April, 2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge

I have decided to keep going with the blog challenge thing, since I have the 40th Anniversary Blog Hop for February, 2014 done and scheduled to publish each day on the appropriate day. I always thought about jumping in when I saw other types of RPG blog challenges, but never did. After I bit the bullet for the 40th Anniversary Blog hop, I decided to just do it, to steal a marketing phrase.

I got a power start on the April blogging challenge. I made a title and copied each letter graphic for all 26 of the A to Z posts and scheduled them for the appropriate day. Now just to write each post before the scheduled day.   I am toying with different ideas, but I thought that I would wait until I see what other RPG bloggers are participating and what they might indicate they are doing. Will there be a theme or just each do our own thing, etc.

My suggestion to anyone who wants to do any kind of blog hop/challenge is to make a draft  with a placeholder title and schedule them for the appropriate day and add the tags you know apply. When you actually write for that day adjust the title and category tags as needed. I know I am not a regular blogger with tons of followers, but for me that gets the item out there. If it is not a challenge that needs something tomorrow, you can focus on the ones for which you have solid ideas. For the ones you aren’t sure about or have multiple ideas, you have a place to add your ideas. If you have enough ideas, you can split them off as drafts for future use for next year, or some other blog challenge. Doing the 40th Anniversary Blog Hop helped me come up with a ton of ideas and remember things I wanted to record for later. Instead of having 3 or 4 or more posts for one day, I realized this morning that I should have scheduled them so that I had one every day, so I’d be into next week by now.

To sum up, my suggestion is to let your tool, blogging software of your choice, do the hard parts. Put in a framework so all you have to do is flesh it out. I use WordPress and am self-hosted, so I know my suggestion works for WordPress users. I would imagine Blogger and other blogging tools would allow you to do the same.

I was interested, so I did a search on the list, last night there were 500 signed up, I am number 499. This morning, it is up to 513. Counting me, there are only four RPG bloggers; or only four that used the (GA) tag at the end of their blog name to identify them as a gaming blog. I will have to read through all the blog titles without a category tag to see if there are more.

So far, these are the four RPG blogs signed up for the April, 2014 A t X challenge:

181. d20 Dark Ages (GA)

296. The Open Hearth (GA)

341. Tower of the Archmage (GA)

499. Follow Me, And Die! (GA) (That’s me :D)

I will add any I find or that let me know they are participating, that don’t have the (GA) tag. I’ll keep my own little list, so I can follow along more easily. If you forget the tag, they can’t change it, so you are stuck without it.

[Edit] I found these without the  (GA) tag:

[Edit] Here’s the first in several days.

702. The Other Side (GA) Tim is also the A to Z Challenge Ambassador.

[Edit] Here is another, the first in a long time, unless I missed some.

[Edit] Here is the first new gaming blog I have seen added to the challenge.
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Day 3: First dungeon you explored as a PC or ran as a DM.

The dungeon was something ran by my brother, Robert, as DM. I don’t recall if I had a halfling or what for a character. I don’t remember much other than lots of looking at rules and trying to make sense out of what we were supposed to do. We had fun or we would not have kept at it all these years.
I did not DM/GM much. I remember two instances, one I forgot a major piece of information the players needed at the start, and when I realized I missed giving it to them, it gave away the secret when I had to give it to them, big learning experience!

The other learning is the party had 6 or 7 people in it. We had a habit of starting new parties in taverns and usually had a bar fight. I was hoping for a meeting in a tavern and no fight. The players did not have a fight, but rather than go along with the meeting, they each left town heading a separate direction. I suspect I was the butt of a joke on that one, but I did not have the skill as a DM to get the party together to even start the adventure. I gave up in frustration. I don’t remember what we did after I called it off.

I seemed to do better GMing Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World.

No that I have DM’d with my sons, not sure I’d want to play another game. It takes a lot to prepare for one game, let alone re-build lost materials for other games.


