. If the troll captures a male, well just like the poor penguin, the troll may decide to play with its food.

The next time the party of adventurers run into a large creature, they should fear the creature might want to play with its food.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Whisky a Go Go is the name of a famous nightclub. I am going to call the last adventure, “Poison a Go Go”. It started with an adult theme. The sorceress decided to “take one for the team”. Then the half-orc came to the rescue. A few rounds later, the proprietor of the Rat Whole was lying on the floor, dead.

The party found trays of roasted rats and spiders in the kitchen. In a storeroom was a staircase going down leading to a room resembling the back of a restaurant. A door led to a smaller room with a half-height counter with a fold up window. The glass in the window was translucent. The party saw figures moving on the other side of the window.

The light from the back room was visible through the glass. One of the figures approached the window, knocked, and asked, “Are you open yet? I’m hungry.” The cleric folded up the window and the greyish creature asked, “Where’s Ragnol?” The cleric told a story the proprietor was away seeing family. Some of the party ran up the stairs to get the trays of prepared food.

In a previous adventure, the party received a duffel bag full of Tharl. Tharl is an herb. Tharl has two side effects. First, Tharl provides a limited water-breathing capability. Second, Tharl has a narcotic effect giving the user a sense of euphoria. Tharl is addictive. In yet another adventure, the party harvested a large quantity of belladonna, the queen of poisons. The party “seasoned” the trays of roasted rats and spiders with a combination of Tharl and belladonna.

The party managed to poison seventeen doppelgangers before one was able to shout out a warning. The eighteenth doppelganger died from the poison as two guards arrived. The party dispatched the two guards. The adventure ended as the party hid the dead bodies.

Although Rat on a Stick did not have any Go Go dancers, it was a popping place for a while.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Fate Worse Than Death?

An attractive Elf Sorceress walks into a tavern named The Rat Whole. After bravely running away from some Trolls, the party tries to find an alternative entrance to the dungeon. Along the way, they see a large building. The sign in front of the building says, “The Rat Whole”. The sorceress walks in, unaccompanied, to check it out. A mature man suffering from osteoporosis greets the attractive elf inviting her to sit and have a mug of eggnog made with fresh spider eggs and rat milk. The proprietor says he is a lonely. He says he appreciates the company of an attractive elf and knows how to treat a lady right.

The elf has a brief conversation then leaves the tavern. The party learned the owner of the Rat Whole prepares food for the inhabitants of the dungeon. The party decides the sorceress will attempt to sneak in the back while the rest of the party distracts the tavern owner by rambunctious activities in the front of the tavern.

The sorceress enters through a window into a storage room. Connected to the storage room are a bedroom and the kitchen. The sorceress attempts to move some large crates in the storage room. She fails a stealth check. The proprietor of The Rat Whole notices a sound coming from the back of the building. The rest of the party fails to keep the proprietor from leaving. The proprietor discovers the sorceress in the storeroom. The proprietor shouts, “Thief!”

The sorceress tells the proprietor she wanted to take him up on his offer to “treat a lady right”. She says she entered through the window to avoid attention. The proprietor invites the attractive elf into the bedroom and closes the door behind her.

So ends last week’s adventure.

I found the basis for the picture here.

Video of last week's adventure

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Troll Box

Years ago, I started keeping a journal of ideas for the adventures I run. These ideas are the source of wild adventures. One line in my journal of ideas read, "Puzzle box that may or may not summon 'things'". Clive Barker created a fictional puzzle box called Lemarchand's box. I added the line to my journal of ideas after seeing the first Hellraiser movie.

I based the puzzle box in my campaign on thoughts about the Mirror of Life Trapping. The Mirror of Life Trapping captures anything looking into the mirror. The only way to get out of a Mirror of Life Trapping is to fill it with creatures or to break the mirror. The puzzle box in my campaign is more like Lemarchand's box. If you interact with the box, it will release one of the creatures it contains instead of summoning the Cenobites. The party has not yet found out how creatures get into the box.

A group of toy soldiers introduced the party to the Troll Box. The party accidentally activated a group of toy soldiers. The party then retreated out of the room, closing the door. The toy soldiers were too small to open the door. The sorceress got down on the floor and threw burning spray spells into the room with the toy soldiers through the gap between the door and the floor. The toy soldiers responded by carefully taking the Troll Box out of its container and sitting it on the floor. The next time the sorceress cast a spell it activated the box releasing a troll. The troll had no difficulty opening the door.

During the melee with the troll, someone kicked the box down the hallway. This released yet another troll. When I created the troll box, I did not realize I created the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. In the most recent adventure, a character in the party grabbed a Troll Box and tried to make a three rail kick shot. He almost succeeded. The box only released two trolls. After that, the party bravely ran away.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Time has not been kind to Grand Master Kibbe

Greetings Alessa,

As you know, Grand Master Kibbe retired from adventuring forty years ago to run the monastery north of Broficult. Grand Master Kibbe became a great asset as he installed discipline and intensive training at the monastery.

Unfortunately, time has not been kind to Grand Master Kibbe. Thirty years ago, the grand master started to lose his sight. Though blind, the grand master was able to continue his duties and the monastery continued to prosper. Some even said the loss of his sight made Kibbe a better monk.

Twenty years ago, Grand Master Kibbe's sense of hearing started to fade. Though aged, blind and deaf, the grand master continued to train initiates. Some attributed his keen sense of smell with his ability to defeat anyone who challenged his abilities or leadership.

About ten years ago, Grand Master Kibbe's sense of smell started to fade. He complained about the taste of his food and demanded spicier and spicier dishes. Preparing his evening meal became dangerous to the initiates, as the food was so spicy a single drop on the skin could cause a blister. Eventually, Grand Master Kibbe stopped demanding spicier food. He instead pummeled anyone who brought a dish that did not blister the tongue. A year ago, a novice made the mistake of taking the wrong dish to Grand Master Kibbe. Instead of the fiery bowl, the novice took the master a bowl of food without any seasoning at all. Grand Master Kibbe ate the bowl without complaint. We realized he finally lost his sense of smell and taste. The initiates were grateful they no longer needed extraordinary measures to protect themselves from the piquant meals they prepared for the grand master.

Recently Grand Master Kibbe's health took an unfortunate direction. Some say the years of spicy abuse are responsible. Other say Kibbe's extreme age is the cause. No matter the reason, Kibbe recently lost the control of his bowels. Because he is blind, deaf, and has no sense of smell, Kibbe is oblivious to the problem. His gaseous expulsions cause temporary blindness and burn the eyes, nose, and throat. Grand Master Kibbe does not notice his bowels leak noxious fluid as he walks the corridors and courtyards of the Monastery.

The initiates fled the fetid monastery. No one wants to scrub the floors to remove the malodorous droppings of the Grand Master. For the good of the monastery, the Order decided it is time for Grand Master Kibbe to continue on his journey. We ask you to help Grand Master Kibbe on his way.


Grand Master Rabin

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Shakedown Gone Horribly Wrong

I thought shaking down the party was appropriate. At the end of the last adventure, the party killed a Doppelganger Assassin. They dragged the body back to their boat and tied up the body. The cleric resurrected the Doppelganger. The party used various techniques to extract information from the Doppelganger. They considered water-boarding and other methods. Eventually they let the Doppelganger free before they sailed into the port city of Meendinaba.

