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OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES – ALL THING

Very, very nice… from Ed

My 6-Year-Old Designed A Dungeon, And It’s Terrifying

Well met, adventurers! Today I am going to do something you have not seen me do before. Something bizarre and unexpected. I am going to gush about my kid. I had meant to write this prior to Father’s Day weekend, but things here at BardCo have become somewhat hectic, what with school letting out for the summer, sports programs beginning, and new multimedia ventures coming to fruition. Suffice to say, this is a little late, but still retains much of its potency.

There are two things you should know about me. The first is that I am a fan of the old Gygaxian dungeon crawls of yore, with its pitfalls and terrors beyond reckoning. They were punishments disguised as fun, and damn it if he didn’t accomplish both. Never have I had so much fun being rent asunder or crushed to death, or boiled alive, or having my soul torn out or… well, you get the picture.

The second thing your should know about me is that my young son has a strong desire to play D&D or Pathfinder. He can’t decide which cover art is cooler. He likes to play with the minis I have on hand, set up my terrain, draw maps on my dry erase flip mat, and tell a story. Sometimes he even asks to use my dungeon master screen for reasons that are unknown but undoubtedly sinister.

If was a few months ago that he asked me if he could “Make a dungeon” for my weekly group.  I gave a wry chuckle and found myself filled with something I believe to be a mix of pride and amusement. I gave him the go-ahead, handed him a Monster Manual and a Bestiary, a couple magic markers, and a boat load of minis, and he went about his dark work. What he created still gives me pause. It would have been an act of pure cruelty and insidious design.

And it was good.

I’ve given the map he gave me the digital upgrade, as the only remaining picture I have of it (aside from the one seared into my mind’s eye), is blurry as all-get-the-funk-out. I will detail each room of this two level horror show.