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Acronym and Terminology List

There are a lot of acronyms used in Role Playing Games. Below is a list that will be expanded as needed. As a work in progress, I have items that I have added but not yet added a description. This will be forthcoming. Those things that are most critical to following along I tackled first. I will address others as time permits.

It takes too long to keep defining every acronym in every article. To make it easier for all concerned, I have add this to the link bar on the right.

RPG = Role Playing Game. Role as in pretending to be someone else.

Roll Playing = A form of play that is more focused on rolling dice and third person descriptions of the actions of one’s character. It is looked down upon by some Role Players.

LARP = Live Action Role Playing. Dressing up and playing out a scenario with a group. While some who play RPGs might dress as a character or dress in a costume for a convention, or maybe even during play, not all who play RPGs have LARPed and not all who LARP have played RPGs. As a kid, dressing up like a cowboy or a soldier is the only LARPing I have done. If you think about it, Civil War reenactors are historical LARPers. Actors on stage or screen are LARPing too.

FLGS = Friendly Local Game Store. They sell RPGs and a variety of other kinds of games. They often sell comic books, video games, and many other kinds of games. They often have a place to play games, either in a specified area with tables, and many have one or more rooms or areas available. The often host tournaments of various games, or have regularly scheduled types of games on certain days of the week or other regular schedule. If one is looking for a game to join, or players to play, this is a good resource for local players. It is recommended that you buy your gaming supplies from your FLGS to help keep them in business, rather than buying everything online, even if it costs a little more.

d# & #d# – d4,d6,s8,d12,d20, d% stand for 4, 5 6 8 12, 20 sided and percentile dice. 2d6 means roll 2 six-sided dice. Percentile dice are two ten sided dice, the first one or the one of a designated color is the tens and the other is the ones. If both come up 10 or 0, it means 100%. If the first is 5 and the second is 6, it means 56%. There are specialized dice now that have 1-10 (0) and 10 to 100 (00), so that different colored dice or rolling twice are eliminated.

PC –Player Character. A character contolled by a player.

NPC – Non-Player Character. A character controlled by the Game Master.

DM – Dungeon Master. The referee of the game. The referee presents the scenario for the players and rules on what they can and can’t do based on the rule framework. DM is usually reserved specifically for D&D, or more broadly, fantasy RPGs.

GM – Game Master. Generic term for the game referee. Some game systems have their own term for the game master. For example, CK for Castle Keeper in Castles & Crusades by Troll Lord Games.

TSR – Tactical Studies Rules. Name of the company that produced D&D. Later sold to Wizards of The Coast.

WotC – Wizards of the Coast. Bought TSR. WotC is now a business unit owned by Hasbro.

PH – Player’s Handbook. Usually specifically the D&D, the  rulebook for players.

MM – Monster Manual. Usually specifically the D&D, the rulebook with the creatures one can encounter in the game. One can invent one’s own creatures or modify the existing ones.

DMG – Dungeon Master’s Guide. Specific to D&D. the rulebook used by the DM to help frame and interpret the rules.

Chainmail – This was a booklet with a set of rules for playing heroes on the battlefield using medieval miniatures. This gave the spark that led to D&D by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

OD&D – Original Dungeons and Dragons. These rules were packaged in a white box, thus they were the White Box set. Published in 1974, this is what started it.

Basic – This is usually referred to as the Blue Box set and was a collection of the rules put together in a more logical framework but only covered up to 3rd level characters. It was meant as an introduction to get players to buy the White Box set. This is also known as the Holmes rules for its author Dr. J. Eric Holmes.

Expert – This was another restatement of the original rules and is referred as the Moldvay rules, as Tom Moldvay was the editor. This box was a magenta color.

BECMI – Refers to the Frank Mentzer 1983 edition of Basic, Expert, Companion, Masters, and Immortals Dungeons & Dragons. These rules were packaged in a Red Box.

Blue Box – See Basic Above.

Red Box –  See BECMI above.

