Adventure Hooks and Encounters Inspired by Cicadas

Over on G+, +Greg Gorgonmilk shared a picture of a cicada. This got me to thinking, “How would this affect various creatures in D&D?”

What if there were forms of various burrowing monsters, Ankheg, bulette, etc. that had a cycle like the 17-year cicada. There are not just one group of cicadas, but multiples, and not just 17 years. I believe there is also a 13 year cicada. There are both Periodical, every 13 or 17 years, and Annual Cicadas, which have a life cycle of 2-4 years.

Inspired By Cicadas

Their base stats would be the same as in their source book. Keep it simple, right? Each monster type would just need to kill a certain number of HD of “food” in a set period before burrowing for the next sleep cycle. Say 2-3 weeks, each HD of creature needs to “eat” 2-3 HD for every HD it posses.

Solitary creatures would emerge to eat and mate. Eggs would hatch for laying species, making voracious babies needing several times their HD in food for the rapid growth that occurs before they burrow to hibernate.

Placement & Cycle

To place the groups lay out your campaign map and drop a die indicating how many are in that location. the number could represent either groups or individuals. Roll a d12+6 to see how many years in the cycle for each group.

Of course, there is nothing to say that the cycle is in years, that would put them in living memory. What adventurers wouldn’t want to go out and find the fresh burrows/dens to slay monsters, find treasure, and collect parts for wizards? Better yet, have the cycle in decades or centuries, depending on which race’s living memory will lose track of them. That way, they emerge suddenly and unexpectedly. Only some dusty old tomes might mention it.

By being outside of living memory, it would make even more sense for the crazy weird creatures to emerge when and where they do.

Duration of Last Cycle

To determine how long since the last emergence, either roll those same dice , or 2d6, if using years. For decades or centuries, use what suits your campaign. For worlds that evolve over many campaigns, this would be another aspect to help it come alive.

Alternatively, assign a percentage chance that this year is the end of their cycle, or that they emerge early, as some 17-year cicadas emerged 4 years early this year.


For sandbox games a burrow of say, hibernating bulettes, could be placed on the map and set to emerge when the party reaches that hex. Or you could have a random encounter prepared to come up when the party is travelling.  Here, the term burrow or den is used loosely. Some monsters are not found in groups, if you want to go by the book, so a den or burrow would be a generalization for an area where the creatures congregated before burrowing. For bulettes and other very large creatures, they might be spread over many square miles of territory.

If you have a creature you really want to show up in your game, use this to make it happen.


Players that encounter such a variation on the usual type of monster might get the bright idea to go dig up these slumbering creatures for “easy” XP. That is easily solved when these creatures curl up and secrete a substance that encases them in a hard shell that disguises their identity and also protects them from scrying. This will make it impossible to determine what kind of creature is in the “shell” if it is found, and reduce the ability to find it.

The secretions will reduce the ability to find it via scrying by 5% per day for the first week. 5% per week for the next month, and 1% per each subsequent month. So 35% after 1st week, and 55% at the end of the month after that, and 67% the year after that.  If one sticks with an additional 1% per month, after an additional two years and seven months it would hit 100%. I would say it shouldn’t be 100% effective. Based on how your preferred rules handle scrying, there should at least be a chance. Rolling 01 on a d100 should find it, unless other modifiers make it impossible.

Earthquakes, floods, new construction, wizard battles,  wars, and battling titanic monsters, like dragons, are some of the things that interrupt the normal cycles. Character wants to build a stronghold, assign a chance that they happen to pick a site  near or over a “burrow”. For example, 10% chance to be near (1d6 miles, hexes, etc.) from a burrow, and 1% chance to be over one. The GM can roll for it, or make the player do it.

Change It Up

To make them different from the book descriptions, make them a different color, smell, size, or flavor of meat (if the party eats its kills).

Where’s the Table?

This should be something each GM can make their own table. But for starters, here is what I am thinking for my own table.