The Tomb Of Xandarr, The Cruel
 The first thing you may note about the “Tomb” is that it is a little oddly shaped. The triangles, rectangles, squares, and ovals (all shapes easily recognizable to a Kindergartener) that are connected together by a series of strangely-shaped hallways. But when you really take a look at it, a couple things become apparent.
First, the rooms aren’t the typical square rooms we’re used to in dungeons, leading someone who has no idea the whole thing was designed by a 6-year-old to believe that the entire complex was created by a madman with some issues. The rooms are chaotic, adhering to no symmetry or even consistency. There is no sense of familiarity between rooms since they vary in size and shape with each new chamber. This puts characters on the defensive, never knowing what each room might hold. Granted, this should be the normal state of mind for every character going into a dungeon.
Secondly, those hallways. If you are playing with players who get paranoid easily, these halls are nightmares. Bizarre angles and narrow passages make for an almost claustrophobic setting. Without realizing it, my wee geekling is playing a psychological game with the players, putting them through their paces and tearing away any semblance of peace.
Now, let’s get into Level 1
Section 1 – Orc Encampment: “A crooked and jagged hallway of jutting stones zigs and zags its way toward a mostly rectangular chamber. Grunts from the eastern wall signal that the room is occupied. Half a dozen burly orcs rise from a sitting position gripping cruel axes.”
The dungeon begins with a pretty straight forward fight between the characters and a band of orcs camping in the room. I say camping because that is what my son explicitly said they were doing. In my “Game Master must justify everything” brain, I reasoned the orcs were about to enter the dungeon and made camp in this empty and defensible first room to regain their strength for the path ahead.
For most characters who enter this room, this battle should be a breeze. Since I figure the average party should be about level 8 to take on the bulk of the dungeon, six orcs is a pittance. Still, with good tactics and focused fire, the orcs could still pose a problem, especially if the retreat down the hall in the north end of the room, which would bottleneck the players.
Section 2 – The Pit of Mummies: “This oval, domed, stone chamber is mostly empty. The walls are bare and there are not sconces for torches. The only thing of import seems to be a single, simple stone sarcophagus sitting in the center of the room. Small cracks run the length of the dust-covered floor like a spider web.”
Most dungeons will place their boss at the end. My 6-year-old says “To hell with conformity” and sticks that sonnova bitch in room 2! But he was not content with a simple boss fight. No. He wanted a boss fight with a trap. He wanted a boss fight in a trap! The stone sarcophagus sits in the center of a fragile circle. If a character spends more than two rounds on the surface of the circle, if two stand on it at once, or if two characters pass over it one at a time, the floor will give way into a 40-foot free fall onto a spiked floor. That’s a little rough, especially considering on top of the spikes you are also taking bludgeoning damage from the falling rocks.
But wait! There’s more!
Once the sarcophagus breaks after the fall, it reanimates the mummy lord within. This is Xandarr, and he doesn’t take kindly to being woken up. When I asked my progeny what kind of magic spells he had, he simply said, “Ones that make characters fall down so when they fall down they fall on spikes.”
That’s actually kind of evil. So, here is the scenario. If the floor collapses (because the encounter is actually entirely avoidable), any poor bastards that find themselves on the floor need to make dexterity or reflex saving throws. Anyone that screws the pooch ends up at the bottom of a 40-foot deep pit of spikes fighting a mummy lord that can put them back on those spikes with a wave of his hand.
 “Are you my mummy?”
Did I mention the second mummy down here? Oh yeah. Impaled on one of the spikes is yet another mummy. Granted, this is just your run of the mill mummy, but damn! That just ups the chances of the poor characters stuck in the pit to get a fun case of mummy rot (still sounds like an STD).
What’s more, the rest of the characters would be stuck up above, trying to find something to attach  a rope to, of which there is nothing. Melee characters would either have to traverse the rope and hope the mummy lord isn’t leveling spells at them or jump and deal with the spiky goodness. Those that choose the rope are looking at a 2-3 round commitment since the  average climb speed is 15-feet, and the pit is more than twice that.
The walls of the pit are flat and smooth (not to mention round, so no corners to shimmy up), making climbing out without assistance a virtual nightmare as far as difficulty is concerned (and failure meaning another trip to spike town).
On the plus side, the mummy lord is carrying an amulet that can make your skin as tough as stone, so hooray for loot. On the downside, the mummy lord is wearing said amulet, and would be foolish not to use it.
Evil, evil child.
 “There is nothing more precious than the laughter of a child.”
Section 3 – Trapped Hallway: “The door opens to a 25-foot long hallway. The hallway stretches off into a straight line, but there seems to be a five-foot deep, 10-foot long recess on the eastern side. Seven stone tiles make up the floor, each emitting a clicking sound when stepped upon. A stone door stands at the far end of the hall.”
My kid loves Minecraft. Moreover, he loves pressure plates and making them do things. This is a simple hallway, but a very complicated hallway at the same time. Immediately, a canny rogue is going to realize that every single inch of floor is a pressure plate. This makes the rogue’s job so much more difficult. Not to mention that recess. What is that? What even is that? Is it a trap?
Oddly enough, no. It’s just the shape of the hall. The mean part comes when an unfortunate character stands in front of the door leading out of the hall. Should they fail to disarm the trap, or if they step on the pressure plate before the door, that entire 10-foot section of wall on the eastern side of the door springs forward and crushes anyone standing there.
 “Holy broken bones, Batman!”
It’s sort of a fake-out. A trap fake out. The recess screams “look at me!” when it’s the stationary wall that is the killer aspect here. I am both proud and afraid on the kiddo.
Section 4 – Go Ahead. Touch It: “This triangular room is lit with a pair of torches on the northeastern and northwestern  walls. The torches burn with a sickly blue flame that casts the chamber in a ghostly light. A small pedestal stands at the apex of the triangle. Atop it rests a smooth violet jewel that size of a child’s fist. There is a pair of stone doors on the eastern wall.”
“What’s in this room?” I asked my son as he drew the funny triangle.
“A stone.” he replied matter-of-factly, “It’s purple. If you touch it it automatically steals your soul.” he continued, drawing a tiny stone in the room.
That’s right, the ultimate game of “I dare you to touch it.” The danger in this room is easily bypassed. Just walk on out. But that gem. That gem is likely to get someone into trouble. Let’ss face it, we all know that one player that can’t talk past a shiny red button without pressing it. Even if the button had a “Do not touch the red button” sign hanging over it, they would still have to push it, just to know what happens. Hell, more than one of us has been that character at one point or another.
“Touch not, lest ye be touched.”
The punishment for greed or curiosity is the loss of your soul. No save. Yeah, I made sure to ask him about that, but he insisted that it was automatic.
I asked, “Why?”
“Because they touched it.”
Can’t argue with that.
Section 5 – Dragonfire Pass: “This curved hallway has intricate carvings of dragons set into the stone walls. The doorways on the west and south are carved into the shape of dragon’s jaws. A strange and pungent odor fills the air here, leaving a sort of haze. The ground is wet, with a shimmering purple film seeping in between tiles and cracks.”
When I told my son about a dungeon I’d created where a bunch of kobolds lit everyone on fire with flammable liquid on the floor (such are out dinner conversations), his eyes grew wide and he couldn’t help but tell his grandmother, and anyone else who would listen. It was, I think, cool to him.
So cool, in fact, that he wanted to do something like it in his dungeon. The hall, as he told me, had dragon heads near the doors. The center of the hall marks the trigger for a burning hands spell to erupt from the dragon heads on both ends, and set the oil-soaked floor ablaze.
  “It’s a disco inferno.”
Sweet. Simple. Barbeque characters. Even if they didn’t get a soul stolen, the hall can easily become a serious pain in the ass, especially for those bringing up the rear. What’s worse is that the door at the end of the hall is locked. How good is your rogue? Picking a lock while burning to death good?
Section 6 – Treasure Room: “The door opens revealing a large rectangular room with heaps of gold coins and overflowing chests of treasure. The room is lit by torches in each corner. The flickering firelight dances upon each glinting bobble. An iron door stands against the south wall.”
Treasure! Who doesn’t love treasure? And there are piles of it here. Coins, gems, magic weapons, and armor. Everything an adventurer could want. But apparently, I have raised the kind of child that doesn’t let anything come too easily. I blame years of telling him to clean his room.
Something lives in the piles of treasure. Well, lives may not be the word. A pair of dread wraiths haul ass out of the coins like a demonically possessed Scrooge McDuck. Dread Wraiths, as I am sure you know, are not kind creatures. My son equally so. With a plethora of enemies at his disposal, he hand picked the wraiths because, of course, they looked cool.
 “Rule of cool.”
Section 7 – The False Exit: “The iron door opens to a long hallway with a simple wooden door at the end. Hanging over the door is a small sign that says ‘EXIT’. The walls of this hall are bare.”
The characters beat the bad guys, got the treasure, and managed to live. Now it is time to get out and  enjoy the spoils. Except, this isn’t an actual entrance. That wooden door leads to nothing. The hall, on the other hand, does lead somewhere, and it’s nowhere good.
The hall, according to my spawn, is like a seesaw. If more than one character heads to the door, the weight will tilt the entire floor, effectively turning the hall into a massive chute. A chute to where?
Well… Nightmareville, basically.
Room 8 – Arena With Two WHATS?!: “The chute leads to what looks like a large arena with a dirt floor. Empty seats encircle the arena, void of spectators. Two large creatures hover above the ground. They have massive, fanged mouths with a sickeningly huge, singular eye. A number of stocks jut from this monstrous floating head, each with an eye of its own.”
 “Eye see what you did there.”
 I had to ask him three times to be sure. He was sure. Not only had he taken the notion of escape from the players, he pitted them up against not one, but two beholders, or as he called it, “The monster on the front of the book.”
“No. Just no.”
The fight is pretty straightforward, or at least as straightforward as a fight with two beholders can be. All the characters need to do is defeat them and they can get out. According to my son, the door only opens when both are dead.
I don’t think everyone will be getting out of this one alive.
“Kids these days.”
There we are. Short, simple, brutal. I should be making some comment about child-like innocence, but honestly, after that… I think he might be pure evil.
The kid has a promising future as a Game Master.
Roll well, my friends,