AD&D – Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. This was a revision of the rules that was a collection of ideas from issues of Dragon Magazine. It was organized in a way that took one step by step from creating a character and explained what each ability allowed a character to do and what each type of character could do. This edition took the focus of rules and most of the sales were here. Originally this consisted of the three core rulebooks of the Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Master’s Guide. Later books included the Fiend Folio (a collection of monsters and creatures, Monster Manual II, Unearthed Arcana, Oriental Adventures, Wilderness Survival Guide and Dungeoneers Survival Guide.

1E – First Edition of AD&D, usually just AD&D.

2E – Second Edition AD&D. This was a revision of the rules that added new rules and revised, clarified, or eliminated old rules. This was the last version produced by TSR. I had some experience with this rule set, but very limited.

3E – Third Edition. this was a major revision of the rules. I have no experience with this. A lot of under 40 players got their start with this.  There is still a lot of controversy about it among some bloggers.

3.5 – This was a revision of the 3E rules. I have no experience with it. This was a like it or hate it for those who started with 3E.

4E – This was a revision of the 4E rules. I have no experience with it. I got into following the OSR bloggers and learned about it. There was a lot of controversy about it. Some likened it to trying to emulate WOW (World of Warcraft) on paper.

5E – This is the current revision of the rules that underwent a year+ beta period. It is slated for release in the summer, 2014. It is also called D&D Next. I signed up to get the beta materials and it is a streamlining of the rules back to the spirit of the original/1e days. Many see it as a response to the OSR. The base rules will be available as a free PDF, so one can get the basic information needed without a large cash outlay to play.

D&D Next – Official name for the fifth edition rules.

OGL – Open Gaming License. WotC released a lot of game information and material in an open license. This allows those who accept the license to use it as long as they follow the license and include it in any material they release. This has led to a lot of fan and competitors of WotC producing rules that clone the functionality of earlier versions of D&D. The OGL also covered modern and science fiction rules. Also referred to as the d20 rules. I am no expert on all this. Google is your friend. Search for more on this. As for the legal aspect of the OGL consult a lawyer.

OSR – Old School Renaissance or Old School Revival. Players who like the original D&D or AD&D rules/style of play. They either relied on the availability of PDFs of the original rules when they were originally available. WotC later took them down when someone posted their copy of the PDFs online so anyone could download. A couple of years ago the PDFs were re-released and are still available. In the time when those rules were unavailable, many relied on the OGL to build their own set of rules. Some developed their own set of rules before the whole PDF take down.

Retro Clone – A set of rules that mimic the mechanics or either Original, Basic, Expert, or Advanced D&D. This was enabled by the OGL and the interest of many who yearned to play the way they remembered. Some retroclones are Swords & Wizardry, Microlite, Pathfinder, Castles & Crusades, Legends & Lore, ACKs (Adventurer, Conqueror, King), to name a few. Some of these are available for sale some for free, some have been developed by an individual. Because of the clone nature of many of these products, supplemental materials and rules are easily adapted or interchangeable between systems.

Monty Haul – Term used to describe a DM who rewards players far above and beyond the risks and challenges presented by the adventure. Monty Hall was a game show host in the 70s and 80s for the original Let’s Make a Deal.

TPK – Total Party Kill. This describes a situation where for whatever reason, the entire party is killed in the course of an adventure. This can be from the party having exceptionally bad rolls, making really bad decisions, and unbalanced encounter or adventure, or even malice on the part of the DM. Starting characters are not very powerful and it is most often that TPKs happen with low level characters, but they can happen with more powerful characters.

Rules Lawyer – A player who argues minutiae of the rules with the DM to the point of distraction and aggravation of both the DM and rest of the party. It is beyond a question of clarification or interpretation. It is calling the DM wrong no matter what.

Grognard – Originally used to refer to the veteran’s of Napolean’s armies. Now used to refer to those who prefer Original or Advanced D&D or retroclones to the innovations of newer editions. Some consider D&D Next, AKA 5th Edition, to be more in the vein of the original rules. Some see Grognards as gruff and difficult curmudgeons. Others know that they are kind and loving individuals with a fondness for the best.

