Category Archives: Advice/Tools

Trap Idea – Take One Thing and Expand on It

Take something simple, and think of all the ways this could be used, it could all be in the same dungeon, or series of dungeons/tombs. Perhaps all the tomb builders of a certain epoch used them.

I’m just now dipping my toes into Reddit and decided to build on a comment I made to a thread asking for trap ideas for a kobold infested dragon cave. [It’ll be at least 30 days before I can make my own subreddit. You can find me here.]

Have a giant rock or cube the shape of the corridor fill up the space.
It doesn’t have to kill. Use it to stop entrance or exit and otherwise direct the adventurers along the path most favorable to the kobolds.
Think of all the ways you can use a giant block of stone to impede and frustrate their efforts. Be sure to think in 3 dimensions.

Examples with a 10X10X10 dungeon corridor.

  • The block that falls can’t be pushed or pulled as it is a tight fit and there is a slight lip in the floor around its base.
  • The block falls just in front to make them turn back or aside at an intersection.
  • The block falls after they enter a room and exit on opposite wall has one that will fall before they can leave the room.
    • There can be no exit and the party waits for rescue or attack, or figures a way out.
    • There can appear to be no exit, but there is a secret door or trap door in the flor/ceiling.
    • The room is water tight or mostly water tight. Maybe there is a secret drain that opens up when the room is full and the occupants are passed out.
    • The room is airtight and the party passes out 1d6 rounds after the torches go out.
      • If no fire-based light and they have magic light, perhaps it lasts several hours or days before they pass out. It all depends on the size of the room.
    • The cliche walls/floors/ceilings of spikes close in.
      • Have it stop a few feet from the players independent of their efforts to stop it and the floor drops out from under them.
      • How can you make that fun & different?
        • Hallucinogenic poison makes them think they can see through or walk through walls….
        • Instead of filling with water or sewage, fill it with snow, ice cubes, or gold (molten if you’re mean.).
  • Have a giant stone fall so fast that the party doesn’t see the person in the lead simultaneously fall through a trap door. The person appears to have been squished into paste. If it’s an NPC, you can have them show up in a totally unexpected place. If a player, they will have to play along, depending on how strongly you want a big reveal that they aren’t dead.
    • Related to this have a cloud of dust roil as the person who sprung a trap falls through a trap door so fast it looks like they disappeared. All that is left is a pile of dust on the floor. You know, like they were disintegrated.
  • Spring a trap door and a stone block falls:
    • It can crush those below it, or have enough of a lip to seal the pit.
    • The pit could be a container that is replaced by a block, i.e. slid aside, before the stone falls. Those looking down will see those in the pit slide away. think fast and step back….
  • Have ways the kobolds can easily move blocks out of the way, and players will come back around and the stones are gone….
    • Sliding walls can receive the block that is pushed across the hallway and an elevator contraption reloads the trap.
    • Other creative mechanisms. They don’t all have to be automated.
      • They could require kobolds or their prisoners to use a “hamster wheel” like used for ancient & medieval cranes.
      • It could require ropes and pullies and work gangs of kobolds to reset.
  • A stone block actually is a secret room but the players have to find it in the portion facing them.
    • The secret door could lead to the passage on the other side.
    • The secret door could lead to the room to the side of the block. The block could be two blocks wide with a portion of the wall part of the enormous Tetris-like block.
      • If not an extra big block in a Tetris-like shape, don’t the person who finds and opens the secret door…
  • Add in trap doors in the ceiling and floor for kobolds to drop down on the part or come up behind them, or to have cover/concealment for firing at the party.
  • Add in sliding walls to open firing platforms or direct players trough a maze. They can be automated when they step on a trigger or require the kobolds to have enough of them to keep up with the party’s advance.
  • You can even throw in a gelatinous cube being dropped from the ceiling…. They’re 10′ cubes, at least in the versions I play.
    • There could be a nesting ground of them above the dungeon level and when ceilings open up under their weight, they fall.
      • Or the dungeon designers seeded them and have triggers to let them drop at the right time and place.
    • Use sliding floors to reveal a 10′ cube pit with a gelatinous cube in it. Remember its pseudopods can draw in food.
    • Have a couple that are particularly full of treasure  and well back-lit to help overcome the party’s reluctance to fight it.
    • Drop cubes at opposite ends of corridors when the party is at halfway, and stone block drop behind the gelatinous cubes.
    • Swap out any other kind of slime, mold, or jelly.
  • In addition to all of the above, the blocks and such can be used to direct wandering monsters, whether intelligent or not, into the party. Why should the kobold fight when the big nasties they found in here can do it for them?
  • Swap stone for ice, have a wall of ice spell go off in the right shape. Remember in AD&D a falling wall of ice is like an ice storm….
    • Swap stone for anything else you can think of.
  • Use round stones, a la Indiana Jones.
    • Pick other fun shapes to make the trap stand out and either be a time waster for the party to puzzle over, or really be a puzzle.

In the above examples, determine if the kobolds (or other intelligent monster) found these existing traps and embraced them, or if they are of their own construction. Or are the kobolds maintaining what they found, but “not up to code?”