CREATURE BASE CYCLE (Years, Decades, Centuries) TIME SINCE END OF LAST CYCLE PLACEMENT NOTES (Map Location, Treasure, etc.)
Ankheg d6+d12 2d6 Grab some d6’s and drop on the map. Numbers indicate number of groups/dens. Under farmer Bob’s barn
Bulette d6+d12 2d6 Grab some d6’s and drop on the map. Numbers indicate number of groups/dens. Under, within, or next to the dungeon

Keep going with each burrowing monster, or monster you re-skin as a burrowing monster.

Make a new table for each genre you run. Of course, some creatures could easily be used across genres.

Vary the cycle units (years, decades, centuries) and number and type of dice used to set the base cycle and time since last cycle.

For placement set one color of dice for each creature and roll all at once. Vary the number of dice used based on the size of your campaign map. If you have a world map, use more dice than a map that is only a portion of a continent.

Make a spreadsheet to keep track of all this, especially the location. Once you know a location, how can you make it interesting? If a location is a far off place, be sure to have the party encounter that cluster of creatures, especially if you haven’t used this variation yet.

If the location is within a dungeon, perhaps the builders of the dungeon avoided waking the creature(s) through blind luck, or build around it on purpose. Another way for creatures to get into a dungeon when “it doesn’t make sense.”


Have you ever placed creatures in this manner? Is this something you would use in your game?

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Modding The Sleep Spell

I’m an AD&D 1e player & GM. There are parts I really like about it. Recently I was thinking about the lowly Sleep spell and how it has the same efficacy for all levels of spell caster.

I see two different ways to mod the spell without making it over-powered. After all, magic missile adds more missiles, fireballs adds more hit dice.

Number of Dice

By changing the number of dice used with a formula of an additional die per 5 levels, it raises both the minimum and the maximum. The high end of the hit dice affected don’t change, but rather the chances of affecting an ogre. Boosting the chances from 50% to 75% and finally automatic. Why shouldn’t a name level Wizard be able to take out an ogre? An ogre with maximum hit points has 33 and the average damage from an 11th level fireball is 38.5 hp.

Hit Dice No. Affected 1st – 5th level Wizard 6th – 10th level 11th level +
Up to 1 HD 4d4 (4-16) 5d4 (5-20) 6d4 (6-24)
1+1 to 2 HD 2d4 (2-8) 3d4 (3-12) 4d4 (4-16)
2+1 to 3 HD 1d4 (1-4) 2d4 (2-8) 3d4 (3-12)
3+1 to 4 HD 1d4/2 (1-2) 1d4 (1-4) 1d4 + ½ d4 (2-6)
4+1 to 4+4 HD 1d4, 3 or 4 (0-1) 1d4, 2-4 (0-1) 1 Creature

Size of Dice

Changing the size of the dice raises only the maximum affected, but use similar changes for the top tier as in the number of dice example.

Hit Dice No. Affected 1st – 5th level 6th – 10th level 11th level +
Up to 1 HD 4d4 (4-16) 4d6 (4-24) 4d8 (4-32)
1+1 to 2 HD 2d4 (2-8) 2d6 (2-13) 2d8 (2-16)
2+1 to 3 HD 1d4 (1-4) 1d6 (1-6) 1d8 (1-8)
3+1 to 4 HD 1d4/2 (1-2) 1d4 (1-4) 1d6 (1-6)
4+1 to 4+4 HD 1d4, 3 or 4 (0-1) 1d4, 2-4 (0-1) 1 Creature

Other Possibilities

A third possibility would be to allow the spell to affect up to 5 to 6 HD creatures on a 1d4, with a roll of 4. However, there aren’t many monsters in that category, other than NPCs. At that level, I’d give a saving throw if they were affected.  But to me, boosting the level does make it seem overpowered.

Another possibility would be to increase the Area of Effect, so instead of a 3″ diameter circle. For example, add 1″ at 6th level and another 1″ at 11th level. This wouldn’t change the number affected, just the size of the affected area.

A final way to mod this spell would be to boost the minimum. At 6th -10th level make the minimum affected be half the count, and at 11th+ make the minimum 75% of the count, such as below.