PWYW – Pay What You Want. Used in reference to DriveThruRPG and RPGNow which allows creators to specify this category, so you can get something for free, then go back and purchase it later. It is a way to get exposure for the other products by a creator.

RAW – Rules as Written. Some people prefer to play the rules as presented, others prefer to modify the rules to suit their tastes.

Appendix N – Refers to the AD&D 1st Edition Dungeon Masters Guide, Appendix N on page 224. This lists the authors and some specific titles of books and series of books that helped inspire Gary Gygax with creating his world. Appendix N is referred to as a baseline by some of what it means to play old school. Many use it to describe their own readings that influence the way they play.

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Vampire Hunters

Way back in high school, we went through a phase, maybe it was only one weekend’s activity where our characters in AD&D were vampire hunters.

The thing is, we were all first level. We took a page out of the movies and waited until daytime, on clear sunny day,s and would enter the lair, rip open the coffin, and drive a stake in their heart. If we won the surprise roll or the initiative roll, AND we rolled high enough, we plunged the stake into the vampire’s heart and defeated him. If we missed, one of us was an instant vampirical minion, since a vampire drains 2 levels, a first level character couldn’t take a hit.

I don’t know how many vampires we killed, but there were several, and I don’t remember anyone becoming a vampire. I think we advanced in levels quickly, so that we could take at least one hit, LOL.

While I think using a house rule that one could kill a vampire in this way, it should require that there be minions and other precautions a vampire takes to protect his or her most vulnerable times.

Also why are all vampires simply level drainers who make more vampires? What about NPCs who are wizards or illusionists who have other abilities, or henchmen with such abilities to thwart or delay the plans of PCs who are vampire hunters?

I know their are vampires in my brother’s current campaign. I know that some current players would be facing them. I am sure it will not be easy.

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Day 2: First person YOU introduced to D&D? Which edition? THEIR first character?

I have no idea who it would have been. My brother, Robert and I probably shared our first person. We also helped found the Science Fiction Book Club at our school, it was all genres of books, movies and games.

The two most recent I introduced were my sons. Their mother, my ex, is anti-D&D, but bought them Magic, The Gathering cards, LOL. She has no clue.

My sons loved it and we have a blast when we play. I just wish we could work it out to play more often. I really enjoy it and am the DM I wish I was when I DM’d in high school. I don’t think I am as good as my brother, Robert, but I think I am good enough that he would enjoy being a player for a change. He would definitely stretch my skills to the max!

My sons each went with non-human split class characters for magic use and armor. They have done very well for first time players.

My oldest told me about playing in a 3e or 4e game and was so lost by character creation and a DM who wasn’t very helpful that he did not enjoy it. I showed him that it can be simple to create a character, 15 min or less and soon be playing and having fun.

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Day 1: First person who introduced you to D&D? Which edition? Your first Character?

D&D at 40 Blog Hop Challenge
D&D at 40 Blog Hop Challenge

My brother, Robert, seemed to have a knack for learning about interesting things that I also found interesting. I am ten months older and the way our birthdays fell, we went through school in the same grade.

He convinced my parents to pay for a subscription to Science Fiction Book of the Month. I think he also got Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. I’m not sure if that is where he learned of D& D, but that was in 8th grade in 1978. I’ll have to ask him. He still plays with his wife & kids and a classmate from our high school graduating class. Robert is my favorite DM and can handle anything the players do and can ad lib any situation. I wish I lived in the same state so we could play more than once every year or two or three.

I mowed lawns and did other things to bring in money, so I was the financial backer to our endeavors.

We went to the hobby shop at the nearest mall, Independence Center, in Independence, MO. (More on that in a later day for the challenge.) I bought the blue boxed set and we both consumed the rules. He was DM and we soon had others playing with us. We were frustrated that it only went to 3rd level. I don’t think we managed to get any characters past that point for a long time.

In 9th grade one family moved in with three brothers the same ages as my brothers and I. They played D&D and lots of other games. My brother, Robert, and the oldest brother of the other family, David, took turns DMing. We ended up with trains of adventurers, war dogs, mules, and hirelings navigating dungeons. Not very practical or realistic, but we had fun.