+Ed The Bard 

ARSOGINSERL’S APOTROEV: THE TERROR TROVE

ARSOGINSERL’S APOTROEV

So I’ve been working on some other things in my spare time while not working on my novel The Old Man for NaNoWriMo. One of those things is I have been continuing with design work upon The Perfect Dungeon (working title).

One of the ideas I had this week was for the Terror Trove. (That’s the working term – it is a sort of obverse image of the Treasure Hoard as I’ll explain in a moment.)

The Terror Trove originated as a secret mountainous cave area in the wet-desert just outside the main ancient city ruins around which the Perfect Dungeon story primarily revolves.

A man who was both a powerful Cleric and a powerful Wizard decided that he would take it upon himself to seek to discover and “hoard” every evil artefact and relic he could locate.

His original intention was to construct an “Apotroev” (a reverse treasure hoard – one that was magically and physically separated from our world and one that could never again be plundered) so powerful and so carefully hermetically sealed that the powerful items he placed there would be in effect forever cut off from and removed from the rest of the world. Thereby sealed away, never to be discovered or employed as a threat again these items were magically exiled from the world since the Cleric Wizard (named Arsoginserl, though also sometimes called Insarl the Illuminare) could find no method of destroying most of these things.

Arsoginserl’s Apotroev” worked very well for centuries after his death, but eventually, due to earthquakes and due to the fact that some of these artefacts and relics were so powerful they began to consume and absorb one another the Apotroev weakened. The evil and magic in them thus multiplied many times in power and force effectively “irradiating evil and magic out into the surrounding world” just as a shielded bunker designed to store radioactive waste might leak if damaged or overwhelmed.

Eventually this was one of the reasons that led to the demise of the original and ancient city of Pesharan.

Anyway Arsoginserl’s Apotroev will be one of the potential sandbox areas attached to the Perfect Dungeon (which is actually a campaign series) if the players want to seek to find and explore it.

However by this point, nearly a millennium after it was originally populated and sealed most of the items have been consumed by the more powerful artefacts and relics and the “survivors” are at war with each other. All of the survivors are by this time either artificially intelligent or sentient or inhabited by evil spirits, or all of the above. And all of these surviving “items” desire to escape back into the wider world. Making them incredibly cunning and dangerous and desperate. Even exposure to the still sealed Apotroev itself has powerful, malignant, and long lasting side effects upon anyone approaching it.