Hit Dice No. Affected 1st – 5th level 6th – 10th level 11th level +
Up to 1 HD 4d4 (4-16) 4d4+4 (8-16)* 4d4+8 (12-16)**
1+1 to 2 HD 2d4 (2-8) 2d4+2 (4-8)* 2d4+4 (6-8)**
2+1 to 3 HD 1d4 (1-4) 1d4+1 (2-4)* 1d4+2 (3-4)**
3+1 to 4 HD 1d4/2 (1-2) 1d4,1 (1),2+ (2) 2 Creatures
4+1 to 4+4 HD 1d4, 3 or 4 (0-1) 1d4, 2-4 (0-1) 1 Creature

* Add 1 to all 1’s rolled
** Add 1 to all 1’s & 2’s rolled

If one wants a more powerful sleep spell, one could make an Improved Sleep of a higher spell level. There is nothing to prevent a PC from researching this. Some ideas for this are for affecting either higher hit dice creatures, or perhaps creatures unaffected by sleep. The latter might require some ingredient from a ghast, since their touch affects elves. Discovering this spell when up against an enemy spell caster would really get the players’ attention.


I’m not sure if I will add one of these to my house rules. I had to write this out so I could pull back and consider the ramifications for game balance. I don’t often mod spells, but this one captured my attention. At time like that, I just need to write it out. Then I can come back later and review it after I have had time to ponder it.

Have you modded the sleep spell? Did you make it more or less powerful?

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Announcement From Frank Mentzer

Frank Mentzer was talking about this at Gary Con 9, and said he hoped to Kickstart in a couple of months. Obviously, things of this scale take a bit longer.

Frank has a letter from Gary Gygax giving permission to include his campaign in the Greyhawk setting. Frank makes clear in the comments on the FB thread that there will be no official Greyhawk information and Greyhawk will only be released in the introduction to the work in reference to the note from Gary.

What’s really cool in the comments is all the tidbits mentioned. All the old school artists still in the field have expressed interest. As is clear from the announcement, Darlene is doing the maps! Frank mentioned that he has ran his campaign via online methods for over 11 sessions across 25 years! Here I thought that 263 sessions over 3.5 years on Roll20 was a lot! [I play in a weekly AD&D game Wednesday nights.]

Here’s the Announcement from Facebook:

Press Release:
Historic Dungeons & Dragons® Campaign Returns

Loxley, Madison WI, August 11 2017

Legendary game designer Frank Mentzer, famed for his worldwide version of the Dungeons & Dragons® game, has teamed with fiction author Ted Fauster to revisit one of the earliest known D&D® fantasy worlds. The game continues to be one of the most popular of all time, and Mentzer’s version is still available in fourteen languages, on every continent.

In 1981, Mentzer was given written permission from E. Gary Gygax (co-author of the original game in 1974) to establish and develop this little-known portion of Oerth, one of the game’s original settings. This new realm of Empyrea has a 40-year history (starting with simple materials from Judges Guild) and is still actively used. The artist Darlene, who painted Gary’s maps in his 1980 product, will create similar maps for this one. Other famous artists of that era — including Caldwell, Dee, Diesel, Easley, Elmore, Holloway, Jaquays, and Otus — are being invited to join the project.

Empyrea is on the mysterious and isolated continent of Aquaria, east of Gygax’s World of Greyhawk™ setting. Until now, knowledge of this portion of the world has remained largely a mystery, as the broad and dangerous Solnor ocean separates the two. The continent is briefly described in the Advanced D&D® adventure “Egg of the Phoenix” (Mentzer & Jaquays, TSR Inc., 1987).

“It’s time to share this Dungeons & Dragons® world with hobby gamers,” Mentzer says. “Unlike others, Gary approved this personally. Empyrea combines both traditional fantasy and science fiction elements. Magic is dominant, but technology lurks. And it’s one Realm… this isn’t a cluster of medieval city-states like Greyhawk.”

Author Ted Fauster has accepted the role of Creative Aide, which was Mentzer’s original title when he worked with Gygax at TSR in the 1980s.