My notes on the encounter were simple. Groups of street urchins were in league with the city guards. The street urchins would accuse the party of some horrible crime. The guards would arrest the party. Then the guards would offer to let the party go for a price.

The party ties up their ship at the docs and head off to find a contact in the city. They notice two street urchins watching them. They are young boys wearing dirty and ragged clothing. One boy runs off down a side street. The other boy continues to watch the party. The party continues walking down the docks.

One player character pulls out a gold piece and holds it up. Then the player character throws the gold piece off the dock into the water (reminiscent of a recent scene in Boardwalk Empire). The street urchin recovers the gold and returns it to the character. The character says the boy can keep the coin if it leaves them alone. The boy runs off.

The party continues down the docks. Seven street urchins run out of an ally and accost the part. One of the urchins tries to sneak something into the pocket of one of the party members. The urchin fails and is caught. As the character grapples the urchin, two more run up and smear blood on the character while a third whistles. Out from the ally runs a third urchin. The boy is naked and blood covers his mutilated gentiles. The blood covered urchin screams, "He's the one!" and points at the character covered with blood grappling a young boy.

At this point, the city guard arrives. My idea was to capture the party then shake them down for gold. Instead, the characters decided to resist arrest. In a short time all eight urchins and two guards lie dead. The party runs back to their ship and sails away.

I found the image on DeviantArt here:

Here is the video of the adventure.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Interesting Area - Bath

Bathing in Rome was a communal activity. Romans build their baths with fireproof terracotta bricks. They finished the area with fine mosaic floors and marble-covered walls. Statues decorated the area. A public bath contained many rooms. The rooms were vastly different temperature and humidity. For example, bath often had hot dry and hot wet rooms to sit and sweat. The pools were hot, warm, and cool.

A bath could have an assortment of oils. A bath often had massage tables. A masseuse could rub down a patron of the bath with various oils. Scented oils are common. A pressure plate in an archway could trigger a shower of water mixed with a scented oil showering anyone who enters. Musk has a powerful smell. Anointing the party with the musk of some animal (or monster) could attract that creature with the intent to mate with the source of the scent. Floral and fruit based scents. The table below lists a variety of scents.


Bath toys can be a source of entertainment while bathing. Bath toys include ships. Imaging the party finding large sunken tub filled with water and an entire armada of wooden toy ships. The ships could include small figurine.

But, who could forget about the rubber ducky.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Interesting Areas - Dressing Room

In eighteenth century France, a maid would groom and sponge bathe her lady in private. The mistress would spend hours to having her hair dressed, eating breakfast, entertaining friends, and picking the clothes she would wear for the day in her dressing room. The wealthier the woman, the more elaborate her morning ritual. In a fantasy kingdom, a wealthy lady would have servants and possibly magical assistance in her morning ritual. Daily showering is a recent custom only practiced in parts of the world.

Jonathan Swift wrote a poem titled, "The Lady's Dressing Room". Wikipedia describes what the man finds when he sneaks into his lover's dressing room, "He finds sweaty smocks, dirt-filled combs, oily cloths, grimy towels," and so on. Worst he finds the chamber pot.

Consider this scenario. The party finds a painting of a beautiful woman in an elegant gown. As they advance through the mansion, they find the lady's dressing room. Instead of elegance, they find dirty clothes, grimy towels, used feminine products, and a smelly chamber pot.

Dressing rooms are not exclusive to women. Men can have dressing rooms. Consider the noble knight. Where does he put on his armor? Does he strap on the plate mail himself or does he have his squires help him? Depending on the personal hygiene of the knight, his dressing room could be as bad or worse.

Dressing rooms would have lots of shelves and places to hang clothing. Where does Superman hang his clean Superman suits? Would they be out in the open, or hidden behind some secret panel in his dressing room? A dressing room is an obvious place to have a secret panel to hide your alternate identity or sexual fetish costumes.

Consider this scenario. The party searches the dressing room and finds a secret passage into an adjoining secret dressing room. The room contains a set of skin-tight leather armor. However, the armor has opening in the crotch and provides no protection for the gentiles. Wearing the armor provides +3 to your sexual attractiveness.

What dressing room would be complete without at least one full-length mirror? In the movie Legend, Mia Sara dances with the mannequin in the black dress. Suddenly, the dress appears on Mia Sara's character. If you hold up a piece of clothing and stand in front of the mirror, the mirror could magically show you how you would look wearing the clothing. Alternatively, the mirror magically teleports and transforms your clothing.

Depending on how diabolic the Dungeon Master wants to be, the mirror could change the gender of the character depending on the type of clothing. For example, if an adventurer picks up a dress and the adventurer happens to reflect in the mirror while holding the dress then the mirror could change the gender of the adventurer to female and outfit her with the dress.

All dressing rooms need a place to store shoes and boots. What evil overlord is complete without a collection of highly polished boots? Imelda Marcos was infamous for her huge collection of shoes. No shoe collection is complete without at least one pair of magical elf-skin boots.

Mannequin are the perfect place to show off special outfits. For example, a female mannequin wearing a chainmail bikini, or a male mannequin wearing a chainmail jockstrap. How lifelike are the mannequin? Were they once alive and transformed into a mannequin? Do the mannequins come alive?

Dressing rooms often contain a variety of substances to improve the appearance of the owner. In the movie, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Vincent Price puts on his wax face. Imagine the party finding a drawer full of various types of ears and noses.

Every dressing room should have at least one table for various creams and potions. For example, skin cream made from real skin. The table could have lots of pretty tins and boxes. Bell jars filled with a variety of preserved objects can add interest.

The key is to make each area interesting to the party. The area does not need to be harmful or helpful. The party needs to have a tale to tell when they get back home.

I found the picture of the armor here.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Interesting Areas - Courtyard

Romans grew gardens inside their homes. The Roman name for a courtyard is peristylium. The peristylium was a key area in Roman homes. Courtyards were a central feature of many ancient homes. Homes today often have patios. An enclosed patio is a courtyard. A courtyard provides a pleasant place to relax and entertain guests.

A party of adventurers exploring a ruin of a city or town will likely find the remains of homes with courtyards. Courtyards can exist in underground dwellings. Dwarves can build courtyards and bring in sunlight via mirrors or crystals.

Courtyards tend to be larger areas. Courtyards provide a dungeon master the opportunity to be creative. Everything in the courtyard can be a point of interest for the party.

Courtyards are usually tiled or paved. The party enters the dusty courtyard. They notice a pattern in the paving stones not covered by dust and dirty. Sweeping away the dirty the party finds a mosaic of a large blue monster holding a cookie with the caption "Me eat cookie!"

The floor of the courtyard provides an opportunity to continue the story of the campaign. The floor could give hints at what lie in the catacombs below or show the prowess of the original owner. A classic example is the mosaic in Pompeii of a dog with the caption "Cave Canem!" which means, "Beware of dog!"

To make a courtyard interesting provide the players with the opportunity for discovery and interaction. For example, cover part of the mosaic with dirt or make the mosaic incomplete. Impress on the party how lifelike the creature appears in the mosaic; however, someone pried the pieces with the eyes and mouth out. Does the party put the pieces back? If so, is there any kind of reaction?

