Day 9 I is for Impatience

April 10, 2014
April 10, 2014

Being patient while the next game session rolls around can be a challenge. As a player, I want to dive in and go full bore into what the GM has prepared for us.

As a DM I need patience waiting for the players to find some really cool idea I have planned out. I don’t railroad the players, so if they never find it, my desire for them to find it and seeing their reaction to it goes unfulfilled.

There are just too many cool ideas out there, it is hard for any DM to get enough players in enough groups and manage it all to have any hope of all the cool ideas being found.

This is why it is good advice to only prepare enough to give the players a choice in the direction they go and what they do. If the players decide to go in a certain direction/focus, they may never get to something you put a lot of effort into.

Day 8 H is for Half-Elf

April 9, 2014
April 9, 2014

Half-elves were rare in Tolkien’s world. Unlike D&D half-elves, in Tolkien’s world they had to choose between being an elf or a human. If they chose to be elves, they had the same immortality as any other elf. Elrond and his brother were the first with this choice. Elrond chose to be an elf. His brother, Elros, chose to be human, although with triple or more the normal human lifespan. Elros led to the Kings of Numenor and later of Gondor and Arnor. Most people know the later tale of Aragorn and Arwen, if not from the books from the Hollywood take on it in the Lord of the Rings movies.

In D&D, half-elves are not described this way. I don’t know if it was D&D or something else that gave rise to the idea that elves have pointy ears. They are obviously much more common in D&D than in Tolkien’s world, and also have about three times the lifespan as humans. They have some of the advantages of elves and are often the best choice for getting the most options out of a character in AD&D. My favorite and longest played character, Griswald, is a half-elf with slightly above average ability scores, but not exceptional. His highest ability is a 14. He is a Fighter/Cleric/Magic-User which lets him wear armor, heal himself and others, and do great damage to enemies. Such a character also takes more time to prepare spells at his level, and there is a lot of information to keep straight, so such a character is hard to play without having built up to that over time. I know that as a DM I could run an NPC with similar abilities without too much trouble, but a DM who has never played such a character will miss out on a lot of the possibilities.

Day 7 G is for Giant

April 8, 2014
April 8, 2014

Giants can be quite the interesting foe for adventurers. Hill giants can be the “weak” introduction of characters to giants, and their lower intelligence can give players the edge they need to beat them.

As a player I have run into them in a few situations, and can see all sorts of possibilities for using them as DM.

I love how my brother, Robert does Hill Giants, big and dumb and out for loot. They have a big club and a big sack. If you encounter them they say, “Aw’rite, what ya got? Weer here ta loot ya.” My attempt to convey this via text falls far short. I need to get recordings of him saying such things.


I just finished watching the 1981 movie, Dragonslayer.

I liked it when I saw it back in ’81, and each time since. It has been several years since I last saw it. I forgot how cheesy the music is at the end. It reminds me of Lost In Space, the series, not the movie.

As with back in the theater way back when, I still see a d8 when I look at the amulet/phylactery. Did any other gamers clue in on that? I know I’m not the only one as my brother and the friends we went with back then all noticed it.

If you haven’t seen it, rent it or if you have NetFlix, you can watch it online.


Day 6 F is for Fireball

April 7, 2014
April 7, 2014

In the AD&D rules, a fireball is a 40′ diameter sphere, which is 33,000 cubic feet. My longest played character, Griswald, got quite good at throwing them underground in what we called dungeon wars.

Under the castle evil was detected and the king order the lower dungeons sealed. When a few scullery maids disappeared, Griswald was tasked with finding out what happened.

Orcs, and many others were found. Griswald could not mount enough force on his own to dislodge them. It turns out there was an old tunnel in the hills that lead to the depths of the caverns under the castle.

Griswald mapped out the one level of the dungeon and knew where he could throw a fireball and have it not affect his troops. In all his casting, he only miscalculated once and only one friendly troop was injured a 5th level captain hireling, who ended up with a scar from his helmet failing it’s save and melting. Thankfully, that hireling is still a loyal member of the team.

