Starting Session – Suggestion/Forget

I woke in the dark to take care of biological necessities and had an idea cross my mind, so I put it quickly into Evernote (the free version). I don’t know if it was from a dream or just the weird ideas that go through my brain from time to time. It would make for an interesting start to the adventure. It could be really interesting with a new party of fresh adventurers, AKA 1st level.
The party rides into town people give them dumb looks. Especially when they ask questions that they should know the answer.
Woman runs up and screams, “Where’s Horace?” [I have no clue where that name came from. I don’t know anyone by that name.]
Later the party finally finds Horace, and he is: dead, undead, alive, evil infested, etc.
Of course, the entire question of “Where’s Horace?” could be dragged on for multiple adventures to an entire campaign.
Horace could be a lantern bearer, or other young lad helping out the party, or could even be a member of the party that some magic affected the party causing them to forget him entirely. They approach the village from the direction of their original approach to the village.
One thought is to start each player with 500 experience points. They have no idea why, perhaps not even questioning it.
Let the ideas that the players themselves blurt out inform the tale of what happened to Horace. Not the whole cloth, but take the interesting bits and snippets.
Of course, this would only work with those who haven’t heard this idea, to get the fullest effect.
The GM will need a default story line to explain things, if the player’s musings are not of much help. But that’s one open ended idea that really got me to thinking about how to handle a random question like that.

Sandbox Idea

I wrote about an idea for a new campaign setting last week. Last night I had an idea for the starting point for the sandbox.

An earthquake rocks a region near a village. The ground opens up and reveals a structure beneath that releases creatures that raid and terrorize the village. Some local hero/adventurer types kill/drive off the creatures, find the buried structure/dungeon, discover great wealth within and word soon spreads. These adventurers could have retired or set themselves up as local power/authority figures, or all been killed in their greed for more.

This premise sets up the whole thing to use a module featuring a dungeon, a commercial megadungeon, or developing my own. The level of flexibility with this is enormous.

Of course, this leads to a boom town with new found wealth that garners the attention of the far off king, who sends a newly ennobled baron, a younger son of a noble to come in and restore order and make sure taxes are collected. This will be a challenge to players, and the degree of taxes taken will depend on how law-abiding the players and other adventurers are, and how lawful and honest the new baron is.

The PC’s hear about this chance for riches and glory, and arrive with lots of others to make their fortune. The damage, from the creatures, to part of the village is seen on the homes & buildings closest to the hole in the earth. Earthquake damage is also evident. Merchants, innkeepers, thieves, and oh so many others have shown up and changed a once sleepy farming village into a boom town that is the center of attention for miles around. Think of a gold rush town, but with magic and monsters. One cold place this in any genre, not just fantasy. Weird West, Sorcerous Space, etc. Or take out the magic and just be technology, whatever suits you.

The native villagers are in shock at the sudden changes to their way of life. Farmers will be chasing people off their fields. This could lead to a localized famine if the crop is poor from all the digging.

Of the various ideas I have had to pull this together, many can be implemented before or after gameplay starts to make things more dynamic. A timeline of events leading up to and after the earthquake would also help move things along.


Make this a one-off introduction to the campaign. This would call for a small dungeon that is soon tapped out.

Make this the center of attention for the sandbox with a megadungeon.

Formerly sleepy area of kingdom that has not seen much trouble for generations, near a kingdom that has been at peace, but the sudden surge in wealth has many claiming ancient rights to the spoils and demanding their fair share. Documents, maps, patents, deeds, genealogies, etc. All presented to back up claims to land, mineral rights, etc.

What might have caused the earthquake? Why now? Who is interested in this?

Supply caravans lose guards and others seeking their fortune. Some merchants come in on a caravan, but set up shop selling supplies at exorbitant prices to adventurers.

Mines/Miners – non-adventuring types will be digging for treasure, not caring to risk life and limb in the dungeon. Pre-cut stone is gathered from the structure as all newer groups have used prior construction materials again.

Local farmer/crafter sets up an inn, uses materials from buildings of the slain families to build/expand.

Constable. – Native villager appointed/elected/selected by town to keep peace/order. Active before arrival of the baron. Baron can arrive before or after game play starts.