Also buried in the Apotroev, in a secret compartment never discovered by even the most powerful artefacts and relics trapped there, are a number of preserved relics from Arsoginserl himself, such as his robe, his mitre, his crooked staff, his Roseheart, a book of Arsoginserl’s prophecies, a book of his personally created spells (otherwise unknown), his Communion Rod, other valuables, and the Benegemm (an experimental gemstone Arsoginserl himself had created with the help of an angelic ally) with which he hoped to one day cure evil and nullify evil magic. No one knows how far Arsoginserl got in the development and perfection of the Benegemm but it was reputed to have many marvelous capabilities and properties (even if it was still unable to cure evil) by the one account that ever mentioned it. Such as soft-burying and freeing the souls of certain undead creatures. Or encouraging certain criminals to take up a monastic or religious life. Or even to become a Cleric.

The story of the Benegemm is supposedly indirectly related to the famous tale of the thief Tarand Moirloss who later converted from his life of crime and became the famous Cleric Larlfast Urlinger. Moirloss accidentally touched the Benegemm hoping to examine it for potential value and was immediately struck “dead” for seven days. Moirloss recovered in his tomb chamber and was able to dig his way around the setting stone of his tomb and escape his premature grave. Moirloss then sought out Arsoginserl who gave him the legendary Seven Penances of Supernal Peril to complete after which Moirloss converted and was renamed Larlfast Urlinger the Upright. Urlinger is the same cleric often credited with having created the “quill of the thrice inscribed god.”

Though some say that Urlinger became a wandering Cleric-Wizard like his mentor and abbot Arsoginserl, and that the quill was actually constructed by another, a Sage and Hermit named Ramonil the Righteous.

http://nanowrimo.org/forums/all-ages-coffee-house/threads/270499

DESERT JOURNEYS – GAMEPLAY

20 Things to Enliven a Desert Journey

Adventurers are intrepid types and often disappear into the wilderness in search of gold and glory. Many such adventures seem to happen in the furthest reaches of barren deserts.

Some artwork copyright Claudio Pozas, used with permission.

 

Use the table below, to breath life into adventures set in a desert. None of the happenings listed below are intended to spawn a full encounter; rather think of them as wilderness dressing designed to add realism and depth to proceedings.

  1. A lone desiccated tree emerges from the flank of a large dune standing across the party’s march. Its wide, frond-like leaves provide a modicum of shadow—and a brief respite—from the merciless sun.
  2. A smudge of black smoke stains the horizon. If the PCs investigate they discover three burning wagons along with the slashed and torn bodies of their drovers and guards scattered about the churned, bloodstained sand.
  3. Tracks—of at least a half-dozen humanoids—cross the party’s path. A PC steeped in wilderness lore can determine the creatures were trying to move single-file (perhaps to hide their numbers) and they were heavily leaden.
  4. In the valley between two dunes, the remains of a crumbling dry stone wall struggles above the sands. Its line straggles along for about 15 ft. before disappearing below the sands.
  5. A camel’s stark white bones lie amid the shifting sands.
  6. A small flock of buzzards circle the party for several hours, before losing interest and flying away.
  7. Heat rises in shimmering curtains. On the horizon, keen-eyed characters can make out what might be a small caravan trudging across the burning hot sands.
  8. A lone cloud scuds across the sky. Bizarrely it seems to be moving against the wind.
  9. A metal helmet—scorching hot to the touch—lies in the sand. Slightly further on, the party find a heavy steel shield and still later a breastplate scoured to near-blinding brightness by the wind-driven sand.
  10. In the shade of a deep valley between two towering sand dunes lies a seemingly dried up oasis surrounded by forlorn palm trees and stubborn, coarse grass. Characters digging in the dried up pool discover water several feet down.
  11. The sun reflects off something shiny on a far-off dune. The flash of light catches one of the party’s attention. Investigations (eventually) reveal a partially buried steel shield. The sigil of a local knoll tribe is crude daubed across it.
  12. Seven rocks—placed to form an arrow—point back in the direction from which the party has come. Small drifts of sand around the stones suggest they will not be visible much longer.
  13. A ripped and torn carpet lies half buried in the sand. The worn fabric is wrapped around the desiccated body of a man wearing only a loincloth. Perceptive PCs notice it seems nearly every bone in the man’s body is broken—in the same way as if he had fallen from a great height.
  14. The mouldering body of a hyena lies amid a swath of bloodstained sand. Two arrows protrude from its body and a pack of buzzards peck and tear at its flesh.
  15. A pack of hyenas trail the party. They hang back well out of bow range, waiting for someone in the group to collapse. If attacked, they retreat in search of easier prey.
  16. A sandstorm blows across the horizon. Luckily for the PCs it is not heading in their direction.
  17. The party encounters a wide “field” of cacti. Many of the prickly plants are as tall as human. In the centre of the field lies a small oasis. Because of the cacti, the oasis is relatively safe from wandering predators.
  18. The party encounters an area of particularly soft sand. Although this is not quicksand, it makes travel even harder than normal. The area is quite extensive—several miles across in fact—but diverting around it could add a day to the party’s journey.
  19. The wind and shifting sands reveal the remains of an old battle. Skeletons scoured bright white by the sands lie where they fell. Amid the carnage lies the combatants’ desiccated and rusted equipment.
  20. The party witnesses a savage storm ahead. Later—as night falls—they encounter an area of rock upland scoured free of sand. Near its peak they discover a cave containing a worn set of steps leading down into darkness…