I do not recall my first character. My oldest character that I still have the character sheet, is Kad Staglar, halfling fighter/thief. We had a set of characters that we rotated between two or three DMs, one was my brother, Robert. It was Monty Haul, as this character ended up with a girdle of storm giant strength, gauntlets of ogre power, and a ring of regeneration. In dungeons we just had him run through locked doors and knock the bottoms out. For a thief, not very responsible. I don’t recall having any death traps to stop that behavior.  More on this in Gladiatorial Combat. This would have been about tenth grade.

We had a lot of fun and I remember a lot of laughter about things we said not coming out right and repeating something that we found funny until it became a catchphrase for the group, even if only for the session.

D&D 40th Anniversary Blogging Challenge List of Questions
D&D 40th Anniversary Blogging Challenge List of Questions

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Directions, as in “Which way did he go?”There are a few things to keep in mind when determining a random direction.

  1. Land, Sea, Air, Space, Alternate Dimensions/Realities/Planes?
    1. Two dimensional, Three Dimensional, or Four Dimensional?
  2. Simplicity verses complexity.

Roleplaying is not about making perfect game analogues to anticipate every possible piece of reality one would need to cover to have the most “complete” ruleset. It is about enough of a mutually agreed framework that allows the gameplay to proceed with minimal interruptions.

A simple, two-dimensional example we are all familiar with is the map or boardgame. The points on the compass give the basics of what is meant by direction. The most simple example are the four points of the compass, if one is facing an outdoor scenario, with modifications for cliffs or other features that make certain options difficult to follow. The complexity can be increased for the number of directions in a geometric progression. 1d4 for N,S,E,W; 1d8 for the four basic directions, plus the four “diagonal”positions on the compass, i.e. NW,SE, etc; and finally, 3d6-1 for the 16 points. Beyond this it takes 32 options, or 64 and complexity soon becomes cumbersome. This simple example leaves out determining if someone climbed a tree, or hid in the pond. Add a desired modification of up, down, and sideways to add complexity if ideas for continuing the story are evading your current stint as GM.

Two-Dimensional Tables:

4 points (N,S,E,W)

Works well for graph paper.
1 North
2 South
3 East
4 West

8 points (N, NE, etc.)

Works well for hex paper.
1 N
2 NW
3 NE
4 S
5 SW
6 SE
7 W
8 E

16 Points (N, NE, NNE, etc.)

What simple model best fits here?
3d6-2 Direction
…. ….

While reviewing hex paper, it became clear that with 6 points and 6 sides a d12 could be put to use.

12 Points – Using points and sides of a hex.

Works well for hex paper.
1d12 Direction
1 First side of hex
2 First point of hex to the right of the first side
3-12 Continue with each of the remaining sides and points.


* See Sideways sub table.
1d3 Direction
1 Up
2 Down
3 Sideways*

Sideways (NPC or creature or object being sought has encountered a complication.)

External Intervention can be another interested party has acted on the item via physical, magical or otherworldly means. Location variable can mean something like a trap or hazard.
1d6 Direction
1 External Intervention
2 Location Variable
3 Backtrack
4-6 Roll Twice,
or add more options, etc.

For example, if an NPC thief is fleeing the party into the woods, and he encounters an Ogre, does he live, die, etc? How does this change the direction?

For internal directions, such as a building, dungeon or town, the directions will be more limited to the available terrain. A dungeon with a straight corridor for 100 feet and no secret doors in that space only has forward and back without mining tools or powerful magic, or a complication.

Three dimensional movement is encountered most often with sea, air or space encounters. Three axes of movement are involved and quickly complicate things.

One could roll on one of the two dimensional tables for the direction and use a second die or roll for z-axis modifier for up/down. There is some discussion on this in the AD&D DMG. p?