For comic relief, roll for a chance for the kobolds to pull the wrong lever at the wrong time revealing their rope-powered winches and pullies. Roll for surprise to see if the Kobolds can recover before they are noticed. Except for the noise behind the party….

I started with a stone block and added in pits, moving walls, floors, and ceilings, and so forth. In the same way, start with something simple and look at it just a bit differently.

  • What can you do with it that you or a player wouldn’t expect?
  • What can you do with it with and without magic? (Technology for other genres.)
  • Find one of your child’s or grandchild’s toys or other household item.  What can you do with that?
  • Pay attention to the things you see at the big box stores or hardware store.
  • What overheard conversation from public places sparks an idea?

Don’t limit yourself to traps. You can do this with secret doors, hidden compartments, etc.

If you grab onto one of these ideas of taking one thing and going with it, you can end up with ideas coming so fast that you can’t keep up with them. Embrace those moments. Make notes, organize them, make tables and charts to help generate more ideas. (There’s another series of articles for the blog in all this too!)



Ship Names

During the AD&D games I ran at the last Marmalade Dog I needed a good ship name, and didn’t have a good one, so I asked the players, and got a great one, the Storm Witch.

I then decided that I could make a table to come up with other usable names.

The most basic such table is a list of adjectives and a list of nouns and roll a die for each column.

Of course, with adjectives you have colors and other descriptors. Powerful action oriented descriptors are cool, like the Flying Dutchman, or the Red Witch (Wake of the Red Witch).  Ships have the idea of motion and speed. A name that foreshadows a very fast ship is only fitting if the ship is fast. A slow merchant would tend to have a name evoking reliability or stability, or perhaps a humorous name. A pirate ship would most likely be renamed to something more suiting. a naval ship would have something indicating power, like Dreadnought, Dauntless, Intrepid, etc.

Certain colors tend to give an image of ferocity, danger, dread, etc.

Use the name to draw forth a description for the figurehead. For example, when the player suggested the Storm Witch, I immediately had an image in my head and could describe the figurehead to the others. A woman with hair blown about by the winds of storms.

Some ships might have a single name, like the Dragon, and others could have longer names. Come up with naming conventions by different nations or races. Elves might name their ships after stars or trees. Different human nations might emphasize something different with their ship names.

Below are some tables to mix and match and give ideas for naming ships. This could apply to naming water borne ships or spaceships.

Adjective/Noun (d10)

  1. Flying
  2. Soaring
  3. Sea
  4. Dusty
  5. Red
  6. Fast/Quick
  7. Sun
  8. Flaming
  9. Smoldering
  10. Smoking

Noun (d8)

  1. Witch
  2. Waif
  3. Spirit
  4. Sprite
  5. Dragon
  6. Kraken
  7. Merchant
  8. Maid

Sea Related Words

  1. Sea/Ocean/Waters
  2. Mist
  3. Wave
  4. Surf/Surfer
  5. Surge
  6. Storm/Tempest/Thunder
  7. Foam
  8. Deep/Depths/Abyss
  9. Whirlpool/Vortex/Eddy
  10. Maelstrom
  11. Aurora
  12. Wind/Squall
  13. Calm/Becalmed/Stagnant
  14. Shore
  15. Isle/Island
  16. Murky
  17. Shallows
  18. Reef
  19. Shoal
  20. Fathom

Ship Related Words

  1. Sail
  2. Oar
  3. Deck
  4. Plank
  5. Keel
  6. Mast

Crew Related Words

  1. Hand/Sailor/Crew
  2. Mate
  3. Captain
  4. Owner
  5. Carpenter
  6. Rigger
  7. Master
  8. Chief


  1. Star
  2. Sun
  3. Moon
  4. Compass/Sunstone
  5. Sextant
  6. Astrolabe
  7. Eclipse
  8. Twilight
  9. Dawn
  10. Dusk
  11. Midnight
  12. Morning
  13. Evening

Type of Ship

  1. Merchant
  2. Galley/Bireme/Trireme/Longship
  3. War
  4. Pirate/Buccaneer/Privateer
  5. Escort
  6. Whaler
  7. Trawler
  8. Cruiser
  9. Caravel
  10. Corvette
  11. Ironclad
  12. Galleon

Sea Creatures

  1. Squid
  2. Octopus
  3. Turtle
  4. Whale
  5. Kraken
  6. Barracuda
  7. Shark
  8. Eel
  9. Ray/Manta/Mantaray
  10. Crab/Lobster/Crustacean
  11. Clam/Oyster
  12. Snake
  13. Crocodile
  14. Manatee
  15. Dolphin/Porpoise
  16. Trout/Bass

Other Creatures

  1. Harpy
  2. Hag/Nag
  3. Witch
  4. Dragon
  5. Wolf
  6. Chameleon
  7. Lizard
  8. Bird/Sparrow/Eagle/Hawk/Buzzard/Gull/Albatross
  9. Mermaid
  10. Nymph
  11. Horse/Mule/Pony/Stallion
  12. Cow/Bull/Bison/Buffalo
  13. Sheep/Ewe/Ram
  14. Deer/Buck/Hind/Roe
  15. Camel
  16. Hippopotamus/Behemoth