Mentzer and Darlene will finance the set through crowdfunding, with support from Judges Guild. It will be compatible with the most recent Fifth Edition D&D® game (D&D 5E) as well as Mentzer’s own world-famous “Red Box” edition of the game.

An official start date for the Kickstarter will be announced shortly after the GenCon® 50 Game Convention in August.

For More Information, contact:
Loxley LLC
Fauster :
(Ownership of trademarks indicated is not disputed)

Ted Fauster shared it here.

+Joseph Bloch of Greyhawk Grognard shared it here.


Here’s a video to learn more about +Ted Fauster who is working with +Frank Mentzer on this.

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Simple Bombs In Fantasy RPGs Without Gunpowder

I try to think of ways to use my real world knowledge to add things to the game. Last November at UCon, +Del Teigeler played in the Delving Deeper game I ran. His character poured his water down a tunnel that sloped gently downwards away from the party, then poured oil on it, which floated, then lit the oil. Del is a firefighter, so quickly used his actual knowledge to benefit the party.

A few years ago, I wrote an article about using the Rule of 9’s for hit placement, from my training as an EMT.

I decided to write about BLEVEs today. A Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion is why pressure cookers have relief valves. Fill a pressure cooker with war oil and no relief valve, and you get a device that will cause a lot of damage. However, it has to receive constant heat until the vessel fails.  If you don’t want to read the linked Wikipedia article, see the video at the end of the article.

In a fantasy setting, these will require decent quality metal and the skills to craft them. They will have to have an airtight seal that will hold until the vessel fails. Poor quality metal and/or in adequate skills will lead to leaks that may cause a gout of fire on one end, but it won’t explode. Slightly better materials and/or skills could result in an explosion while those intending to use it are still in range. The fire has to be stoked and kept burning until failure.

The requirements for decent quality metal and adequate skills to manufacture would limit this to “higher” civilizations. for example, dwarves and gnomes could be expected to have such things. Some human nations may have them, as well as others with the adequate stuff. Goblins might try to use them, but have as much chance of hurting themselves as their victims.

Wizards might have them constructed and use heat and fire based spells to set them off quickly. This would depend on the GM’s ruling. A fireball with one or more “supplemental” fireballs  from these devices would be devastating in a battle.

These devices would work better as traps or “mines” to hold an enemy at bay while retreating. For example, a cluster of them could be placed in a building that is abandoned and burned to cover a getaway. A trap could cause a room to seal and a fire to light that heats such a device. If the party can’t extinguish the fire or get out of the room in time, they suffer the effects.

A dragon could have its minions construct these devices to be placed in all the narrow entrances to its lair. A blast of dragon’s breath would be sufficient to cause instant failure of the vessels.

The size of the vessels would indicate the area/volume that is affected and the damage.

The formula for the area of a sphere is: (4/3) [pi] r3  Here is a link to a calculator from Google. It shows that a 20 foot radius (40 foot diameter), as from a fireball, has a volume of 33,510.32 cubic feet. A 10x10x10 room has a volume of 1,000 cubic feet. Thus a fireball will fill 33.5 ten foot sections of room/dungeon/underground.

Therefore, if your pressure vessels are spheres, you will need this formula to figure how much oil, or other substance, is in them. A 12 inch sphere (6 inch radius)  has a volume of 904.78 cubic inches or 0.52 cubic feet. A BLEVE would hurl heated vaporized and boiling oil plus shredded metal at least 100 feet, if not confined. (I don’t have any facts to back this up, but it seems reasonable. ) Within a close distance, in addition to burns from fire, one would have burns from boiling liquid.

Using water instead of oil will result in shrapnel, and scalding from steam and hot water.

If a metal with a melting point lower than that of the failure point of the pressure vessel is used, one has shrapnel and molten metal to deal with.

A 24 inch sphere (12 inch radius) has a volume of 7,238.23 cubic inches, or 4.19 cubic feet, basically 8 times the volume of a 6 inch sphere.

18 inches for the radius (3 feet diameter) equals a volume of 24,429.02 cubic inches is 1.77 cubic feet.  This is 27 times the volume of a 6 inch sphere (3 inch radius).