Ceramic tiles can act as trigger mechanism. Traps are obvious. What is not as obvious are sounds. For example, when a character steps on a specific ceramic tile it triggers a small hammer to strike a tuned metal bar making a sound. The floor is a form a xylophone or metallophone. Dancing across the floor will play music. The party could dig up the floor, follow the wires or strings, and find the xylophone.

Plants can decorate a patio or courtyard. Plants could provide a variety of alchemic ingredients. In a fantasy world, plants could do more than just look pretty. A courtyard would be a good place for an Audrey II plant from the movie "Little Shop of Horrors". A large tree in the courtyard could be the home of a Dryad. Alternatively, the plants could be a non-player character giving a vegetables view of the party. A plant non-player character may consider vegetarians horrible monsters.

A reflecting pool could function as a magical mirror. Looking into the reflecting pool could allow viewing other places. Magical fountains offer other diversions. For example, positioning a potion to reflect in the reflecting pool causes the fountain to spray out that potion providing a limitless supply of potions (or not).

Statues commonly adorn ancient courtyards. Some statues could be previous adventurers who did something wrong with the pool and ended up drinking a potion that turns the drinking into stone.

The key is to make each area interesting to the party. The area does not need to be harmful or helpful. The party needs to have a tale to tell when they get back home.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Interesting Areas

What makes a room, corridor, passage, chamber, or area interesting, memorable, and fun?

I read a review of Dwimmermount. The reviewer said, "Here's the thing--as a player, I want my character to kick some ass, be awesome, and have a tale to tell back at the tavern so he can get some action with the serving wenches." The key is having a tale to tell.

Role-playing is about having fun sharing and an adventure with others. That means the players must have interesting and memorable experiences. The line I quoted above implies characters need something to kill. I disagree. For me, nothing is more boring than a continual slog through a dungeon where the players kill monster after monster. In the Original Dungeons and Dragon's book "The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures" page 7 suggests only a third of rooms in a dungeon should have a monster. Monsters should have purpose and reason for being in the area.

Traps, like monsters, can be just another boring slog through the dungeon. Too many traps and the players may decide they want to leave that adventure. There should be a reason for the traps. Putting a trap on a major treasure room makes sense. Putting a trap on chest with eighty gold turns into another boring bookkeeping exercise. Your character cannot go back to the tavern and brag to the serving wench, "I survived the poison trap on the chest with a few gold pieces." Everyone remembers the rolling bolder trap in the movie Raider of the Lost Ark.

I am starting a series of blog posts about interesting areas. Areas that are interesting in their own right, not because the area contains monsters or traps.

I found the head shot of Jonathan Goldsmith here.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Has an NPC ever asked your character to do something morally repugnant?

I grew up in a rural area. Before I was born, my parents raised chicks in the hall closet. There was a closet in our hallway. My parents used the closet to raise chicks. When they were old enough, my parents slaughtered as young chickens for food. My father was amazing at jumping rope. All through my childhood, I heard stories about my father cutting the heads off the chickens, gutting them, and then using their intestines as a jump rope.

Today, few people slaughter animals for food. On the other hand, eggs are highly popular. Look at the sales of Egg McMuffin. People are more interested in having eggs without the yokes, e.g. the Egg White McMuffin. They forget eggs are a product of chickens. One of the lines from the movie Coneheads refers to consuming fried chicken embryos. Balut is a developing duck embryo boiled alive and eaten in the shell. Balut is a commonly sold street food in the Philippines.

Food is often associated with both medicine and religion. Celebrations and religious ceremonies often include food. For example, the story of the prodigal son mentions the phrase "roasting the fatted calf". The Jewish feast of Passover includes eating lamb.

Throughout history, man associated eating with religion. Many religions had dietary restrictions and festivals. According to one source, most anthropologists today believe the practice of cannibalism has been part of human behavior since long before recorded history. Humans have killed humans as part of religious rituals and for food. Child sacrifice is just a sub-category of human sacrifice.

I have never played a role-playing game where cannibalism, human sacrifice, and child sacrifice were prominent themes. I decided to spice up my campaign with some interesting situations.

A cleric of an obscure sect wanders into town looking for the party of adventurers. The party developed a reputation of obtaining "things". The cleric arrived in poor shape. Thieves along the way robbed and beat the cleric. The cleric ask the party if they would retrieve some things the sect needs for a religious ritual. The party asked the details. The sect needed three things.
  • Berries picked off of particular bushes at particular times
  • Water from a sacred brook
  • The head of an unborn child
The first two items did not bother the party. They did not worry about taking water from a sacred brook. The party questioned the third item, the head of an unborn child. The party asked the cleric how they would obtain such an item. The cleric replied, "Find a pregnant woman and retrieve the head of the child." In response, the party immediately murdered the cleric.

The party found the cleric's request morally repugnant. Have you ever played a game where a non-player character asked your character to do something morally repugnant? If so, what was your response?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Unemployed Fighter

One of my favorite poems is The Quest by Rudyard Kipling. The first stanza goes like this.

The knight came home from the quest,
Muddied and sore he came.
Battered of shield and crest,
Bannerless, bruised and lame.
Fighting we take no shame,
Better is man for a fall.
Merrily borne, the bugle-horn
Answered the warder's call:—
"Here is my lance to mend (Haro!),
Here is my horse to be shot!
Ay, they were strong, and the fight was long;
But I paid as good as I got!"

I am old enough to remember how the press and public treated soldiers returning from the War in Vietnam. I went into the service after Vietnam. There were three returning soldiers in my platoon during Advanced Individual Training (AIT). All three were drafted to go to Vietnam. The fought and left the service. They had difficulties adjusting to civilian life. It is not unusual for a sergeant in the Army to sign for equipment worth more than a million dollars. A tank commander is usually a sergeant or higher. They sign for the tank and all its associated equipment. That is worth much more than a million dollars. In civilian life, you need to be an executive in a company to sign for equipment worth that much.

In the military, you learn to respect the rank. You may think your officer is dumb, but you must respect his rank. In civilian life, it is common for workers to be disrespectful to their supervisor. In the military, if you disrespect a sergeant you will end up in jail. When I was in the Army, I remember what happened to an arrogant druggie. The sergeant ordered the druggie to clean up a mess. The druggie said something like, "Hell no!" The sergeant informed the private he was insubordinate and would face charges. The druggie took a swing at the sergeant. The sergeant knew there were witnesses who would back up the fact the druggie took the first swing. The sergeant proceeded to beat the shit out the druggie. Then the sergeant drug the druggie up to the company headquarters to face charges. The military teaches you must respect the rank and position, even if you do not respect the person holding the rank or position. That was the reason three Vietnam draftees reenlisted and were in my platoon. Civilian employers did not trust them with valuable equipment. Workers did not respect their position of authority.

How does this relate to role-playing games? In the Original Dungeons and Dragons book, "Men and Magic", page 16 lists the names for the levels of a fighter. A first level fighter is a veteran. This means OD&D assumes a first level fighter has some military experience. In the medieval period, only soldiers received training in the use of swords and armor.

This explains why characters become adventurers. There is an old song, "How Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm?" After you have seen a bit of the world, do you really want to go back to the farm? Some do. Others find the rural life style lacking.