GM’s Miscellany: Wilderness Dressing

If you enjoy the table above and like wilderness dressing, check out GM’s Miscellany: Wilderness Dressing—Endzeitgeist’s choice as the number one book of 2014! Crammed with 150 pages of information and charts designed to bring your wilderness adventures alive, GM’s Miscellany: Wilderness Dressing is an essential part of any GM’s arsenal.

THE OLD MEN TELL

Indeed…

 

DUAL AND MULTIPLE USE EQUIPMENT – ALLTHING

DUAL AND MULTIPLE USE EQUIPMENT: MUNDANE AND MAGICAL

A friend of mine and I were having a discussion last night and this morning on primitive bow-making and historical facts. She informed me that ancient men and later frontiersmen used their bow staves as primitive one stringed lyres (or musical bows) and their arrow shafts as primitive bows to play very basic music. See one reference below.

This idea only makes great sense and you can easily see how this would have led to to the development of primitive musical bows and lyres specifically for music.

Anyway this gave me both a gaming and literary idea. In gaming you would have a bow specifically designed for Bards (or that they create themselves as part of their unique gear – like a warrior who forges his own sword) that can easily serve as a modified musical instrument that would allow him to both enchant enemies and opponents and entertain or in some way heal or bless allies and companions. A magical version would then have both combat and Bardic advantages, and it is so very natural since such equipment could easily serve dual or even multiple functions (it might also serve as a 4 to 5 foot pole or as a climbing rod/tool when unbent or in stave form).

As a literary device for my novels it could serve the same basic functions but, of course, would not be described in that way. There is a Welsh bard in one of my novels who would naturally easily employ such a bow.

This is hardly the first device or weapon or piece of gear or equipment I’ve made use of for dual or multiple purposes (either in real life, games, or in literature or poetry) but it is a rather fascinating and new employment for me. Bow staves as musical instruments.

Now all of that being said what items do you use in your games or writings or even in real life as dual-use pieces of equipment or gear?

Further Reference: Work Songs, Plutarch, and the Scythians

D&D ON STEAM

D&D now on Steam, complete with dice and a Dungeon Master

Fantasy Grounds, one of the leading virtual tabletop platforms, now offers officially licensed Dungeons & Dragons content from Wizards of the Coast. Available through Steam, the software can allow players to virtually recreate the 5th edition D&D tabletop experience complete with dice rolling, 2D maps and a play experience completely controlled by a dungeon master.

Anyone who’s been playing D&D over the last decade remembers the promise of Wizard’s Virtual Table. First publicized in the back pages of 4th edition core rulebooks, it promised a fully-realized, 3D tabletop roleplaying experience. But over the lifecycle of 4th edition the vision wavered, and in 2012 the Virtual Table beta was officially cancelled.

In the meantime, a number of virtual tabletop solutions cropped up organically online, allowing players to come together from remote locations around the world and have an experience very similar to playing at a table together in the same room.

fantasy_grounds_phandelver

One of the most capable solutions is Fantasy Grounds, which has a bewildering assortment of features and flexibilities that allow game masters to create everything from homebrew games, to Pathfinder and other established tabletop systems. Add to that the officially licensed D&D modules available for download, including add-on classes and monster collections, as well as entire campaigns.

The first set of products, including the D&D Complete Core Class Pack, D&D Complete Core Monster Pack, and The Lost Mine of Phandelver went on sale last week. Polygon has spent some time checking out the content in The Lost Mine module. Believe it or not, the entire experience, page-for-page, of the physical 5th edition D&D Starter Set is represented there. Beyond that, Fantasy Ground’s modules even include annotated maps hotlinked to spawn enemies onto the grid, ready to roll initiative.

We talked to the president and owner of Fantasy Grounds, Doug Davison, who said that more products are already in the pipeline.