Adding in another layer of complexity, like time is simple simply determine past/present or add in parallel dimension/plane. This level of complexity would only be found in a fantasy setting where play involved powerful enough players involved in dimension travel. While some use of this might happen if the party can’t easily follow, like Donjon from a “Deck of Many Things.”

The K.I.S.S. principle will go far, just pick the number of points that make sense and fit the circumstances to keep play moving. This is only useful if a pre-planned contingency is part of the GM’s plans, say if the party encounters an individual in a maze of twisty passages with multiple routes of travel, plan the route ahead of time, or save work and devise a fast method to plan the route, since players have a knack for avoiding the cool scenario you want to see played out.

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Back In The Saddle

Have not posted any RPG remembrances. Instead, I have been making new memories with my sons. We started playing last July, and did not play again until Christmas. I am taking a two week staycation since gas is high and money is tight. We have played the last three days and I have been rapidly filling in information using various hexcrawl methods and suggestions. That really helps to plan what is available so if and when the players encounter it, things are ready to keep moving. I am still rusty as a DM, but digging through the various Monster Manuals and coming back to the DMG and other books (AD&D) have re-familiarized myself with the creatures and their statistics and game mechanics. Before July of last year, I had not game mastered anything in nearly 30 years. I had only played one marathon session as a player for the first time in about 15 years a few years ago. Reading about the whole OSR movement got me to harking back to the days of yore.

It has been a slow process with fits and starts. It is easy to get side-tracked and follow side links and get lost in learning about new things online on various RPG blogs, or reading about different types of tombs when building your own tables.

I find that building my own tables is fun but very challenging. I want to build tables that are level appropriate until the boys get better at the game. They are 15 1/2 and almost 21, so it’s not like they are little kids, but I want them to figure out the mechanics without getting totally slaughtered. They are both playing split class demi-human spellcasters, so they have the mechanics of figuring out the spells, etc. They are doing very well with minimal input from me.

Charm person seems like such a feeble spell that in my playing I have stayed away from it. However, my oldest has used it to great effect when they were in situations that it was good they used it. Having a creature that is basically a slave with inside information has been very good for them.

The youngest was mad at his brother and used it as an excuse for his character to go off by himself. He stumbled upon the clue they were looking for and nearly died trying to get back from his adventures. It was fun seeing him wracking his brain trying to figure out what to do to handle the situations he got himself into. I think he has learned his lesson to not run off into the forest by himself. While he can handle simple things, charging into a tomb at night without a torch lit, even for an elf is a bad idea. Statues in the dark seem like the undead when your mind is filling in the blanks. His 2nd level FTR/2nd level MU happened to stumble upon the tomb that only had 3 centipedes and a skeleton in it, and came out wounded, poisoned but alive. This after stumbling across a lair for 20 giant rats who by dice roll were not there and he got their loot before they got back. He had fun and learned his lesson at the same time. Meanwhile the parallel time line with his brother and the NPCs, they ran into nothing but the NPC they were going to get more information.

Then little brother’s Character, Fang, happened to come charging into them on his horse as he was riding like mad to get to the NPC Druid’s house for help. He passed out and fell off his horse at their feet, thus he was saved. He was passed out the next day, so big brother’s 2nd lever Druid/2nd level MU Half Elf, Descartes, and a 1st level Dwarf fighter and 3rd level human thief went back looking for an object they left behind that the sage back in town is willing to buy from them, hoping it is still there. Now, their rolls turn bad and they come to the burrow for the giant rats, but speak with animal allows them to pass without a fight. However, the next encounter at the edge of a large pond, a giant crayfish kill’s the dwarf’s horse. But a quick, entangle from the Druid/MU traps the crayfish, that failed its save and they kill it while entangled. There is more, but it was fun to watch them encounter the things that they encountered and they want more!

I am stocking hexes and making sure to cover all the bases for whichever direction they plan to head. I look forward to finding out how they plan to deal with the goblin lair they learned about. The NPC druid wants it out of her forest, and they will use a charmed goblin to help them find it. They won’t have the help they had fighting the last group of goblins, so it will be interesting….

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Ramblings of an Old Gamer