The problem with using a fireball when it got so bad that the large number of incoming orcs and other baddies were defeating the available troops, is that all the wooden doors would be destroyed and Griswald’s forces would have to rush to put in new doors. Finally, Griswald was able to get some help from all the other high level characters in the campaign and we pushed on to the caverns below. Caverns so huge that a fireball could easily only affect the enemy. In my brother’s game, he has a Battlemagic Fireball which does the same 1d6 damage per level, but it is triple the volume. These caverns were so big, the player wizard that had that could throw those.

We then found a temple to Orcus and desecrated it. Orcus doesn’t like us. Not good when he is at least aware of your activities, let alone your name and address.

Dungeon wars came to an end when there was a great earthquake that hit the kingdom and effected such a large area that not only did the castle fall into the caverns below, but the orcs on the borders were weakened enough that Griswald was able to push a few smaller orc tribes out of his ducal patrimony that was overrun and abandoned in a civil war decades before his birth. Lots of fireballs were involved with winning and keeping that.

Fireballs, destroying enemies and causing friendly fire incidents for centuries.

Day 5 E is for Elves

April 5, 2014
April 5, 2014

Elves in D&D are not Tolkien Elves. They are a slight mix of Tolkien, but also ideas from other books and mythology. Tolkien’s elves were tall, usually taller than men. They were powerful. They are likened to angels. An elf lord in Tolkien’s world was someone you did not want to meet in battle.

In D&D, they are short with pointy ears. They have a long life-span, but can’t gain the power as counted in levels of experience, while humans have no limit. This is in AD&D 1st edition. I believe that 2nd edition removed that limit. Some explain this that elves are on the decline and humans are rising. This is a concept from Tolkien. I don’t like the limit. An elf may have a millennium plus lifespan, but it gets more difficult to advance in levels the higher you go. Adventuring is dangerous. After a while elves would retire from adventuring and spend their time building their territory, or studying magic and making items. Without elves of sufficient level to make items, where do all the magical elvish items come from?

Day 4 D is for Dwarves, Dungeons, and Dragons

April 4, 2013
April 4, 2013


I cold not limit myself to a single D, topic. I had three I had ideas to comment about, and didn’t want to wait for next year.

Dwarves are my favorite race. I don’t often play them. I read a fantasy novel in the 80’s. I won’t name the novel to avoid spoilers for those who might not have read it. I REALLY hate spoilers. One of the major characters was a dwarf. I identified with this dwarf and the author killed him off. The author did a good job of making me care for this dwarf, and I was mad that he had killed off my favorite character.

That experience may be part of it, but another part is that dwarves are limited and can’t be magic users or other kinds of characters I like to run. I am trying to think back and I don’t recall any characters I played that were dwarves. I have had characters that were human, elves, half-elves, and halflings. Of the old character sheets I have from back in the day, I am not finding any dwarves. I will play a dwarf for the next character I have.

I also want to play a paladin. In the rules they are only human, but why can’t other races have holy warriors? I know in my brother, Robert’s game, one of his wife’s characters is a halfling paladin. In my campaign I will allow paladins of any character race. I’m not sure I want to play a dwarven paladin, I was thinking more of a human for that. I suppose I’ll make a decision when next I get to roll up a new character.

Dungeons. I like maps of them. I played in a lot of them in the early days. Not so much from college on. Lots of underground, mostly caverns. A few passages under the castle, etc. I have never played in a mega dungeon. I am thinking of making a mega dungeon. I don’t want to put too much time into it, in case my eventual players don’t want to explore that much into it.

Dragons. As a player, I have rarely encountered dragons in the game. Large enough dragons are so deadly that only the most powerful characters can even stand and fight them. I have seen and heard of DM’s playing dragons like they are stupid. They are described as intelligent and some of them can cast spells. That does not mean that they can’t be vain, or manipulated if one knows the right buttons to push, but they are not stupid. I also prefer images of dragons that are more powerful looking, not the long, skinny oriental image of dragons. I am not persistent enough as an artist to develop the skills to draw them the way my brother, Robert does. Those pictures and many from Dragon magazine and the Holmes Blue Box cover art are my idea of what a dragon is “supposed” to look like.