I thing I find missing in many fantasy role-playing games is a plausible history for fighters. Where did they learn to use weapons and armor? Swords and armor were never cheap. Where did the fighters get their initial equipment?

In the poem is The Quest by Rudyard Kipling the knight comes home bannerless, bruised, and lame. His horse is hurt so badly it needs to be put shot to put it out of its misery. Today, we have soldiers returning. I hear some saying, "the quest was in vain." Kipling say it best in the last stanza.

"My shame ye count and know.
Ye say the quest is vain.
Ye have not seen my foe.
Ye have not told his slain.
Surely he fights again, again;
But when ye prove his line,
There shall come to your aid my broken blade
In the last, lost fight of mine!
And here is my lance to mend (Haro!),
And here is my horse to be shot!
Ay, they were strong, and the fight was long;
But I paid as good as I got!"

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Dynamic Adventures

Have you ever made significant changes to the adventure while running it by changing the map, player handouts, or non-player characters?

My background is software development. One of the principles I learned was documents are never finished. The requirements and specifications change frequently. I apply that concept to adventures.

I am not sure if my players realize I routinely change maps on the fly. For example, a while back the party was exploring a dungeon. I accidentally revealed a part of the map of the dungeon they had not yet explored. While running the adventure I changed the map. Removed corridors and room and added new ones. That is the advantage of a tool like Campaign Cartographer. It is easy to rearrange things.

Sometimes the players state they are worried they will run into some specific monster or situation. I always note those ideas. I usually add those ideas to the campaign a few adventures later.

If you want to use your own maps with Roll20 and other virtual tabletop programs you have load them. Usually you have to load them beforehand. The virtual tabletop programs work with bitmap files, not Computer Aided Design (CAD) type files created by Campaign Cartographer (Campaign Cartographer is actually FastCAD with its own set of symbols). For me, I find the ability to manipulate the maps while running very important.

I draw up my maps and label them. They players normally do not get to see the labels. One of the changes I am constantly making is changing the visibility of the labels. When I draw the maps, I focus on how I want the maps to appear to me. For example, if there is a piece of graffiti written on a wall put that on the map. The players cannot see what the graffiti says until they get close enough to read it. I modify the visibility of the graffiti label during the game.

Graffiti can spice up any dungeon. In the 1972 film The Mechanic, Charles Bronson's character leaves a note for his apprentice that reads, "Steve, if you're reading this it means I didn't make it back. It also means you've broken a filament controlling a 13-second delay trigger. End of game. Bang! You're dead." Imagine the party seeing something written in very small script on the wall. The graffiti reads, "If you are reading this it means you stepped on a pressure plate releasing a delayed blast fireball. Bang! You are dead."

Monday, March 3, 2014

What is the most outrageous treasure you have ever found as a player or given as a DM?

I may have the record for the most outrageous treasure. A player walked out of one of my dungeons with three gems worth one billion gold pieces each.

My memory is a bit fuzzy, this happened almost forty years ago. The adventure started with a large party. There were half-a-dozen player characters. Each player character had several henchmen and hirelings. The party fought their way through the depths of my "Big Dungeon". The henchmen and hirelings died. A group of high-level thieves ambushed the party. They took everything. The left the party naked and tied up. Eventually the party managed to free themselves. This is when they found the secret passage to the lowest level of the dungeon.

I placed the Machine of Lum the Mad on the lowest level of the dungeon. Eldritch Wizardry describes the Machine of Lum the Mad as a gigantic piece of intricate machinery. The machine has a booth large enough for four people. The machine has 70 levers and 30 dials. They affect what is in the booth.

The party had nothing. No weapons, no armor, no equipment. The party ordered remaining henchmen and hirelings into the booth. They died when the party pulled a lever. The party drug the scorched bodies out. An argument ensued over who was going into the chamber and who was going to pull the lever? The characters in the chamber received some amazing powers. But, greed took over. The party pulled more levers and turned more dials. In the end, only a single player character survived. Probably the only reason that character survived is there was no one left to activate the machine.

The single, naked thief wandered through the gigantic machine. He found the Corridor of Lights that powered the machine. Gems covered the walls of the Corridor of Lights. The farther you go down the corridor the more valuable the gems become. However, you must save verses insanity every thirty feet you go down the corridor. The naked thief wandered down far enough to reach the billion gold piece gems. He extracted the gems from the wall. Amazingly, he made all his saving rolls.

Juggling the three basketball sized gems, the naked thief continued exploring the dungeon. He found a teleporter and managed to escape the dungeon with the three gems. He hid the gems while he searched for clothing and a way back to town.

The thief retrieved the gems. He tried to sell one of the gems. One gem was worth more than the entire kingdom. No one could make change for a one-billion gold piece gem. He then tried to hire a gem cutter. He found an old, highly skilled gem cutter. Upon seeing the massive gem, the cutter had a heart attack and died. The thief then found a younger, healthier gem cutter. The cutter stared into the massive gem and passed into catatonia mumbling, "The lights! The lights!"

The player realized the thief could never sell or cut the gems. He purchased a large leather bag and a mace. He placed the gems in the bag. Using the mace, he pounded the massive gems into smaller fragments he could sell.

In the end, the character had millions of gold pieces, not billions.

I found the source for the graphic here.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Swords and Armor

One of the challenges in creating a fantasy campaign is explaining the magical weapons. You can create numerous +1 swords. Where does the magic come from? My approach in the World of Tiglath is different. I placed the campaign in the early copper age. Your average copper sword is made of copper. It can still kill.

In my campaign, bronze is rare. Copper and arsenic create a form of bronze. These type of weapons are +1. Rarer is the knowledge of copper tin bronze. Bronze made of copper and tin is harder and less brittle than copper and arsenic. Weapons made of copper and tin are +2. The knowledge of smelting iron is extremely rare in my campaign. Iron weapons are +3. Wrought iron weapons are +4. Steel is extremely rare. Steel weapons are +5. This is without the need for magic.

Creating steel in the ancient world normally involved harnessing a fire elemental and an air elemental to power the furnace. The result is not magical, but magic is involved.

Magical weapons should have a history and a reason for their creation. I previously blogged about the creation of the Cursed Sword of Zahair.

Cursed Sword of Zahair

An ornate sword covered with filigree, gemstones, and runes down the center of the blade. The sword appears to very valuable. On deeper inspection, the gemstones are only polished glass and semi-precious stones. The filigree is not of gold but lesser metals. The magical runes on the blade read, "Liars believe their own lies". The sword gives its owner the ability to spin wild tales of high adventure where the owner defeated powerful monsters. When the owner tells a wild tale, the sword makes them believe with all their heart the lie they are telling. The owner becomes convinced their exploits are the result of owning the sword. The owner will willingly face certain death to possess the sword. As a weapon, the sword is almost useless. When facing an adversary the owner will turn and run at the first opportunity then later tell a story of how they defeated the adversary after a long battle.

I found the picture of the sword here.

Day 28 - What is the single most important lesson you've learned from playing Dungeons & Dragons?

The single most important lesson I learned from playing Dungeons and Dragons is to take notes. I started playing when I was in the Army stationed in Germany. Every soldier is supposed to carry a pen and a small notebook as part of his uniform. I wrote down many ideas. I transferred my ideas to larger lab notebooks. I still have those notebooks.