  1. Spear/Javelin
  2. Sword
  3. Lance
  4. Dagger
  5. Trident
  6. Net
  7. Shield/Buckler
  8. Bow/Arrow/Archer/Bolt


  1. Skull
  2. Rock
  3. Bone(s)
  4. Timber(s)
  5. Sand
  6. Fire/Flame
  7. Jewel(s)/Jeweled/Bejeweled
  8. Silver
  9. Gold
  10. Copper
  11. Quartz
  12. Opal


  1. Blue/Azure
  2. Green/Verdant
  3. Red
  4. Yellow
  5. Violet/Purple
  6. White
  7. Black
  8. Grey
  9. Brown
  10. Orange


  1. Plaid
  2. Striped
  3. Barred
  4. Dotted
  5. Variegated
  6. Changing
  7. Pale
  8. Dark
  9. Scattered
  10. Hidden
  11. Mystery
  12. Geometric


  1. Flying
  2. Soaring
  3. Sailing
  4. Fast
  5. Unvanquished/Undefeated/Victorious
  6. Indefatigable/Untiring/Persistent/Patient
  7. Fearless/Dreadnought/Dauntless
  8. Mighty
  9. Powerful
  10. Reliant

List of Pirate Ship Names

List of Royal Navy Ships – With links to ships that start with each letter of the alphabet.

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.

Aaand It’s Gone….

I was sitting in my chair at my desk after a long week. I work from home, and the best spot for my home office is my home office. So for over a year it has been both my work place and my play place.

So I sat here with my eyes closed, my mind adrift. I recalled that tomorrow will the the deadline for the One Page Dungeon Contest. I haven’t yet done anything, but am hoping to come up with an idea. Suddenly it hit me, a cool name. I went to write it down and the name was gone. I still have the kernel of an idea, but wish I had that name.

I closed my eyes again, and drifted. I thought, “I really should post about the latest package I got in from Wayne’s Books.” I continued to let my mind drift. As before, I came close to dozing off. I had several other blog ideas come to me. I sat up to write them down and thought of something at the last minute – I need to officially schedule time off for a couple of conventions. I wrote that down and noted to post something about my package from Wayne’s Books. I went to write down the 3 or 4 other ideas I had, and they were gone….

I don’t know why, but I have this ability to get these really cool ideas that I can see the whole thing, but before I can just make a note to hold the place of that idea, it vanishes.

Usually, when I get ideas like that, I don’t loose the bulk of them, I can at least get two or three of them noted before they fade.

It’s supposed to be too chilly and wet to put in my garden this weekend, so I’ll try chasing nebulous ideas and whipping them into shape so I can share them with others.

As I was proofreading the above, I had an idea for a spell:

The Ungraspable Thought

Level: 3
Range: 1″ per level
Duration: Permanent
Area of Effect: 2″ x 2″
Components: V, S
Casting Time: 3 segments
Saving Throw: Negates

This spell causes those affected to be unable to solve the nagging feeling that they know something. The caster must name the idea, concept, or fact that the one affected cannot grasp. It must be quick and simply stated.

For example, “You cannot know me, my description, or my location.” This will prevent those affected from getting a handle on who the caster is, what he looks like, or where to find him. The one affected will continually ask, “Where are we going?” “Who are we after?” “What does she look like?”

A magical trap might cause adventurers who find a treasure to never be able to re-trace their steps.

The material component is refined smoke, costing 100 gold pieces. The caster can make it with the outlay of 100 gp for processing it.

A save versus spell negates the effect.  A more general and broad command will add +2 to the roll. For example, an evil wizard telling a sage to lose the names and faces of everyone they meet.

Gary Con Panel – Goodman Games – How To Write Adventure Modules The Don’t Suck

I have played a few DCC funnels at conventions and a few modules at the gaming table. I’ve even been a player in a play test of a module. I can’t mention that, but if my name shows up in the acknowledgements, you’ll know which one(s).

DCC seems to have a lot of interest in their modules, so I wanted to hear what their designers had to say. If I never have a published module, at least I can use the information to help design my own sessions, and games at conventions.

The panelists were Joseph Goodman, Michael Curtis, Jobe Bitman, Brendan LaSalle, and Bob Bledsaw, Jr. There were 20-25 in attendance, among whom were 3 women. When it came time to ask questions, only one of the women asked a question. That’s a significant ratio. What I wonder, is were the other two just there with their male S.O.’s, or were they really gamers with an interest in such things. Just my musings, no data to back up any of it.

What follows are just the transcription of my hastily scribbled and sometimes illegible notes. There are a lot of good points here for planning adventures in your own games, in addition to developing modules for publication.

Joseph Goodman started off by telling us that they have done this seminar multiple times before, and this time wanted to start off with each person telling what things inspire them.

1.) Things that inspire us to get a good output.

Michael Curtis

  • All writers are readers
    • Always have a notebook when reading – make note of certain words that evoke ideas, feelings, etc.
    • Follow up on ideas an author does not pursue.