When baron and his force arrives, they set a levy and require the able bodied to build a low wall and ditch around the town with watchtowers at each approach. The underground structure is mined for building materials and is like kicking an ant nest….

If a megadungeon, there will be some other entrance(s) that keep re-populating the dungeon. If they dig too deep too fast or venture too deep too fast, they could attract the attention of a lot of bad things….

Place other NPC’s and static encounters around the sandbox. Note which ones were there before the earthquake, and which are new arrivals since. Are any new arrivals due to what the earthquake has revealed? An old hedge witch/wizard would be there before, do they know anything about the structure?

Sages, scholars, and wizards interested in ancient things might show up.

Local village cleric/druids overwhelmed. Shrines set up to strange and foreign gods. NOTE: Idea of the powers and work that in to it.

Other farmsteads in surrounding area.

Fallen towers, other ruins, caves, sinkholes, etc.

Rival gangs of adventurers. As with any boom town situation, one of them has a level of clout/influence the others don’t and takes advantage of it. Turf wars/claim disputes/etc. This may or may not be the original “heroes”. Calls for generating multiple rival adventuring parties.

Tavern Name: The Fallen Paladin – either a heroic paladin fell in battle saving the town, or fell from grace….

Thieves guild of nearest city/large town moves in to get their piece of the action. Or a thief of sufficient level moves in to set up his or her own guild.


Seven Years – I missed it!

July 18 is the anniversary of this blog. This past July marked seven years since I started this journey.

I was reflecting on what to write about next, and the idea of “Why blog at all?” I have written about it before, My Take On Blogging About RPG’s.” I found re-reading that a good reminder of how I do things.

For me, blogging is as much about sharing my ideas as it is cataloging them for later. I touch on a variety of topics, and follow other blogs with ideas that interest me. Reading about how others do things gives me ideas and helps me to be a better player and GM. Interacting with those same people increases the circle of friendship and makes it a cool experience to finally meet and play together in real life at conventions.

I may take breaks from the blog when the well of ideas runs dry for the moment, or hectic times with work, or situations with family that require a change of focus.

I view this blog as the stake in the ground. It gives me a focus to come back to. It invites others to share my ideas and give me feedback. It is a tool that I find helpful. I can search it to find what I have written in the past and read it months or years later with fresh eyes. Even the limited writing I do helps scratch that itch I have to write.

I hope to keep blogging as long as I’m able to play RPG’s. I’m coming up on 39 years of playing D&D in the Spring. Four more decades of life with RPG’s sounds like a good time to me!

Archaeological Field Maps As Inspiration Or Actual Maps For Adventures

Every time I see an article online about an archaeological discovery, I always think, that map reminds me of RPG maps.

One can easily find them by googling the phrase “archaeological field maps.” Some are of buildings, fortifications, tombs, or entire cities. All of them are interesting and seem to give me ideas.

In addition to finding maps when searching that phrase, there are links for courses on how to draw those maps and specific projects and their maps.

The look of these old maps makes me wonder if the originators of D&D were inspired by these maps, or secondarily influenced by them through the use of similar maps in war gaming? I have not yet finished Jon Peterson’s tome to know if he touches on that, but it definitely makes me wonder.

Secondary Skills

From a discussion at 1st Ed AD&D on FB, this was way back on January 1st, 2016 and I never got back to this draft to post it until now.

The actual discussion thread.

Who allows characters to actually use secondary skills?

If you do, how much do they add to the roleplaying experience?

If characters can make items of the quality of this very cool cup, do you allow them to have the potential to be enchanted?

Lastly, what magic would you have this cup hold?

My thoughts:

Decades ago, in my brother’s campaign, he had me roll percentile dice to determine the level of skill my new character had as a bowyer. I rolled 100. He ruled that with the proper tools and materials and time, that skill level could make bows with a non-magical hit bonus of +1, +2, or +3. This also meant that they were of a quality to be made into magical weapons. Not many adventurers have the time to devote to regular crafting, especially if they are magic users.

Of course, this character, a half-elf fighter/cleric/magic user does not have the intelligence to use 6th level spells, so he can’t enchant his own magic bow. However, he might be able to make a holy bow as a cleric…. Hmmmm….