“We have a queue that we’re working through right now,” Davison told Polygon. “We just finished up the preliminary work on the Hoard of the Dragon Queen adventure module, and so that’s currently in review right now. We’ve already conducted our internal reviews, and now it’s out in the hands of a few folks at Wizards of the Coast. So depending on how much needs to be changed during that process, I think you’re looking at a matter of maybe weeks before that’s available.”

Greg Tito, Wizard’s communications manager, confirmed for Polygon that other campaigns, including Rise of Tiamat and the recently released Princes of the Apocalypse, are on the way for Fantasy Grounds.

It’s interesting that Wizards is partnering with a tool which, for all intents and purposes, allows users to scrape content off the internet for free and easily insert it into their games. Fantasy Grounds’ own online tutorials give step-by-step instructions on how to grab maps and art from Google Images and drop it directly into user-generated games.

But Tito says players have been doing this sort of thing for generations, so why not support a tool that lets them do it easily? Furthermore, he hopes that fans will see the value in the for-pay Fantasy Grounds modules, as they leverage the strong work that the Wizards research and development team, as well as their publishing partners, produce in the physical books.

“It goes down to everything that we’ve been excited about in this partnership withFantasy Grounds,” Tito said. “It’s just another tool to allow people to play D&D the way they want to play it.”

DIGITAL MAPPING – GAMEPLAY

Dungeons and Dragons comes to life on digital maps

 

By Dennis Scimeca Feb 2, 2015, 9:01am CT
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A projector combined with a Web-based tabletop role playing game tool make for a new and really cool way to play Dungeons and Dragons.

Reddit user Silverlight is a developer for Roll20, an online tool for virtual tabletop role playing game sessions, so he knows a thing or two about blending technology into traditional RPG play. By pairing Roll20 with a projector mounted on the ceiling, Silverlight is able to display digital maps on the tabletop for a home session of D&D.

And the coolest thing about these digital maps is the ability to show characters’ actual line of sight as they explore. Discussing the setup on Reddit, Silverlight says that this functionality is built into Roll20, and he made the cones of vision possible by manually revealing portions of the map to the players.

This isn’t really a practical setup to replicate. Silverlight used an Epson brand projector to make the digital maps, and a cheap Epson projector should run you about $300 on Amazon. Still, it demonstrates new possibilities for playing tabletop role playing games. Roll20 runs in a Web browser. Maybe someone can figure out how to make this setup work using a much more affordable smartphone projector.

Photo via Silverlight/imgur

ON MEET-N-UP FOR D&D

On using Meetup to play D&D with a group of strangers

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2015 at 4:00 PM

Fate robbed me of an important rite of passage for dorks and nerds. Growing up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the 1980’s, I never got to play Dungeons & Dragons. Sure, I played lots of dorky video games with friends, watched the Saturday morning Dungeons & Dragons TV series, and read whichever trashy fantasy novel I could find at the library. I would always see the D&D rule books, with their beautiful cover art depicting scenes such as a wizard with an octopus face firing crimson rays at female barbarian clad in a bone bikini, at bookstores and toy stores, but I never knew anyone my age who played the game. The closest I ever came to dungeoneering in earnest, was a board game called Hero Quest (which is now worth $400! Why did you throw it away, Mommy?), a sort of D&D lite which came with plastic miniatures. Though, the only person I could convince to read the 40-plus page rulebook was my cousin Chris. A few times, we played the six-player game with two-players. Sad, but fun.

Aside from its status as a game only for the biggest dorks, this was long before George R.R. Martin and HBO had made dark fantasy mainstream, D&D has also suffered from a stigma brought on by religious groups and lazy journalists (cough-cough) alike in the 1980s. References to demons and the occult within the game as well as a well-publicized suicide of James Dallas Egbert III caused an international stir. Egbert was a severely, clinically depressed individual who happened to enjoy playing D&D. The press ran with it as they’re wont to do and, as a result, many children, such as my 9-year-old self, were denied the pleasure of invading Castle Ravenloft to defeat its vampiric lord.

Then there was Christopher “Chris” W. Pritchard, convicted of the murder of his stepfather and the attempted murder of his mother. He, along with his three cronies, happened to play D&D and they also happened to covet Pritchard’s $2 million inheritance. Even the film industry got in on the act. Three movies about the purported dangers of Dungeons & Dragons were made in the ’80s with Mazes and Monsters (1982) starring Tom Hanks and based on the novel by Rona Jaffe, taking honors as most silly. The Dungeonmaster (1984) is a close second with its dazzling special effects and memorable dialogue: “I reject your reality and substitute my own!”

“You’re not getting that. It’s bad,” our mother’s would say. It didn’t matter how cool that undead castle looked or how intense the need to fight a weretiger , “…they said on TV it’s bad.”