Today, I use a computer instead of a paper notebook. I own a Microsoft Surface. It is great for taking notes. Whenever I go anywhere, I take my Surface.

When I run an adventure, I open up a blank Word document and an Excel spreadsheet. I have a template in Excel to keep track of initiative and experience. I write down notes about the adventure in Word.

I found the graphic here

Friday, February 28, 2014

Day 27 - If you had to do it all over again, would you do anything different when you first started gaming?

The one thing I would have done differently is keep in touch with everyone. We drifted apart and did not keep in touch. Another thing I would have done differently is to ship my stuff in multiple smaller packages. As far as gaming, I do not think I would have changed anything.

Perhaps the one thing I regret is not trying to sell some of my adventures. I created a module, "The Key to Druid's Gate" in 1981. I ran it as a tournament dungeon at a local convention in Salt Lake City. We sold a few copies in the dealer's room.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Day 26 - Do you still game with the people who introduced you to the hobby?

I lost all contact with the person who introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons when I left Germany. I occasionally reach out to some of my original gaming group. The same is true of my collage gaming group. We spread all over the country. Children, marriages, and divorces tend to take time away from gaming.

I found the image here:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Day 25 - Longest running campaign/gaming group you've been in.

I have never been in any campaign that has been running longer than my World of Tiglath campaign. The dates on the world maps go back to 1998. I created the video of the spinning globe in 2001. Some of the places and dungeons are much older. For example, the second dungeon I created was my Big Dungeon around 1975. My Big Dungeon has several entrances. In my current campaign, the party found an entrance through the palace of Th' Shoiz Shai Zhai.

Day 24 - First movie that comes to mind that you associate with D&D. Why?

The first movie I think of is Raiders of the Lost Ark. Adventures should be fun like Raiders of the Lost Ark. I love the scene with the large rock rolling after the characters. It is reminiscent of the Wile E. Coyote cartoons.

I use a similar trap in a dungeon I created to emulate Hellwell from the Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny. In the book, an on my dungeon, the door to Hellwell is inscribed with the words, "Go away. This is not a place to be. If you do try to enter here, you will fail and also be cursed. If somehow you succeed, then do not complain that you entered unwarned, nor bother us with your deathbed prayers." The inscription is signed, "The Gods."

My Hellwell dungeon has fifty-foot wide corridors winding around a huge central shaft. There are several large boulders type traps. The boulders roll down the corridors and eventually falls down the central shaft. Avoiding the boulders is relatively easy. The bigger problem is the noise the boulder causes as it warns all the denizens of the lower dungeon.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Day 23 - First song that comes to mind that you associate with D&D. Why?

Hotel California by the Eagles is the first song that comes to mind I associate with D&D. The lyrics give a definite adventure feel.

And in the master's chambers,
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can't kill the beast

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
"Relax", said the night man,
"We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave! "

"Steely knives" have no effect on numerous monsters in D&D. Those monsters require silver or magical weapons. The song reminds me of Tegal Manor produced by the Judges Guild. Both came out in 1977.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Day 22 - First D&D-based novel you ever read (Dragonlance Trilogy, Realms novels, etc.)

I tried reading the D&D based novel Quag Keep by Andre Norton. Previously, I read many of her books. However, I could not make it through Quag Keep. I thought it was awful. Never tried another D&D based novel.

There are too many good fantasy novels. For example, I love George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. The books are much better than the shows on HBO.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Day 21 - First time you sold some of your D&D books -- for whatever reason.

I never sold any of my D&D books. I have all my copies not destroyed in shipping. I am bibliophile and bibliomane. I have nineteen bookcases in my apartment, most filled with books. Magazines fill one bookcase. The only reason I do not have more bookcases is adding more would make it difficult to get through the apartment.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Day 20 - First non-D&D RPG you played.

The first non-D&D RPG I played was Boot Hill. I had a copy of the first printing of Boot Hill. I remember the first and only game we played of Boot Hill. I believe we tried to have ten or more players in the first game. Because of the simultaneous game play, each player wrote down what his character was going to do. The result was hilarious. One of the players said they were going to buy a bath. A gun battle erupted almost immediately. The character taking a bath was out of the action until a stray round came through the window and hit the tub. Before the character in the bath could react, half the town was dead from the gun battle. It was fun to watch, but deadly.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Day 19 - First gamer who just annoyed the hell out of you.

I have been lucky. Very few gamers annoy me. The only gamer I remember that annoyed the hell out of me kept trying to kill my character. I was gaming with a group in a rather high level somewhat Monty Hall type game. For a chance, I was playing, not DMing.

I cannot remember why, but somehow I upset the woman. I was playing a tank type fighter. In the middle of combat, her character would attack my fighter with some spell. Only the healer kept me alive. After several games, I decided to get back at her. I previously blogged about my Total Party Kill as a Player Character.

The picture is from here.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Day 18 - First gaming convention you ever attended.

I have never attended a gaming convention. I attended many science fiction conventions. Most science fiction conventions have some gaming events. For years, I ran the gaming in the science fiction conventions in Salt Lake City.

Day 17 - First time you heard D&D was somehow "evil."

I first heard someone say D&D was evil in the early 80s.

I grew up in Utah. I was a non-Mormon in a very Mormon state. Without going into personal details, in-laws from both sides my family ostracized us. I grew up on a street where there were two first-degree murders, several rapes, reports of incest, and bestiality. My high school had a reputation for drugs. I went to school with Warren Jeffs. He was a year older. Warren made the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.

With that background, when I heard a few people saying D&D was evil, I laughed. I have a good idea what evil is. Evil is beating your daughter to death with a baseball bat because she was on drugs. Evil is getting in a bar fight, driving home to get your shotgun, and then driving back to the bar to blow the other guy away. Evil is raping your daughter. When you have lived around people who do real evil you laugh at people who think some role-playing game is evil.

As the saying goes, I marched to the beat of a different drummer.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Agile Role Playing

I manage software development for a living. The basis for agile software development is the Agile Manifesto based on twelve principles. I believe role-playing should follow a similar pattern.

Manifesto for Agile Role Playing

Individuals and interactions over processes and a particular set of rules
Continuous delivery of interesting and fun adventures over comprehensive documentation and rules
Collaboration with the players over arguing rule specifics
Responding to change over following a plan, module, or rule

Principles behind Agile Role Playing

The highest priority is to satisfy the players through early and continuous delivery of interesting and fun adventures.

Welcome changing players and characters, even late in the campaign. Harness change for the opportunity to introduce new and exciting plot twists and adventures.

Deliver interesting and fun adventures frequently.

Build campaigns around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need and trust them to make the adventures interesting and fun.

The most efficient and effective method of conveying information is role-playing. Interactions with non-player-characters is preferable to finding notes and maps.

Players coming back repeatedly is the primary measure of progress in the campaign.

The Agile process promotes a sustainable campaign. The DM and players should be able to maintain a continual adventure indefinitely. The adventure is never over.

Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.

Simplicity - the art of maximizing the amount of work not done - is essential.

The best adventures and campaigns emerge from the ideas of the players.

At regular intervals, the DM and the players reflect on how to make the adventures more effective and fun, then tune and adjust their behavior accordingly.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Day 16 - Do you remember your first edition war? Did you win?