I built this spreadsheet so you can run the formula on different size increments. As you can see, a 60 inch sphere (5 feet, with 30 inch radius) is 1,000 times the volume of a 6 inch diameter sphere! If you plug in a different number in the yellow box (cell C2) the only thing that changes is the volume, all the other cells are steady. NOTE: The spreadsheet has been shared as read only, so you will need to copy it to make changes. I also left out the units, so you can plug in your numbers and get the results desired, just add units.

Damage would decrease with distance. For simplicity’s sake, let’s use 1 die of damage per 6″ of diameter within 100 feet. With half damage out to 100 feet.  Combine with a save for half, and one can easily take no damage at 100 feet. I would limit the size of a sphere to six feet in diameter. Time time and cost to construct larger and larger spheres makes it extremely impractical.

Here’s the Table:

(Note: Save for half damage.)

Diameter of Sphere Cost in GP Construction Time Damage within 50’ Damage within 100’
6 Inches 1,000 1 week 1d8 Half
12 inches 8,000 2 month 2d8 Half
18 inches 27,000 6 months 3d8 Half
24 inches 64,000 1 year 4d8 Half
36 inches 125,000 1.5 years 5d8 Half
72 inches 216,000 2 years 6d8 Half

The type and number of dice used can easily be modified to suit your taste. Such as, d6 instead of d8.  One can easily modify this to have separate damage dice for shrapnel and the contents. For example, 1d6 for shrapnel and 1d6 for fire damage per 6″ of diameter.  If you want you could use different sized dice for each type of damage.

For more verisimilitude, pick the size of dice to role, such as a d12. Orient the d12 with the 1 up and the 3 facing you. Determine if this is facing the NPCs/monsters or the characters. Roll another d12 and determine which side on the first d12 is indicated. That would be the side that failed first. This would indicate the direction the contents go. The majority of the vessel would go in the opposite direction. If you roll 12, this indicates it fails on the lower right area.

I based the cost and time on how much bigger each size sphere is than the base 6 inch sphere. Since this is the OSR, you can adjust any part of this to suit your needs.

About my experience:

Way back in high school I was a Junior Firefighter. I took the EMT class in the Spring of my junior year of high school. When I turned 18, shortly after my senior year started, I received my EMT license and became a volunteer firefighter. I achieve firefighter II certification, via training at the station. I was not able to maintain licensing and certification when I went off to college.

Instead of getting the approval of the teacher who was on the board of the fire district to respond to fires and accidents, I got to make my own decision. I never had a call while at school my senior year. Once while still a junior firefighter, I got out of school to help with a major grass fire.  I don’t think they’d do that today.

I think this is a clip from one of the training films we had, or they re-used the narrator’s track. That guy narrated everything!

DISCLAIMER: This article is not an endorsement of making devices in the real world with the intent to harm others or otherwise break the law. It is merely a thought experiment using a snippet of my real world knowledge for inspiration to enhance a narrow aspect of fantasy role playing games (FRPGs). If you are not capable of understanding this, then you are not qualified to be part of any organization or agency overseeing such things.

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8th Anniversary of the Blog

Today marks the eighth anniversary of this blog. Over 650 posts, almost 320 G+ subscribers, nearly 220 Twitter followers, and about 35 followers on Facebook. I’ve dipped my toes into YouTube this year and have a whopping 21 subscribers.  Last Wednesday I was interviewed on Nerdarchy!

This year I started off with a new social media avatar and blog header by +Satine Phoenix. Recently I added a second blog header by +Del Teigeler. Now there is a rotation of headers. Two styles by Satine and the one by Del. I opened a CafePress store to sell shirts and hoodies with the logo by Satine. She really likes the one I gave her at Gary Con 9.

Satine Phoenix Approves This Shirt
Satine Phoenix Approves This Shirt

I started off writing stories from “back in the day” and then telling about introducing my sons to D&D. I’ve done reviews, interviews, made tables, shared thoughts on settings and more. Most of my focus has been on old school gaming. However, I recently had my first review of a 5e module.