Jobe Bitman

  • Movies, especiall humor.
  • Camping & hiking
  • New museum
  • New locations and feeling what the experience is like and relate to a fantasy world setting.
    • For ex. hiking is hard work, and there’s no way characters pack all the stuff they say that they do.

Brendan LaSalle

  • Big reader
  • Movies
  • Good TV
  • Poetry
  • Music – Heavy Metal Power Cords
  • Steals a lot of bad guy lines from comic books.

Bob Bledsaw, Jr. (Insight on how his dad prepared for campaigns & modules, from all the materials he left.)

  • Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert Heilein, A. C. Clarke, poetry
  • Actually running campaigns
    • Notebooks filled with names of inns, NPC’s with brief designations, random monsters, and names & backgrounds for magical items.
    • Village book, fantastic weapons, Temple book, etc.
    • His father didn’t like to lead players.
    • Look at an inn as each class. How does a mage see this inn, a cleric, a thief?
    • What about a monster or obstacle is a problem for a cleric?
    • Leave world open

Joe Goodman

  • Goes to places with unique features
    • Elephant seal hatchery – they are 2,000 pounds and the size of a VW.
  • Monarch butterfly breeding ground – view through fantasy lens
  • Hurst castle
  • Wild zebras on beach near California coastal highway.
  • Alcatraz was a military island citadel before it was a prison.
  • Art and comic books

I think it was Brendan LaSalle who said these two things.

  1. Read Strunk & Whites Manual of Style once per year.
  2. Read what you have written out loud, or have someone read it to you with the Last Draft. If it doesn’t read well, it won’t play well.

A common theme was to playtest a module multiple times to get the flow and pacing right. You have to know how it will play out before you publish it. Someone said if it is a TPK every time, then it’s too hard. If about half the party survives, then it’s about right.

2.) One thing they love and one thing they hate.


Love: Brilliant little detail, for ex. Legacy of Savage Kings has a dragon in a cavern with the coins of his treasure lovingly stacked along the wall.

Hate: No matter what happens, you can’t change what happens. He gave examples of NPC’s you can’t kill, or some other thing that no matter what they do it won’t change. It is better to think of what will happen if they kill this NPC, etc. Trust your DM (who will run the module). ALWAYS put the players center stage as the main characters of the story.


Love: Enjoys ambiguity to cause reader and player to imagine options, avoids set in stone. Leave it up to recipient to fill in the blanks.

Hate: Story should emerge and not be stuck in a narrative since it is a participatory game.


Be a storyteller, not a story dictator.


Hate: Really long details with buried information the DM or player’s need. Make it easy to find.


Players are the audience, but the GM is the customer. Word count for GM/Judge is wasted, 1-2 pages at most. Pages should be for the benefit of the players.

3.) How bring ideas together?

Bob – List of Hobbits, only with warrior sounding names. His father’s notes were rich in lore from the books he read.

Michael – Pick three things and create a riff on it. Then come up with a brief synopsis, elevator pitch.

Brendan – Do like Shakespeare – Steal/steal/steal. What if it is a murder mystery?
Take random ideas and throw them at specific thing for the background to see where it goes and what happens.
He is a firm believer in a crappy first draft, just get it done, then refine it.

Michael – If nothing else, do something that you enjoy and are passionate about. Find a way to make it an adventure.

Bob – Don’t let your own misgivings stop you from paying or publishing.

Joseph – Get practice, especially with random stuff.

Bob – Some people have favorite modules that are not what is the most popular. Someone will like it, even if not everyone.

4.) How break out of the linear mindset?

Michael – Don’t make decisions for the players, just set the scene.

Bob – If there is an intriguing hook, it will draw them in.

Mike – For publication there is a set word count. How might players overcome this obstacle. Come up with 3 or 4 things.

Brendan – Billy goat Gruff, but 25th level character. Create a setting and villains. You can’t cover all your bases. Trust your GM.

Joseph – Mental checklist of

  • Player choices
  • There is a chance for every player to shine.
  • Visual Descriptions – Use hulking humanoid instead of just saying orc.
  • No ziggurats – New and exciting ideas.
  • Good title
  • Good summary  – Focused enough to do a 2 or 3 sentence description – elevator pith.

5.) Bad guy development

Leave as many decisions as possible up to the players.

Base on someone you don’t like.

Don’t lock the front door to the dungeon.

Don’t leave necessary information in an inaccessible place.

No lock without a key. This can be a secret door, or another way around the obstacle. Always a way around it.

Brendan – Once you decide what he is, Imagine as your character or you personally. Such as a dragon or necromancer.
What will you do to stop adventurers?
What will you fail at?


How get into the situation?/Start the setting for the adventure? (This was my question. I have trouble getting a good starting point for adventures.)

Brendan – In media res [In the middle of the action/story.] especially for a module, one-shot, or convention game.

Joseph – Robert E. Howard – In media res.

Brendan – Let the players screw themselves. Maybe they are all clerics, so they need hirelings to fill in the gaps. Always have a situation that requires dealing with magic.

Jobe – 1.) Be comfortable with system you are using, and just knowing the system might give you an idea.

2.) Avoid crating bottlenecks, have some secondary way to achieve the goal. A “key” to every lock doesn’t have to be literal.