The first edition war I remember was between Original D&D (OD&D) and Advanced D&D (AD&D or 1st Edition). I remember how many considered Gary Gygax evil incarnate for what he did to the game. I tended to side with that view. I did not like the changes Gary Gygax was pushing. I am amazed at how people now revere someone I revile for figuratively stabbing Dave Arneson in the back.

The popularity of AD&D eclipsed OD&D. Even though I ran AD&D games, I ran a much looser game, more in the spirit of OD&D. In the end, I say I lost the war. OD&D tended to foster player-vs.-player conflict. I miss the old days where a player would play an assassin masquerading as a thief so he could join the party only to kill them for the loot.

When I run a game today, I ask the players for their character name, race, class, and gender. I used to ask players to introduce their character and describe to the party what race, class, and gender they appear to be. That is a very subtle difference. You never knew who or what was really in the party.

A good assassin could tell the rest of the party he was going to do a reconnaissance of the enemy. In reality, the assassin is not only doing a reconnaissance but also sneaking in and applying poison to the enemy's weapons. That way when the character dies from the poison on the blade the assassin gets the experience points but the party assumes the enemy/monsters just had poisoned weapons and they blame the DM.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Day 15 - What was the first edition you didn't enjoy. Why?

The first edition I did not enjoy was the fourth edition. I play it every week. Combat takes forever. I have played a variety of role-playing games over the years. The fourth edition continues a trend of making the players stronger and stronger. A first level cleric in OD&D had no spells. A first level cleric in fourth edition is much more powerful.

For me, role-playing and complex plots are more important than the actual rule edition. Players can role-play with any edition. Creating complex, interwoven plots and puzzles do not depend on the specific edition.

Current Situation

The map below shows the world of Tiglath.


The campaign is set in the fourth age. In the first age, the gods created the races inhabiting the World of Tiglath. The rise of the Assimilator marks the second age. The Assimilator was a powerful wizard who ruled the world with his five followers called the Assimilated Ones. The third age started with the binding of the Assimilator and the Assimilated Ones.

The third age was a time of great prosperity and peace. The third age ended with the Cataclysm. The Cataclysm split the continent of Lippanit into the two continents Lipro and Pancar. The Cataclysm is a cause of the friction between the royal house of Greth and Marazzer. The constant friction between the royal houses of Greth and Marazzer marks the fourth age.


Every forty to fifty years Marazzer invades Greth. Fifty years ago, the forces of Greth defeated the Marazzer and killed the king of Marazzer on the battlefield.

For centuries, the Marazzer royal family persecuted the tribes inhabiting the central plain of Lipro. The tribes united as the Khanate of Marazzer. The Khanate stepped into the power vacuum left by the death of the king of Marazzer and took control.

For over forty years, the kingdom of Greth assumed the threat of the Marazzer was gone. They were wrong. The Khanate became powerful and ruthless. The kingdom of Greth realized the Khanate was about to invade. They attempted to mobilize. They drafted every able-bodied man and woman between the ages of eighteen and thirty.

The kingdom of Greth drafted the player characters in the campaign and sent them to the Peninsula of Pinge for training. Too late, the kingdom of Greth realized the strength and power of the forces of the Khanate of Marazzer. The kingdom of Greth decided to attempt to use extraordinary measures. They attempted to locate, free, and use one of the artifacts of the Assimilated Ones knowing this dangerous course could possibly free one of the terrible rulers.

The kingdom of Greth came unprepared to the battlefield. The Khanate of Marazzer defeated the forces of Greth. The Khanate did not take prisoners. They flayed all the survivors taking their skins as trophies.

The characters in the adventure survived because they never finished their training. By chance, they avoid the death of all their companions. Stranded in a land they do not know, they are attempting to reach the hut of Iroine, the leader of the resistance against the Marazzer.


The map below shows the village of Appary.

The party came to the village of Appary looking for information about Iroine. They found a detachment of Marazzer occupying the town. Fearing a werewolf, the party visited Chinyere, the Apothecary in Appary. Chinyere offered to pay for all the wolf's bane the party could collect. The party learned of the poisonous effect of wolf's bane.


A young man named Erskin approaches the party. He tries to convince the party to come to a meeting that night of the local resistance against the Marazzer. Later, the party receives a warning that Erskin may not be who he seems he is.

Death of the Marazzer

The party decides rid the town of Marazzer by holding a party and poisoning the Marazzer. They kill all the Marazzer.

Chinyere the Apothecary

The party learns Chinyere knows how to contact Iroine. She will only help the party if the party helps her. Chinyere is the Apothecary in Appary. She inherited the shop from Siminas. Unfortunately, Siminas did not give Chinyere all his recipes before he died. Siminas previously treated four of the villagers: Nani, Akil, Wilkes, and Thorsten. Each villager had a different affliction. Chinyere will provide a detailed map to the Hut of Iroine if the party specifies the affliction Siminas cured for each villager, what herb Siminas used, where to find the herb, and a sample of the herb. The cure for each affliction is a different rare herb. Each herb grows in a different location. Strox is the name of one of the afflictions. Hissing Barley is the name of one of the herbs. One of the locations is the Western Crag. Do not treat Blue Eye Chills with Blood Radish. Blood Radish does not grow in Crone's Bog. Crone's Bog is where the herb to treat Scarlet Flue grows.

The Marazzer Camp

After killing all the Marazzer, the party loots their tents. The find a receipt for one hundred gold pieces given to Erskin for information.

The party finds notes from a Marazzer solder named Carvel. When the forces landed in Greth, Carvel pillaged a mage's home. The mage was working on decoding an ancient map to a powerful artifact belonging to one of the Assimilated Ones. They map was made from five pieces of jewelry. The jewelry was only ornate copper with semi-precious stones. Carvel used the jewelry to try to seduce wives in the town of Appary. The pieces of jewelry all had a different number of semi-precious stones. The pieces of jewelry had from one to five semi-precious gemstone.

  • A necklace was one of the pieces of jewelry
  • Velda did not get the ring
  • Tanicha's piece of jewelry had one semi-precious gemstone less than the pendant
  • Parvani's piece of jewelry had exactly one semi-precious gemstone less than the amulet but exactly one more than the piece of jewelry with garnets
  • Fotina's piece of jewelry had only one semi-precious gemstone
  • The bracelet has two semi-precious gemstones
  • There are three agate semi-precious gemstones in one piece of jewelry
  • Channa's piece of jewelry has four semi-precious gemstones
  • There are five semi-precious onyx gemstones in one piece of jewelry
  • The piece of jewelry with opals has exactly two more semi-precious gemstones than the one with the amber semi-precious gemstones


The party approaches Nani, one of the women in the town of Appary in order to get information so they can get help from Chinyere in getting to Iroine. Nani says she will only help the party if they bring her one the flowers growing in Noelani's garden. Noelani is her neighbor.


Noelani will only help the party if they determine what is causing the noise in her basement. The party investigates Noelani's basement. They find an entrance to a large ant hive.


The party enters the ant hive. The ants are about one foot in length. The party kills the ants as they reach a large chamber. The party enters the tunnel to the right. The find a group of ants tending some eggs. Some of the ants attack the party. The remainder of the ants grab the eggs and retreat against wall. The party kills all the eggs with a spell. The ants attack. The party defeats the ants. The party retreats to the basement of Valen and Noelani to rest.