Elsewhere I’ve written that after reading the sentiment somewhere online, that I think I should at least know 5e well enough to run a game, since most people new to D&D will come to it through 5e. I’ll still have an eye to running with an old school style of play. I’m still looking to get into a 5e game to ease into the differences in the rules so I’m clear how to DM it without too much rules consulting.

I’ve been contributing to Multiverse for over a year, and helped promote the TopSecret: NWO Kickstarter, which wraps up in just over a week. I have written in multiple forums, in addition to my blog, that the new TSR has that name because WotC let the Trademark lapse. Some seem to think that owning the TSR trademark makes all the old TSR games that are no longer published under the new TSR. People confuse copyright and trademark for some reason. Owning the name and owning the right to the words on paper are two different things.

I’ve got a set convention schedule for every year: GaryCon, Marmalade Dog, GrandCon, Gamehole Con, and UCon. I may try to add in North Texas RPG Con next year.

Basically I spend a lot of time and money backing Kickstarters, going to conventions, and spending a lot to run a blog and now make videos. Adding in hotel costs, meals, gas, incidentals, web hosting, domain name, blog art, webcam, editing software, Kickstarters, etc. I spend a couple thousand probably about 3.000, but I’m a little afraid to add it up. My only sales on CafePress have been to myself for giving to family and friends.

I’ve made maybe ten cents on YouTube, and enough via DriveThruRPG/RPGNow/DMsGuild affiliate links to help buy products I use & review.

As long as I have my current job, I can easily afford this much spending. I like it and have made some great friends online and added them to real life friends at conventions. However, I should realistically look to at least negate my expenses. I have really slowed down on Kickstarters this year.

If you like what I do with my blog and YouTube, consider using the affiliate links and watching my YouTube to help offset my costs. I had an Amazon affiliate, but no one bought anything, so I lost it. I plan to try again, so things you can buy online will have those links. I might try to do a Patreon, but that won’t happen for awhile. I need to be more consistent in my blogging and videos. I don’t expect to make a living at this, but off setting a large percentage of my expenses would be awesome!

Here’s to more time sharing what I love about RPGs!

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Live Interview By Nerdarcy Wednesday at Noon

I will be interviewed by Nerdarchy via live stream on Google Hangouts at Noon EDT on Wednesday, July 12.

It’s an honor to join the likes of David Harbour, Satine Phoenix, and Ruty Rutenberg. and many others on their Live Chat Playlist.

The link to the live hangout will be posted on all my social media channels and the Nerdarchy social media channels the day before. I’ll update this article with the link when it’s available.

UPDATE: Here’s the link to watch the interview live.

You can find Nerdarchy at the following sites:

Nerdarcy Blog





This is my second interview, my first was on the first episode of the third season of Tell Me About Your Character.

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Stream of Annihilation – WotC Embraces The New Online World of TTRPGs

The Stream of Annihilation was an epic two twelve hour days of online D&D.  In this case “annihilation” tied in to their new adventure series that was announced, Tomb of Annihilation.  It is both an homage and a continuation of the story of Tomb of Horrors. It is available in Wizards Play Network stores on September 8, and the full release is September 19.

We’re Here!

I love the beginning. The weekend started with a very strong kick off by Joe Manganiello. This serves as an announcement by those who play TTRPGs that we aren’t a bunch of odd people living in our parents’ basement. We are everyday people who like to exercise our imaginations with others. [I don’t know who Joe Manganiello is, other than an actor in TV shows and other things I haven’t seen. He’s also been interviewed online indicating interest/involvement in a D&D movie based on the Dragon Lance novels.] All of the actors and others invited to the stream, aren’t people invited just because a potential audience might know them, but because they all play D&D and love the game!