Joseph – Easter Egg – Some benefit to players that test everything and one room *. Game changers – Players wreck the story line, handle it at the table.

Word count/size?

Brendan – Have a set number of encounters for four hours. For a convention setting, 6 to 8 encounters for four hours. Most modules can be played in four hours.

Jobe – Word count – Write as expressively as possible in the lowest word count.

Joseph – c. 10,000 words is about 16 pages in the format of Goodman Games’ modules.

How develop balance in a module? How do you know you have it right?

Brendan – Playtest/Playtest/Playtest as much as you can before publishing. Run at conventions, local game store with people you don’t know. A minimum of 3 times to playtest, once with friends, twice at conventions, no upper limit really.

Michael – Six months after it is released, you will know if the balance is right.

Jobe – If more than have killed, then still needs work. If less than half killed, then it’s probably pretty good.

Bob – Be prepared for anything. There should be enough source material to plan for unexpected things players do. Always leave a way out of a tough situation, but don’t make it easy.

Gary Con VIII – Podcasting Panel

The Gary Con Podcast Panel, with hosts from Game School, Gaming and BS, Cube of Death, Drink Spin Run, and Dead Games Society discussed gear, and other practical aspects of podcasting.

I am interested in podcasting, but I’m not sure that I have what it takes to make it a regular thing. I went to get some insight into the process. The basics to get started are less than $100 on the low end, to unlimited. This is not a formal article, but more my notes on the discussion.

The panel was recorded, so it is intended to be shared somewhere. Until then, here is a very quick outline of the presentation from my notes. I look forward to the recording so I can figure out what a couple of quick scribbles are in my notes.


Each podcast host mentioned the gear they use and things to consider when getting gear for your own podcast.

The bare minimum needed is a microphone, headphones, and a way to edit sound. Less than $100 if use free sound editor.

  • Microphones – 2 main types
    • condenser – wide range, very sensitive. Need to have a separate room/space to pad out noise
      • Blue Yeti
    • dynamic – Rejection – front & center
      • ATI 2100
  • Headphones
  • Sound editing program/mixer/ soundboard
    • Audacity is free sound editing program
  • Pop filter – also speaking past microphone if pop filter not enough
  • Vibration isolation
    • scissor arm
    • separate table for the microphone


  • Can host files on your own or use a service. If host on own it can lead to limitations of bandwidth.
  • RSS Feed – This is how people find and listen to your podcast.
  • iTunes & Website – Squarespace – simple installation
  • Host file at Blueberry or Libsyn – Both have plugins for WordPress. both have $x a month plans.
  • PodBeam
  • Free at – it is slow and can make listening choppy, or freeze.
  • Filesizes – 200 MB is too big for download, usually 30 or 40 MB.
    • There is a site that explains sound quality based on file size. good quality at around 40-50 MB

Tips & Tricks

  • Microphone Discipline:
    • Never Eat at the microphone.
    • Mute if not talking.
    • A pause from a guest is not an invitation to talk. Wait and make sure they aren’t just taking a breath.
      • Wait five seconds before you speak, they may just be taking a breath.
  • Do a pilot episode that you never share to work out the kinks.
  • Start small wit an inexpensive microphone and audacity to make sure it is something you can and want to do before laying out large sums on high end equipment.
  • Longevity gets guests.
  • Podcast fade – Most podcasts fail within 7 episodes.
  • G+ Podcasting Community
  • Make a thing you are interested in so that you keep doing it.
  • Don’t set self up for failure.
  • What value do you bring to the community with your podcast?
    • Content – What is your niche? (Avatar)
    • Conversation
    • Scripted topics of discussion
      • Plan episodes from a storytelling perspective. Does not need to be a complete script, but an outline to guide the conversation.
  • Podcast: Out On The Wire on Public Radio.
  • Avoid long intros
  • Avoid upspeak. this was a particular pet peeve of one presenter, and I must say, I agree with him.
  • Listen to other podcasts to figure out what you like.
  • Half hour podcast is ideal. (80% of people listen to podcasts on the commute to & from work or otherwise in their cars.)
  • Getting Guests & Good Interviews
    • Guest Dock – Form on site the guest fill out. Pick 3 things you want to talk about in order of importance & have them write their own third person bio, and any NSFW disclosures.
    • What is on & off the table?
  • Logistics:
    • Acts or segments to break it up. Used a timer
      • Show notes to reference the time of each segment.
    • Length of show
    • Audio bumpers after each segment.
    • Grab Bag – old quick idea for a topic. (Originated with boring guests.)
    • Call & Oates – Hall & Oates on crappy MIDI.
    • Shared Google Drive for collaborators to work on scripts, planning, etc.
  • Hosting – Solo, or with a co-host.
  • Facts/Interviews/Learn Things
  • Host Chemistry is important is multiple hosts.
  • Have some in the can, that way you can take a day off.
    • Record several sessions before post the first one, if a weekly podcast.
  • Have a location where you record that is limited on errant sounds, such as traffic, family members, pets, etc.