Crit Success Rings – A Review

Back in March, 2016 at GaryCon 8, +Satine Phoenix gave a bunch of us these d20 rings, that you can wear and roll a d20. Very cool.

They are CritSuccess rings.

They take a bit of working the grit out, dish soap & warm water work well. Once you have them spinning freely, they seem to generate random numbers.

It is a cool trinket for those of us who collect dice and other game memorabilia.

I can see using them for a DM roll of a d20, if it needed to be secret.

They also have rings for other single dice and multi-dice combinations like 3d6. If you really like a ring or two on every finger, this might be for you.

Empire of Imagination – Mini Review

I finally made the time this week and read Michael Witwer’s book, Empire of Imagination, a biography of Gary Gygax. You can read about his research [here or here] on the sanitorium that was not in the original hardback, but is detailed in the paperback.

I’m a fast reader and I made it through in two evenings. It is well written and flows

The narrative style makes it a non-traditional biography, but does help take the reader into the story of Gay Gygax’s life before and after D&D. There are lots of footnotes, photographs, and a bibliography of Gygax’s works.

For a quick and entertaining overview of Gary’s involvement with D&D and TSR, this book does the job. It reads like one wrote down all the stories from Gary’s life. The care and detail in research shines through.

Some of the jumps in the presentation from one chapter to the next seemed abrupt and not well explained. However, as I think about it, that is often how our own lives are when we realize that we have entered a new chapter. Even though we were there for he whole thing, we can still wonder, “How did I get here?”

I enjoyed the style, and like good things found myself wanting more. Now I know why this book took off when it came out. If you haven’t read it, I suggest adding it to your reading list. It is also available in audio book, if you prefer that sort of thing.

Campaign Setting Idea

While mowing the lawn yesterday, I  heard sirens and had one of my off the wall thoughts. What if you died and didn’t know it, and could only do the thing that you were doing for eternity?
That’s potentially a terrible curse. But I went with the idea and let the ideas bubble up as i continued to mow.
I have an idea for a new AD&D campaign and want to have fun with it, so I put together some quick notes on my phone in Evernote, when I took a break from mowing. I then cleaned them up and added more ideas below.
  • When I was still on the same thing for eternity idea, I thought about this making people think about their eternal future and learn things that would make them have as much variety as possible in how they do things. For example, learn 100 or 1,000 ways to cut the grass, or maintain the lawn. This will prevent boredom/monotony.
    • I further imagined literate cultures having lots of books on 100 ways to do 100 things, or long lists of ways people have died and ways to deal with that. Pre-literate cultures would have intricate oral traditions taught by the elders on such matters.
      • The idea of dying in childbirth was very unpalatable, and how to deal with that? Perhaps a belief that the mother and child are united together in eternity exploring and learning from the cosmos.
      • This and other horrible ways of dying lead to the idea of nuance, and not being literally the only thing one does for eternity. I am sure one burned to death could be seen as involved with fire in the afterlife, as a shooting star, lava flow, etc. Or they become a fire elemental or other creature on the plane of fire!

This lead to the idea of birth and death augurs, and the points that follow:

  • All humans – Characters are all humans, with rare exceptions. Demi humans arrive via random gates from other worlds. For some reason, the idea of an all-human party is appealing. Maybe the first character for each player has to be human, and future characters can be something else.
  • Birth augur determines class and other affects, etc. Use DCC until generate own lists. Players write a paragraph or two to weave together class, secondary skill (if AD&D), and birth augur.
  • Birth order to get 7th of 7th son/daughter, etc. If roll 7th of 7th son/daughter, get plus 1 to Intelligence and Wisdom, or other cool bonus. Social class, rank, parent’s occupations, season, month, etc, all play a part.
  • Parents would want children to carry on the family business, but if the birth augur says differently, then parents are reluctant to challenge the way things are.
    • Making a character with a class that goes counter to the stats. A high strength for a mage, for example, might indicate one bucking the trend of their birth augur. This should call for interesting role play situations.
  • Death augur, roll on table,  determined at birth. Thus the characters have it at the start of the campaign. Age, season, circumstance, activity, such as battle. Search real world augurs of birth and death. This should encourage players to be heroic and if they are slain, to go out in style.
  • All groups, human and monster believe that what one is doing when they die will determine what they do in the afterlife for eternity. Those slain in battle might be involved in eternal war. The nuances of the death could point to something else related to that circumstance. For example, slain by ogres could mean you awake in a new world where ogres are friendly and you have to work past your issues with ogres to move on. Or you could be re-born as an ogre….
  • Note, raise dead forces a re-roll of birth and death auguries. If identical, signals a blessing from the powers. If vastly different it signals a mark, curse, burden, or quest is demanded to lift or rectify it. If one is the same and the other is different, it presents a fun roleplay opportunity.
  • Those who desire a long life avoid the things that signal the possibility of their death.
  • Certain death – there is a saying, “While death comes to all that is, the only certain death is one that is foretold.”
  • No fear of death.  Fate, luck, etc. all play a part. If character knocked down, but ruled by the DM as not part of his death augur, “flip the body” like in DCC, and just badly injured. Possible permanent injury table.
  • I like the idea of no set alignment, but those on the side of civilization and law, and those on the side of monsters and wildness. More of the law & chaos of original D&D. I had the idea for the name of a rule set, “Heroes & Anti-Heroes.” Those on the side of law are heroic and those on the side of chaos are the opposite. Not necessarily cowards, but their great deeds are infamous rather than heroic.
  • Undead and those who seek to cheat death would be chaos and hidden cults. A lich would be the ultimate in an attempt to cheat death.
    • Demons would be those powers out to trick the susceptible into resisting death at all costs. The “blessings” from the demons would be life as undead.
  • Call Turn Undead “Banish Magical Abomination”, and druids would “Banish Unnatural Abominations”. Let druids turn undead at 2 or 3 levels lower.
  • No set deities. “The powers”, “great ones”, generic name for all the deities. Few groups would worship a specific deity.
  • Any tribes/groups/nations/cultures that don’t follow the birth/death augur tradition will be viewed as “wrong”. This should be rare and not encountered in the core of the campaign region.
This whole idea helped me to see undead and law vs. chaos differently. It is not as confining as one imagines.
This also feels like the idea for a book.  Hmmmm…. Not until I get the first draft of the final chapters of the novel I have yet to finish.

Fun With Cabinet Labels

My house had an infestation of grain weevils. So my son and his girlfriend, who have been living with me for the last couple of weeks took on the task of emptying all the cabinets and finding all the affected flour, etc. over the weekend.

When they put everything back, they rearranged and reorganized it, all with my prior approval. Heck, I didn’t have to do all that work, why should I mind?

So that my other, younger son, and myself would know where everything is, my son made labels on 3 x 5 cards and stuck them to the front of all the cabinets on the level of the shelf behind them. being my son, he had fun with the labels. I’m so proud!

The kitchen & dining room
The kitchen & dining room with contents of cabinets on tables.
Left Side: Tupperware Housing Co-Op Right Side: All Coasters have been EVICTED
Baking Bad (chemical agent storage)
Emulsion, Measurement & Containment (E=MC2) <- for short
Miscellaneous Containment Vessels of Minimal Stature
“There’s no food” Reality Check with Astronaut Milk (Ooblek Potential)
Poop Assistance Program (PAP)

Oatmeal and raisins…. Gives a whole new meaning to PAP smear….

Apocalypse Starvation Inhibitor Mechanically imprisoned calories Lipids & Stimulants (contingency coffee pot not Included)

Coconut oil & Coffee.

Essential Hitchhiker’s Equipment (Don’t Panic)

Do I need to explain that one?

Lots Available Adjacent to Oats Corner Large Containment Vessels & Fruit Torture Apparatus

LOL a box of oatmeal and a juicer.

Flavor Enhancement Modules & Nourishment Lubricators

Soy sauce and the like, and cooking oil.

Three Dimensional Heating Prisms {May, or may not contain Top-most Plane}

Pyrex casserole dishes.

Hot paFibrous Membranes of Heat Resistance Deflect all heat Damage from applied area for Duration of One Turn

Hot pads

Plethora of Utensils Which were denied residence in Kitchen Caddy