Time went on and, for me, D&D became little more than unrealized nostalgia. Sex (or rather, the pursuit thereof) and getting high tend to replace the lust for simulated goblin slaughter. Yet, the love of fantasy persisted. Once a dork always a dork. Laughing friends would always deride my choice of fiction. Frankly, I think they’re just jealous of the cover art. Perhaps Mitch Albom would move more copies if his covers depicted a shrieking owl-bear eviscerating a hapless halfling rogue.

Then, one day, it happened again. Strolling through a Barnes & Noble while waiting for a companion, that gorgeous cover art got to me. A beholder, a creature made out of teeth, tentacles and eyes menacing a heavily armored dwarf fighter wielding a jewel encrusted maul. All the years of deferred quests came through the mists of time. Before I could make an intelligence check, I was the proud owner of the Fifth Edition of D&D’s Starter Set and Monster Manual.

After several unsuccessful attempts to convince friends and family to indulge me in my hunger for arcane warfare and pop and chips, I was forced to Google, “How to find people to play D&D.” I’d come too far and waited too long to give up twice. By all the gods I would have satisfaction! The search led me to a site called Meetup. A popular bit of social media, new to me, but used by many to meet others with similar interests: rock climbing, quilting, support groups and dungeon crawling.

Once the obligatory practice of testing the cyber waters for serial killers was complete, I agreed to meet at a stranger’s home to finally play Dungeons & Dragons. Pop and chips in tow, I expected a human horror show from which I would politely excuse myself after an hour. Instead, I pretended I was a necromancer with a heart of gold for five hours. I actually closed my damned eyes and imagined (for the first time in ages) myself creating a crew of zombies to man our seafaring vessel. Zombies work for cheap. My necromancer’s staff featured a human skull with ruby eyes that totally lit up when conjuring skeletons. The skull, by the way, belonged to a former slave master. (I may practice dark arts, but I don’t go in for that human bondage business.)

A more friendly and diverse group of adventurers would be hard to find. The owner of the house, we’ll call him Kumai from the equivalent Japanese culture in the Forbidden Realms (the setting for D&D), had prepared delicious burgers with homemade buns, tomato salad with mint, and freshly baked, crusty Irish soda bread paired with imported aged Irish cheddar. There was Gmorg, the Dragonborn raider who also repairs cars alongside computer systems and a 70-year-old “dark gnome” cleric and retired school teacher who remembered when one had to trade sci-fi and fantasy novels at book fairs and in “back alleys.” They cost 50 cents back then. Our dungeon master was a former Marine with an uncanny ability for doing silly voices and drowning careless adventurers in pools of boiling blood. The use of miniatures and game maps, which adds a board game element to D & D, was too new-fangled for this group. One had to use their imagination with a little help from the gorgeous artwork in the player’s guide.

It didn’t matter that I was clueless to the process of rolling polyhedral dice to determine character stats such as dexterity, charisma. Nor did it matter we were five completely different people of vary ages, cultures, and socio-economic backgrounds, who, truth be told, would have never uttered a word to one another outside of this gathering. We had a fucking blast and we’re doing it again next week.

Mostly, social media gives one a depressing glimpse into the cesspool of humanity. A scrying pool into a lich’s jerk-off session where you can witness a grown man refer to a group of first graders in a Christmas pageant as “bitch-ass faggots.” But this time, perhaps the only time in my memory, cyberia came through for me. I played Dungeons & Dragons with a group of strangers and it reaffirmed my faith in humanity.

“It sounds ridiculous, but it’s like a mental vacation,” said the dark gnome cleric. “You’d be surprised by how a spot of imagination can do you well.”

THE LOST WORLD

I don’t know how many of you RPG players who frequent my blog are old enough to remember the Empire of the Petal Throne (in Tekumel).

I’m old enough to remember both it and the original Blackmoor, and I bought and played both, though some short time after their original releases.

In any case I always thought Empire of the Petal Throne, not just the D&D setting, but the entire milieu (fictional and gaming) was one of the very most interesting fantasy mileus/worlds ever invented.

So in honor of this I will be making some posts, today and in the near future, on this brilliant and fascinating fantasy setting, and world.

Anyway, to you younger players, or to you older players who still remember this world and this setting, you should find this interesting.

Enjoy.

 

The World of Tékumel

At what point does a world become real? You can detail the languages, cultures, personalities, political systems, histories … but beyond all this is something more that can bring a world alive in the imagination … and make it almost exist.

click to enlargeThe Thoroughly Useful Eye

[click to enlarge]

The world of Tékumel is complex—steeped in history, hoary tradition, a complex clan and social system, myriad flora and fauna. There is a proverb for every time and place, several complete languages and their beautiful scripts, and thirty-four forms of the personal pronoun ‘you’ in Tsolyáni.