  • How grow audience?
    • Social Media
    • G+ community – put post after done recording episode announcing the topic, and another when it is posted.
    • Twitter feed.
    • Mailing List – email sign up.
    • Do a guest show & the very best it can be
    • Audience participation
    • Mention what you liked on other podcasts
    • Crossover/cross promotion
      • Not hard to get other podcasters on your show
      • Increase Luck Surface Area

Pet Peeves on Podcasts

  • Interrupting guests
  • Excessive rants
  • Laughing at something for no reason.
    • No nervous laughter
  • Not passing important visual queue to the audience
    • ex. Look at this, when audio only.
  • Super long intros & transitions (bumpers)
    • 15 second into. tops
  • Forced Academia – Level of pompousness/arrogance
    • Don’t condescend
    • No bad/wrong fun
    • Don’t shit in pool

Audience Questions

  • How handle multiple guests?
    • How “GM” the interview?
  • How do you triage or post-mortem each episode? (My question)
    • Pay attention to each piece
    • Take notes
    • Feedback from listeners
    • LISTEN to each episode the very next day.
      • What was good, what can be done better, what segment doesn’t fit, etc.
    • Listen to yourself.
      • You will find things in the way you speak and your own vocal quirks that you want to fix.
  • What is the right ratio of recording the show to editing?
    • Silence is no problem at all.
    • Don’t fix everything.
      • Max 4 hours to fix a one hour show.
      • Find the right ratio of re
      • Editing is the difference between a good show and a great show.

[Update: Added links to Part I and Part II of the recorded panel at Dead Games Society.]

GaryCon Day 0

Well, here I am in my hotel room in Lake Geneva, WI. I got into town about 12:30 local time and first found the location of the con, since I am staying off site.

I didn’t realize just how big this combined property is, with various other places to stay, many appear to be as big as the Grand Geneva itself.

I was a big surprised to find a sign saying event location parking here, i.e. if you are not staying at the Grand Geneva, you have to park here. It announced a shuttle service. It is down a hill from the convention center, so if the weather turns bad, it will be “fun” if one elects to walk rather than wait for a ride. I found the front desk and asked if I was correct about that being where to park, and was told “yes”.

It is not a problem, other than an inconvenience for me personally, based on how much stuff I brought with me. I was hoping to get some things signed, but didn’t realize I’d have such a hike to haul it. I did get a cheap folding dolly on the off chance I had to use it to haul stuff a long distance. I’ll just have to plan things out and determine when is best to approach people. I have a lot of unscheduled time, so it should not be a problem to haul that stuff. I do know a couple of vendors, so I might be able to stash my stuff with them.

Yes, I used my busy schedule as an excuse not to do more due diligence.

So let’s pay the Joesky Tax and use this as an example of how adventurers should plan their trips with all of the available knowledge of those who have been there before, to alleviate and minimize the unexpected.

On to the fun stuff. The planners were busy going through stuff in boxes, like t-shirts, that will be at the registration booth

I then found at the end of this hallway it had a ‘T’ junction and to the right was some unrelated meeting in one room, and across from that were several people in a coat check room. I recognized one as Luke Gygax. I’ve never met him, but have seen his picture online. I knew he was busy, so I didn’t take the time to meet him.

One cool thing, is on the floor were several posters of covers of various modules and the TSR Lizardman logo, plus banners for KOTD and others.


I then took the hall to the left and at another ‘T’ followed the signs to the right to the registration desk. On the way, I noted how the squat, square structure indicated this was probably built in the late 60’s/early 70’s, or at least designed in that time frame.

I also noted the squat, squarish hallways were very dungeon like. The ceiling might be 10 feet, but the hallways were 20 feet or more wide, with support pillars at one ‘T’ intersection.

As this building was once a Playboy Mansion, there was a display of items from that era of its history. (Yes, there’s a mirror in the back of the display case, so if you take a picture, you’re in it too….)


It looks like things are quite busy, and will only get busier as the day wears on.

It would be cool to get in on some impromptu gaming, but this is Wednesday, and tonight is Session 98 of the Wednesday night AD&D game I’m in on Roll20. Session 100 will be the week of the 2nd anniversary of the campaign. I’m the only player who has made every session, although had to be late to a couple when travelling for work, or the day after my granddaughter was born last year. One of the players is caught in a time trap, that if we can’t figure a way to save him, he is dead.

I look forward to finding out if we can beat the trap, or lose the only character in the group, besides mine, who has been here since session 1. That other player, Antony, and myself are the only players who have stuck with it since session 1. If Antony’s character, Axel dies, we loose our 6th level dwarf fighter. My character, Thorfus, is a 7th level dwarf fighter.

What is so cool, is that this campaign was Antony’s introduction to playing table top RPG’s. Had he not told anyone he was a novice, we would not have known. He is a natural, and is now running his own campaign, with our DM, another player, and myself from the Wednesday night game. Better yet, Antony lives in England and games in what are for him the wee hours. He is not upset about the possibility of losing a character, who would be 7th level by now if not for a wight.

Antony sees the death of his character, whether by the time trap, or those who trapped him as a glorious story to tell. All this while I feel bad that I can’t think of a way to save him…. Anthony has remained quiet, not meta gaming his thoughts, so he is reveling in the anguish of the other players. The worst part is that Antony started a new job and is travelling and may not be able to join the game when we learn the fate of Axel. Just a few short hours until we learn what happens…..