The next day the party continues the assault on the ant hive. They enter the second tunnel finding more ants and eggs. The party kills the ants. They notice a collar around the neck of one of the larger ants. The collar has the insignia is of a Greth infantry unit with name of Clem on a dog tag. Again, the party retreats to the basement of Valen and Noelani to rest.

The party returns to explore another tunnel. After killing more ants, they find the tunnel leads to the basement of another house. The party then attacks the ants in the upper part of the central chamber. After defeating the ants, the party discovers another ant with a collar. The collar has the name Sal on the dog tag. The collar also has a gold locket with some brunet hair inside. The party decides to retreat to Dead Eye's Moon Inn to ask the innkeeper, Sapphire, about the collars.


Someone is waiting in the inn for the party to return. A single Marazzer names Kostas is sitting at a table eating dinner as the party returns. Kostas is wearing skintight black leather. The leather is so black your eyes cannot focus on it. Kostas announces he was waiting for their return. Kostas places a small wooden box on the table. Inside the box is Erskin's head. Kostas says Erskin no longer has any value to the Marazzer. Kostas says the Marazzer know the party is responsible for the death of the solders. Since the death involved poison, the High Command sent Kostas to investigate. Kostas says the Marazzer will soon return because the party is too insignificant for his attention. Kostas then steps into the shadows and disappears.

The party decides to ask Sapphire about the collars then leave. They bring the collars out and show them to Sapphire. Suddenly, Kostas appears with a dagger at the throat of one of the party and asks about the collars. Kostas said the Marazzer knew a powerful wizard named Thaddea came to Appary. Thaddea was hiding under the name Judy and masquerading as a young girl. The Marazzer know the Greth army sent three soldiers named Clem, Sal, and Sander to help Thaddea in her research. Clem, Sal, and Sander are the names on the dog tags on the collars the party found on the ants. Kostas tells the party the Marazzer will leave the village and the party alone if they provide information about Thaddea's research. Kostas tells the party they have three days.

The Queen Ant

The party returns to the ant hive. They destroy the ants, the eggs, and the queen. They find the body of a woman. In the back of the chamber are a set of metal covered double doors.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Day 14 - Did you meet your significant other while playing D&D? Does he or she still play?

I met my significant other while at Nolacon II, the 46th World Science Fiction Convention in New Orleans in 1988. My wife says she played a little D&D but does not like it. She has never played in any game I have been in or run. She has watched a few games.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Day 13 - First miniature(s) you used for D&D.

I prefer the "theater of the mind" to using miniatures and grids. I never used miniatures much. Many years ago, I had lots of free time a work while waiting for programs to compile. I remember when a build would take an hour. At one point in my life, I was able read one to two books a day at work. When I was tired of reading, I prepared miniatures. I carved, sanded, and glued the miniatures. I had a complete set of fine files to work on the miniatures. I then primed and painted them. Computers got faster and faster. I had less and less time to wait.

I still have all my miniatures. Most are in good shape. However, my favorite fighter took a tumble. He is in need of some repair. I cannot remember the first miniatures I purchased. I have a foam-filled box with most of my miniatures. I dug out a couple for a picture for this post.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Day 12 - First store where you bought your gaming supplies. Does it still exist?

Initially I purchased my gaming supplies via mail. I started gaming while stationed in Erlangen, Germany. I never found any local gaming stores. I purchased my graph paper from a local engineering supply. I used millimeter graph paper 280 mm by 380 mm. I used 1 mm equal 1 foot scale. I made the walls one foot thick.

After leaving the military, I remember a gaming store in Salt Lake City. However, I still used mail order for most of my gaming supplies. My preference for mail order goes back to junior high school. The selection of science fiction books was always limited in the local stores. I started ordering books directly from the publisher. I did the same thing with model rockets. With gaming, I just continued the trend. Today, I use Amazon.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Day 11 - First splatbook you begged your DM to approve.

Since I tend to DM a lot more than I game, I never asked the DM to approve any splatbooks. If the campaign focuses on combat, I prefer to run a tank type fighter. In combat, I want to get in there and draw some blood. On the other hand, if the game focuses on role-playing and/or politics, then splatbooks do not matter.

One of the memorable quotes from the Princess Bride is, "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." Every group I have played with has always done something nefarious. A pickpocket tries to rob a member of the party. Instead of turning the pickpocket over to the authorities, they practice vigilante justice and execute the pickpocket. Imagine the surprise when a young man ambushes the party and shouts, "You killed my father. Prepare to die!"

The image is based on graphics from here.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Day 10 - First gaming magazine you ever bought (Dragon, Dungeon, White Dwarf, etc.)

The first gaming magazine I purchased was the Strategic Review. The Strategic Review became the Dragon after the seventh issue. I remember issue #1 of the Dragon. I ordered my copies and subscription directly from Tactical Studies Rules. Tactical Studies Rules later changed their name to TSR.

The Dungeon and White Dwarf came years later. I remember when I first saw a copy of White Dwarf. The first thing to catch my eye was the European page size. The Dungeon never interested me. I prefer to create my own adventures.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Day 9 - First campaign setting (homebrew or published) you played in.

I remember the first campaign I played in. Steve and I both started playing Dungeons and Dragons the same night up in brigade operations. Steve designed his own campaign. He wanted to run a higher-level campaign. I do not remember what level we actually were. I do remember the magic user has a Staff of Wizardry.

The party came up to the first castle. The drawbridge was up. The wizard pulled out his Staff of Wizardry and used telekinesis on the drawbridge. Steve shouted, "You can't do that!" You can tell an adventure is not going to go well when the first action of the party starts a Rules War. The party finally agreed we could not use telekinesis on the drawbridge. Instead we used disintegrate. Defeated, Steven mumbled, "ok". We did not know the drawbridge was a key feature of the entire castle/adventure. Steve designed the castle with all kinds of different effects dependent on the state of the drawbridge. We disintegrated a key component of the adventure in our first action.

Things really got out of hand. We sacked the castle with little effort. Steve was disheartened. He did not run his campaign for a long time after that. I learned to expect the worst from my players. I decided to create a castle just for that high-level party. But, that is another post.

The image was taken from here:

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Day 8 - First set of polyhedral dice you owned. Do you still use them?

I bought a set directly from TSR along with the original books. The manufacturer used soft plastic. After a year of heavy use, they turned into marbles. I lost my original dice in the disaster of shipping my stuff from Germany.

Dice were only available in 4, 6, 8, 12, and 20 sides when I started playing Dungeons and Dragons. Twenty sided dice had numbers from zero to nine, twice. I painted half of the die to show the higher numbers. Now you can get dice with 10, 24, 30, and 100 sides. I even found a place selling dice with 3, 5, 7, 14, 16, and 50 sides.

How about a one side die? Take a Mobius strip and number the side. Now you have a one sided die. Someone has probably made it, but how about a two side die? Just take a coin and number the sides 1 and 2.

The art is from here:
With a video here:

Day 7 - First D&D Product you ever bought. Do you still have it?

The first D&D product I ever bought was the original white box. Unfortunately, I only have part of the original contents. When I left Germany, I foolishly mailed a big box of stuff home including all the Dungeons and Dragons stuff. Customs inspected the box and did not seal it back up properly. The box split open in the mail. I lost half of my books, all my copies of the Strategic Review, and most of my copies of the Dragon. I insured the package, but the Post Office would only pay for the things I could document. I got about $20.