One very interesting thing is that for one person, it was the first time they had rolled physical dice to play D&D, since they had only every played online. The world is changing and WotC is trying to stay current. They have acknowledged the value of making PDFs of old rules, modules, and other resources on OBS (One Book Shelf – DriveThruRPG & RPGNow). There are license agreements with Roll20 & FantasyGrounds. The D&D Beyond Tool is a realization that on official online tool is needed, if it isn’t too late. [I don’t know all the free tools out there for helping with 5e character creation and other such things for 5e DMs. I have seen online discussion saying it may be too little too late, and pointing out other efforts that have faltered. I have not seen any reviews for D&D Beyond, and I have not tried it myself. I’m not sure it is something I will need, but I will look into it.]

Other announcements included partnerships with various companies’ that support online play, Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, and the D&D Beyond tool was announced to have Twitch support.  This last bit sort of surprised me, what will this mean for the use of Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds with Twitch games? (I don’t know enough about actually playing a game that is shared on Twitch, so that is impossible for me to gauge. There were also announcements for all kinds of other products, basically commercials between play sessions.

After the stream of annihilation, six official D&D shows on Twitch were announced. Some of the online roleplayers invited to participate in Stream of Annihilation will now be on the official D&D Twitch channel.

It is clear from this that D&D and RPGs in general are experiencing a revival. The popularity of D&D in its use in various TV shows has done a lot to remove the stigma. Recent years have seen the lack of a concerted nationwide effort to suppress D&D, as happened with the 1980’s.

As I mentioned elsewhere, I am looking to get into D&D 5th edition because it is what most new players will know. Any rules system can be played with an Old School style. After all, the 5e DMG says that the DM makes the rulings, just like the editions I have played. I can’t speak to 2nd, 3rd, or 4th editions, but I assume they have similar statements.

Catch The Re-Runs

For those interested, the Twitch channel only keeps episodes for a certain amount of time. You can see the streams for each day on the D&D YouTube Channel. Day one. Day Two.

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Top Secret: NWO Kickstarter Launched!

TSR has brought back a game with an old name and new rules, Top Secret: New World Order.

The Kickstarter for the new TSR’s Top Secret: New World Order launched last Tuesday. It funded in about 20 minutes and is now over 1,000 backers and nearly six times the goal has been pledged. All limited tiers, except the $5,000 tier where Merle Rasmussen runs a game for you and your friends, are gone.

Merle Rasmussen, author of the original Top Secret and Allen Hammack, auditor of the original, were joined by contributing authors James Carpio, Jayson Elliot, module by Chad Parrish, and Administrator’s Screen by A. J. Davenport. Illustrations are by Cory Gelnett, Hanae Ko, +Satine Phoenix, and Kristoffer Stout.

This is a new game system based on a new rule system called Lucky 13. You can experience a demo of the playtest rules at ConnectiCon next week on Saturday, July 8th, by James Carpio, and at Gamehole Con (Nov. 2nd-5th) on  Friday night of the con, by Chad Parrish.

For this Kickstarter the text is done, as is much of the other work, so it should deliver on time in December, 2017.

This Kickstarter is also funding printing box sets for sale in game stores. A retailer pledge level is planned.

NOTE: TSR is a “new” company. They are the ones behind the former Gygax Magazine, the TSR Podcast Network, and  Wizards of the Coast let the trademark to TSR lapse. They also let the trademark to Top Secret lapse. However, WotC still owns the copyright to the original Top Secret. I have seen lots of comments on various social media asking if the new TSR will be bringing back other titles from the original TSR. I am not aware of any other old TSR titles planned to be revived with new rules. It would not surprise me if that happens at some point down the road.

FYI – I contribute to, so am in the know of a few things, but all that I know about Top Secret:NWO and other games is what is available publicly. I don’t have any other answers. If you have specific questions about Top Secret: NWO, submit them on the Top Secret:NWO Kickstarter page.

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Free RPG Day 2017

Life happens. I did not get to my FLGS, Fanfare Sports and Entertainment until after 11:30 AM. The things I was interested in were already gone.

There were a couple of Pathfinder games. I don’t think there were any other games today. I went prepared to run a pick up game, but things died down after the DCC Game.

I did get to play in a DCC funnel ran by +Adam Muszkiewicz called Sky Ov Crimson Flame. There were five players including myself.