[Updated with pictures and links to the rest of the series.]

All my articles on GaryCon 8: GaryCon Day 0, GaryCon Day 1, GaryCon Day 2, GaryCon Day 3, GaryCon Day 4, Gary Con Wrap Up

Ideas For Hidden Items/Secret Doors

This is an exercise to help me with my own planning and preparation of adventures for hidden and secret items/treasure/doors/etc. I wanted a quick page to have all the things I wanted to make sure I considered when planning hidden item(s).

See this article on locks. My article on trade goods has some insight on items that might be hidden. Last year’s entry on V – Vaults for the A to Z Blogging Challenge. See also E – Entrances & Exits and D – Dungeons.

The d30 Sandbox Companion, d30 DM companion and other tools are a great way to figure out locations, guards, etc. Don’t forget the many tables in the 1st Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide.

Type of Hiding:

  1. In Plain Sight*
  2. Container**
  3. Magic***
  4. Hidden****
  5. Trap*****
  6. Combination of the above.

*This can vary from the object is in plain sight, but could be obscured in a minor way, it is very plain looking, it is in a room with multiple similar or identical objects, illusion, magic, mirrors, etc.

**Containers may be hidden or in plain sight. Containers are anything that holds something. Sacks, bags, bottles, kegs, casks, barrels, scroll cases, cups, glasses, chests, luggage, rooms, planets, pocket dimensions, etc.

***Includes magic and illusions. Any way that a spell can be used to hide something. Darkness, polymorph, invisibility, duo-dimension, etc.

****Hidden can vary in how well something is hidden from not well to devilishly clever. This type of hiding is non-magical.

*****One or more normal or non-magical traps that are part of the hidden location of the item(s).

Effort Given to Hiding:

How much time and effort the possessor and/or owner of an object spends hiding it determines how easily is is found and retrieved.

  1. Quick/Rushed – For example, a pickpocket hiding his new loot.
  2. A few uninterrupted minutes. – This is slightly better hidden, but without a known location to deposit it or a magic item or spell to place on it, one will not hide it too well.
  3. An hour to think and plan it.
  4. Days or more to plan it.
  5. Special building project, craft project, etc. to hide/conceal it.
  6. Magic and/or illusion to hide it.
  7. Guardian(s) placed to defend and prevent finding the hidden location.
  8. Inaccessible location – top of mountain, bottom of sea, middle of desert, etc.

A good example is the myths about Oak Island indicate that it is a vastly complex route to a hidden treasure. If it really is a hidden treasure chamber with various obstacles along the way, it shows maximum effort. Tides, weather, geology, hydrology, atmosphere, traps, barriers, etc.


  1. None* – Solely reliant on how well it is hidden.
  2. Obstacle – In addition to traps or hiding, there might be a moat, cavern, etc.
  3. Lock/Seal/Glyph – From physical locks to magical or holy/unholy protections.
  4. Normal creatures – from unintelligent to highly intelligent
  5. Magical creatures – from charmed normal creatures to magical creatures or even extra planar creatures.
  6. Combination**

*There might be no guards for other reasons, such as the guardians are dead or defeated by those who have gone before, but the hidden location/item(s) was not found.

**Combination could indicate competing groups out for the honor of guarding the item the best. This could lead to one group sabotaging the other or making it appear the other is the one who let the item(s) get found and removed from hiding.

NOTE: Guardians that are intelligent can be highly organized, like a secret society dedicated to keeping something hidden, or a tribe whose goal is to keep something hidden.

Guardians will also vary in how efficient and effective they are. A single guardian that has to eat will have to be away seeking food, unless there is a ready food supply. If the guardian eats adventurers, there will have to be a steady stream of new ones to feed the guardian to keep it from hunting.

Guardians with a large area to patrol will only be as effective as the amount of area they can survey/patrol.

The loyalty and dedication of guardians will also be a factor. A bound magical creature might have learned loopholes that it might use to let the item be found to spite the one who bound them. If the binding has a bit that will harm the bound if the item is recovered, it would motivate the guard to do a good job.

Lack of food, pay, discipline, etc. will have an impact on how motivated and loyal guards are.

NOTE: It is possible for the guardian to be the hiding spot, i.e. a large creature, like a dragon or some such has swallowed the item(s) and you have to slay the creature to get it.

Tools for guardians:

Intelligent guardians will be given tools they can use. Unintelligent guardians will have the environment designed to maximize the effectiveness of the guardian. For example, a ten foot cubic passageway around a room that is a ten foot cube patrolled by a gelatinous cube fed by the refuse from the sewers of the city above. Rats and other denizens of the sewers would be between the hiding spot and the character’s starting point.

A great aid to helping guardians do their job is that they don’t know the secret(s) needed to retrieve the item(s) or even the exact location of the hiding place.

  1. Knowledge – lore, map or other secrets to help protect item(s)
  2. Items – Specialty items whether normal or non-magical specific to keeping it hidden.
  3. Magic – Spells, charms, or magic items designed to help with the mission of guarding the item(s).