I always preferred to create my own campaign rather than buy modules. The one exception was Tegal Manor. I still have my original copy of Tegal Manor. That was an awesome adventure from the Judges Guild.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Day 6 - First character death. How did you handle it?

Losing your queen in a game of chess can imply you are not going to win the game unless you are very careful. Losing a character in Dungeons and Dragons should be even less worrisome. You should just pull out another sheet of paper and roll up another character. I think the first character I lost was a human magic user. If I remember correctly, I did something foolish half expecting to die. When I rolled poorly, my character died. I knew the risks, but I went ahead and attacked.

I rolled up another character and asked the DM if there was a way to slide that character into the party. I ended up watching the other players and did not get back into the adventure. It provided an opportunity to study how another DM ran their game.

I always prefer to have my characters go out in a blaze of glory. As the saying goes, "No guts, no glory!" The poem Soldier An' Sailor Too by Kipling always inspired me.

Soldier An' Sailor Too

As I was spittin' into the Ditch aboard o' the ~Crocodile~,
I seed a man on a man-o'-war got up in the Reg'lars' style.
'E was scrapin' the paint from off of 'er plates,
  an' I sez to 'im, "'Oo are you?"
Sez 'e, "I'm a Jolly — 'Er Majesty's Jolly — soldier an' sailor too!"
Now 'is work begins by Gawd knows when, and 'is work is never through;
'E isn't one o' the reg'lar Line, nor 'e isn't one of the crew.
'E's a kind of a giddy harumfrodite — soldier an' sailor too!

An' after I met 'im all over the world, a-doin' all kinds of things,
Like landin' 'isself with a Gatlin' gun to talk to them 'eathen kings;
'E sleeps in an 'ammick instead of a cot,
  an' 'e drills with the deck on a slew,
An' 'e sweats like a Jolly — 'Er Majesty's Jolly — soldier an' sailor too!
For there isn't a job on the top o' the earth the beggar don't know, nor do —
You can leave 'im at night on a bald man's 'ead, to paddle 'is own canoe —
'E's a sort of a bloomin' cosmopolouse — soldier an' sailor too.

We've fought 'em in trooper, we've fought 'em in dock,
  and drunk with 'em in betweens,
When they called us the seasick scull'ry-maids,
  an' we called 'em the Ass Marines;
But, when we was down for a double fatigue, from Woolwich to Bernardmyo,
We sent for the Jollies — 'Er Majesty's Jollies — soldier an' sailor too!
They think for 'emselves, an' they steal for 'emselves,
  and they never ask what's to do,
But they're camped an' fed an' they're up an' fed before our bugle's blew.
Ho! they ain't no limpin' procrastitutes — soldier an' sailor too.

You may say we are fond of an 'arness-cut, or 'ootin' in barrick-yards,
Or startin' a Board School mutiny along o' the Onion Guards;
But once in a while we can finish in style for the ends of the earth to view,
The same as the Jollies — 'Er Majesty's Jollies — soldier an' sailor too!
They come of our lot, they was brothers to us;
  they was beggars we'd met an' knew;
Yes, barrin' an inch in the chest an' the arm, they was doubles o' me an' you;
For they weren't no special chrysanthemums — soldier an' sailor too!

To take your chance in the thick of a rush, with firing all about,
Is nothing so bad when you've cover to 'and, an' leave an' likin' to shout;
But to stand an' be still to the ~Birken'ead~ drill
  is a damn tough bullet to chew,
An' they done it, the Jollies — 'Er Majesty's Jollies —
  soldier an' sailor too!
Their work was done when it 'adn't begun; they was younger nor me an' you;
Their choice it was plain between drownin' in 'eaps
  an' bein' mopped by the screw,
So they stood an' was still to the ~Birken'ead~ drill, soldier an' sailor too!

We're most of us liars, we're 'arf of us thieves,
  an' the rest are as rank as can be,
But once in a while we can finish in style
  (which I 'ope it won't 'appen to me).
But it makes you think better o' you an' your friends,
  an' the work you may 'ave to do,
When you think o' the sinkin' ~Victorier~'s Jollies — soldier an' sailor too!
Now there isn't no room for to say ye don't know —
  they 'ave proved it plain and true —
That whether it's Widow, or whether it's ship, Victorier's work is to do,
An' they done it, the Jollies — 'Er Majesty's Jollies —
  soldier an' sailor too!

The Birkenhead is the origin of the concept of "women and children first". The commander ordered the men to stand in ranks as the ship sank. This was to avoid the men swamping the lifeboats with the women and children. The line, "But to stand an' be still to the Birken'ead drill is a damn tough bullet to chew, shows the courage of the men. I want my characters to follow the same idea, But once in a while we can finish in style

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Day 5 - First character to go from 1st level to 20th level (or highest possible level in a given edition)

I prefer being the DM rather than playing. I never took a character to twentieth level until playing D&D third edition. I played a human fighter. I previously blogged how this character died, Total Party Kill as a Player Character,

I remember when Dragon Magazine issue #5 came out. Bill Seligman wrote an article titled "Gandalf Was Only a Fifth Level Magic-User". As a DM, I run into difficulty handling high-level magic users. In OD&D, a fourteenth level Magic User can have a Limited Wish spell once a day. I find if you have intelligent and creative players, the campaign degenerates. The campaign turns into a Wish War or mimics the Twilight Zone episode, "It's a Good Life".

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Day 4 - First dragon you slew (or some other powerful monster)

A more efficient and more remorseless killing machine than a dragon does not exist in all of nature. So precisely honed are their killing techniques and instincts that millions of years have wrought no evolutionary improvements. They are as they were at the dawn of creation -- as patient, as watchful, as swift, and just as incapable of pity. By comparison, even the great white shark is second-class. The dragon is infinitely more efficient because it thinks about killing and uses practiced stealth to catch its victims. And it can do this on land, water, or in the air. A dragon can sprint fast enough to grab an adventurer before the victim gets up speed enough to escape. Hitting a dragon anywhere except the brain is pretty much a wasted effort. Unless you can blow one apart with a howitzer, the dragon's reaction to a body shot will be almost no reaction at all. (I paraphrased this paragraph from an article on crocodiles found here:)

I remember hearing the story of Jim Carmichel killing a sixteen-foot crocodile. He shot the crocodile in the head. While dragging the body of the croc from one riverbank to the other, the croc woke up. The first shot hit the croc's brain. But, the croc is too stupid to know it is dead. He emptied two more rounds into the croc's head. They got the croc to the riverbank and skinned it. An hour later they came back to find the dead, skinned croc untouched by any scavenger and with a dead buzzard in its mouth. Even without a brain, the nervous system of the croc sensed the buzzard and killed it, without thinking. A dragon is much more dangerous than a croc. A dragon will keep on fighting even after it is dead.

Personally, I cannot remember killing a dragon (except in Skyrim). I tend to play low-level fighters. They often die before they kill anything significant. I do remember playing Tunnels and Trolls with Rocky Russo. I found a wand that would "kill any monster". We fought something big and nasty. I was nearly dead. I pulled out the wand and killed it. Until I wrote this, I did not realize that Rocky passed away in 2012.

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