Day 3 C is for Campaign

April 3, 2014
April 3, 2014

In D&D the term campaign most often means a setting with an ultimate goal. It is a term taken from the military, as in military campaign, since miniature wargaming was the structure from which RPGs emerged.

For many, campaign is a unique world/realm, and if it flops, the campaign is scrapped, and the would-be DM, must start over from scratch

For others, campaign can mean the setting a given DM uses no matter how many groups of players flop or thrive. Talented DMs may run multiple gaming groups in the same general area in their game world on the same time line. Others may separate their players and each is in a unique instance of the game world, like parallel universes. For the first, the players can easily switch which group they are with, for the second, some sort of magical portal transports them to the other timeline.

The type of campaign that encompasses a world/game setting is also called  a milieu, which means setting, and can have multiple campaigns run simultaneously or in sequence, or both.

The idea of a campaign as a one-shot world is from the heavily story driven type of play where there is an ultimate goal to the setting and once it is achieved, there is no sense to go on. To continue play requires a new setting for a new campaign. I can see where some might like this type of play, but that is an enormous amount of work.

It makes more sense to me to have a game world that can offer multiple locations for players to adventure. In this way, the DM can develop one setting, and spend the rest of their time fleshing out the details of tombs, caverns, lairs, treasure, magic, dungeons, villains, and monsters in a given area.

This can work for a fantasy world, where a continent or sub-continent sized area is roughly sketched, and the details of the starting area are worked out and the players are let loose to figure things out. For a space based science fiction game, why plan out multiple start systems and their planets, only to have to do it again? For a post-apocalyptic setting, why plan out things only to never use them again?

Obviously if the DM has an idea that he thinks is cool, but flops, it can be scrapped if it is beyond salvaging, or it can be re-worked to be cool. Keep the good ideas and toss the bad ones.

In my game, I have things going on the players only have glimpses of, but have yet to investigate. So far, I have not gone beyond ideas and scribbles of notes. The game needs to mature and simmer some more to determine if my ideas for the machinations of yet to be discovered bad guys fits with what develops in play. I won’t put too much time into some of it until the players are about to discover it. This makes for a fluid and more organic game setting that is more likely to be fun for all.

Day 2 B is for Beginnings

April 2, 2014
April 2, 2014

Starting anything is hard for me. Once I get going it just seems to work out.

Having an idea or scenario that will grab the interest of the players seems to be so difficult.

Meeting in a bar, or just showing up outside a dungeon and starting play just seems so cliche, but often that seems to be all I can come up with.

This ties into the anarchy. There are lots of ideas from other bloggers online, tables for how players meet and start their adventuring together. Deciding which tools and ideas to use can be overwhelming with the sheer volume of information available online. Also, once I get into creative mode, the ideas flow faster than I can keep up and I want to use them all. Trying to pick just one is the hardest.

What I like about blogging is that I don’t have to choose which ideas to write about. I have so many that I spread them out to have one a day instead of ten a day. This way I always have a post ready.

Day 1 A is for Anarchy

April 1, 2014
April 1, 2014


For the DM, everything starts with anarchy and chaos.

A system must be found to bring together players for mutual enjoyment. The DM provides the framework of where the player characters are and what challenges await.

Unless and until the players accept the DM’s presentation of what is available, the is uncontrolled anarchy.

Once the players agree to play along, the anarchy is only that caused by the ideas of the players interacting with those of the DM and opening up new possibilities.

The DM has a chore of keeping up with the desire of the players to play. A successful DM learns to be comfortable with the Anarchy and to embrace it and with time grow skilled in running things off the cuff with little to no preparation.

My challenge is to learn to be comfortable with the anarchy and the unexpected. This is a skill that applies to all of life.