For a science fiction or modern setting, replace scrying devices with closed circuit TV, add motion sensors, laser defenses, etc.

What is hidden?

  1. Good guys hide something from bad guys.
  2. Bad guys hide something from good guys.
  3. Money
  4. Gems & Jewels
  5. Money, Gems & Jewels.
  6. Magic.
  7. Magic & Money
  8. Magic & Money, Gems & Jewels
  9. Unique interesting item – could be magical.
  10. Nothing*

*The reasons for this are manifold. The place of hiding was prepared, but the item was never put in place. The item was moved for cleaning and lost. The item was acquired by a prior person or group. More examples could be found.

To whom is the hidden valuable?

  1. The person who hid it. Others consider it junk, odd, etc.
  2. Specific species/race.
  3. Specific class.
  4. Specific alignment/affiliation/group with a common goal.
  5. Specific person/creature*
  6. Everyone who knows about it.**

*The big bad, the big good, some average Joe, like a farmer, player character, dragon, lich, diety, demon, devil, etc.

**Watch It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World to get an idea of how this might work.

Multi-part items with multiple hiding spots

Just like Harry Potter seeking the horcruxes of Voldemoort, each hidden in its own unique way, a multi-part item or treasure could contain clues or the requirements to find other location(s).

This gets complicated. Each individual location is subject to each of the above criteria, in addition to the specifics of the item.

Take a mythical 7 part item. In the initial hiding the only way to find the items is to find them in the correct sequence. If you find item 7 first you can’t find item one or six, since an item only tells you how to find the next item. In addition, over the ages, some items have been found or moved, or the custodian(s) of the items did not place the item in its hiding spot.

I need to start an adventure with finding the last item in a series and seeing if the party takes the bait to figure out how to find the rest of it. Lots of money spent with one or more sages, wizards, and clerics seeking clues.

Custodians – Similar to guardians, and may be a subset of elite/senior guardians who actually know the secret location and many of the secrets to get close to the item, and even interact with it. As a last resort, custodians can move that which is hidden.

More Variation on Magic Items

The last two days I wrote posts on magic dishes here and here.

This got me to thinking about ways to mix up magic items so that they are not the same rods, staves, wands, rings, scrolls, or expected miscellaneous items as listed in the DMG or other resource.

You roll up a ring of invisibility, but what else might it be besides a ring? How to decide?

You can make up a table and roll (Go ahead, I’ll wait while you make a table….)

Oh, good, you’re back.

Another way to do it is when sitting at your desk or table or other location prepping for the next session, or at some other time between sessions and prep time, look for an ordinary every day item. What might it be? If you keep your work area spartan, you may have few choices. If like me, you best efforts to minimize falter when things get busy, you might have a wealth of things to choose from. Letter opener, paper clip, business cards, pen, pencil, eraser, coffee cup, index card, scissors, ruler, flashlight, battery, eraser, etc.

Go to your junk drawer in the kitchen and see what unexpected thing is in there.

Generating ideas doesn’t have to come from rolling dice or struggling to come up with yet another idea to round out your table to roll up something.

What is the weirdest thing your locker mate in high school ever had in the locker?

What object(s) did your grandparents or in-laws have that stood out until you got used to them? They might be the item you think of if you imagine being inside their house.

Go to a flea market or swap meet and make a list of all the things that catch your imagination.

A meat grinder that plays Danse Macabe and animates d12 skeletons once per day.

A feather duster that causes a gust of wind once per day.

A frying pan that is +2 vs. all who rob or invade the home.

A cutting board that functions as a lid to a portable hole. You can fit a lot of scraps in there….

A piece of furniture that functions as a portal to another world….

CAT 5 cord of strangulation or tripping.

I need to remember to keep a list of things I see that are ordinary but would make an interesting magic item. I made a list in Evernote, since I use it for all kinds of other lists.

Page Number Notation For Spells

I read somewhere a good suggestion to not the page number of spells for each spell a spell casting character uses.

In AD&D, to save space, the magic-user spells refer to the earlier cleric or druid spells of the same name. Plus, the DMG has more information on some spells for the DM to consider when ruling on spell effects, etc.

I’m playing a magic-user in the first session of a new DM’s campaign, and decided to write down the page numbers. Then I realized I needed notation for spells of the same or similar name on an earlier page, and then recalled the DMG pages for some spells.

Being a player that is also a DM, I thought of the simplest way to do this would be Spell Name p. ##&##/##. For example, the first level magic user spell, Charm Person, would be p. 65&55/44. The magic user spell is on page 65, and refers back to the druid spell Charm Person or Mammal on p. 55, and the DMG p. 44 has a blurb on it.

Read Magic is a spell that is unique to magic users and there is no mention of it in the spell section of the DMG, so the notation is p.68/0.

The question is whether I can remember the notation when it comes to play time.

I have the PDF’s of all the manuals, so I will copy and paste the descriptions so that I’m all set. If I mislay a printout or file, as long as I have my character sheet, I’ll have the exact page number all set.

I think I’ll need more than one session of play to know how well it works.

Multiple spells and spell level tracking could do with simplification.