We made a decision to go in a direction not covered by the module, which had us wrapping up quickly. Adam told us about this, but he made it work well.

Adam had pre-printed blank character sheets. He dislikes pre-gens, so had us roll d100 for our occupation and d30 for our birth augur to start. We did not roll any other stats until we needed them. For example, no strength roll until we needed to make a melee attack or strength check. No agility until we made missile attacks or to determine our armor class.  No stamina until we needed our HP.

I first encountered this play style with Adam in my introductory game of DCC. I think I played a funnel before that, but it was my first game with a level 1 character. I wrote about that experience here. It is a fun way to develop as you go. It works best with rules systems the GM is comfortable with. I like the idea of using it with one of the many retro clones. This is something that Adam and Doug Kovacs have been doing for years.

I met a couple of new people, one in Kalamazoo, and the other from St. Joseph. Two other players I met at Marmalade Dog a coupe years ago. They were college friends of Adam. After the game there was talk of trying to set up something for a regular game in Kalamazoo. I’m not sure that I’ll be able to commit to it, but I look forward to the possibility.

Our youngest player, Joel, is probably in his mid-20’s probably about the age of my oldest son. He likes DCC and also has an interest in the OSR, so he said he’d check out my blog. Bryan the other new person has only played DCC online, so this was his first in person game. He’s been an RPG player for a long time. He also said he’d check out my blog. So here’s a shout out! Always good to meet people who are interested in my take on things.

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Quick NPC Ideas

If you need an NPC quickly here are a couple of ideas.

Do you need a classed NPC?

Use one of your own old characters from back in the day. This works best if you have played a character of the type you need. However, you can easily transfer names and traits onto any class.

You can also steal a classed NPC from another GM’s world. You may not know their stats, but you know how to present them.

Do you need a generic NPC?

Steal one from one of your GM’s campaigns. Tavern owner, shoop keeper, etc.

Do you need a trait for a monster?

Take examples of how the past GMs you have played with expressed their orcs, ogres, giants, etc.

The beauty of taking characters from one game to another is also that it doesn’t have to be rule specific or genre specific. For example, a greedy merchant can be a robber baron, Wall Street investment banker, space corporation executive, etc. The main thing you are after is the portrayal of the character, the class, race, and abilities are secondary.

Pay Attention

The key to acquiring new NPC concepts is to pay attention to the repertoire of other GMs. Playing in other games whether in person, online, or at conventions, is a great way to get exposed to NPC “templates.”  The more memorable the portrayal, the easier to recall. However, not all memorable NPC’s are over the top, larger than life personas. Many are regular people, and can be bland or generic. Reviewing lists of character traits in the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide is a good way to be on the right wavelength to pull out a believable persona.

Friends, family, wait staff, work colleagues, basically anyone you have ever interacted with can have something to offer to help build NPCs.

Movies, TV, books, magazines, etc. all have characters who have traits that are memorable. All of them are fair game to help you make the next town’s tavern owner different from the last. Street urchins can have traits and manners of speaking like the characters from The Little Rascals (I prefer the originals from the B&W shorts).

Build Templates

If you struggle with on the spot development of NPCs, build templates that emphasize a major trait but flavored with minor traits. For example, a greedy merchant template could take the used car salesman trope and flavor it base on your own experience buying used cars. Some talk fast, some dress gaudily, others dress sharply, some dress slovenly. Greed can take different forms. One is honest so does not lie to gain the sale, while others have no scruples other than whatever it takes to get the sale.

You can also sit with the DMG and roll on the tables to build random NPCs. They can just be collections of traits on index cards, and you just grab the next one when it is needed. You can also script them in a spreadsheet, power shell, bash, or programs like Inspiration Pad Pro. Then you can generate hundreds and pull one out when you need it, or even on the fly at the table.


Find a way that works best for you. Build a mental catalog as you go on a long walk or drive, or mow the lawn. Create a card catalog or lists on the computer. Whether you speak in different voices, or just describe their mannerisms and tone, you should always be able to come up with a new NPC’s characteristics on the fly.

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Ramblings of an Old Gamer