This section holds canonical information (recognised by Professor Barker as ‘official’ or ‘real’ Tékumel) about the world of Tékumel that has been previously published in various game systems, sourcebooks and novels. Over time The Eye of Illuminating Glory section will become a comprehensive overview of all aspects of the world of Tékumel: history, races, maps, cultures, language, militaria, arcana and more.

[Return to Top]

You are about to enter the world of Tékumel, the incredible work of imagination by Professor M.A.R. Barker.

If you’ve never encountered Tékumel before, you’ve stumbled upon an entire world the equal of Tolkien’s Middle-earth in detail and wonder: thousands of years of history, entire languages, rich cultures, unique creatures, bloody conflicts and fascinating mysteries.

Whether a new visitor or an old fan, there’s a world to explore here at the official home of M.A.R. Barker’s Tékumel:

About the Site

The Eye of Incomparable Understanding

About the Site

If you’re new to Tékumel, start by reading this section: a brief welcome, a guide for new visitors, a history of changes to the site, and a comprehensive site map. Here also can be found the Tékumel FAQ and the Tékumel Product List, plus the site’s ever-useful search function.

World of Tékumel

The Eye of
Illuminating
Glory

World of Tékumel

Lots of fascinating information to immerse you in the rich science-fantasy world of Tékumel. We’ll explore the world’s history, the most common gods worshipped, some of the strange beings that share the planet with mankind, and a comprehensive collection of maps of the northern continent.

Tékumel Gaming

The Eye of
Opening
the Way

Tékumel Gaming

Role-playing, boardgaming and miniatures gaming, for those who wish to adventure among Tékumel’s inhabitants. Here you’ll find a wealth of roleplaying systems, adventure materials, game system tools and playing aids, plus a look at miniatures created for Tékumel.

Tékumel Archive

The Eye of
Retaining All
Things

Tékumel Archive

Hard-to-find information from now-defunct fanzines and online mailing lists, including the Eye of All-Seeing Wonder and Visitations of Glory. Visit Tékumel Tales for fiction set on Tékumel. You’ll find useful links to other sites and discussions, plus The Blue Room, a vast repository of information.

Want to talk with other explorers of Tékumel? The Forums.

Hunting for that rare Tékumel item? Tita’s House of Games.

Writing new Tékumel material? The Tékumel Foundation.

NATURAL 20

ROLE PLAY TO THE RESCUE

Yeah, no duff

The Surprising Benefits of Role-Playing Games (and How to Get Started)

 

The Surprising Benefits of Role-Playing Games (and How to Get Started)

When you hear about role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, you probably picture a dimly-lit basement filled with people in silly robes rolling dice, but there’s much more to it than that. Not only are role-playing games incredibly fun, but they can actually teach you skills you’ll use in the real world.

When I first heard about role-playing games, I immediately thought it was something that was just for the nerdiest of nerds out there. I could only imagine how ridiculous it would feel to sit around a table with other people and act like someone—or something—else, pretending to fight goblins and dragons. The entire premise just sounded way “too geeky” for me—even as someone who was way into video games and other “nerdy” things.

Fast forward a couple years, and I found that I was completely wrong. As soon as I took a moment to strip away the facade of monsters and swords, role-playing games revealed themselves to be something far more interesting than other traditional games. Behind the fantasy adventures was a fun social gathering that required you to think on your toes, solve problems, be creative, and ultimately learn how to become a team player. Sound familiar? Yeah, that’s because it’s like every job out there. It turned out that it really wasn’t about the dungeons or the dragons at all—it’s about thinking critically and working like a team.

Now I indulge in role-playing games as often as I can. It’s nice to have an escape from the toils and troubles of the real world, but with every game session I play, I find that I actually learn something as well. Maybe it’s about myself and the way I think, maybe it’s something about one of my friends that brings us closer together, or maybe I just find a new way to look at something that I hadn’t thought of. I’ve learned that role-playing games are about more than playing a game, and more importantly, that they are for everybody.

The Benefits

Playing Cultivates Creativity

The Surprising Benefits of Role-Playing Games (and How to Get Started)

Creativity is the bread and butter of role-playing games. They have a certain quality that allows you to transcend typical game interactions. You have real freedom and the ability to move the story forward how you see fit. There are rules for each game, but they are merely the skeleton to whatever story you and your team want to create.

Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to activate our brains, and role-playing games do this incredibly well. When we tell stories—or experience them—our brains have to process language, the cause and effect of events, and also relate it to our own pre-existing experiences. While you’re playing a role-playing game, your brain is firing on all cylinders.

It’s good for you, the same way socializing or reading a book is good for you. In fact, as Jon Michaud of The New Yorker explains, reading comes with the territory:

…D. & D. is a textual, storytelling, world-creating experience, a great apprenticeship for a budding author. But, more fundamentally, you cannot play D. & D. without reading—a lot. Ed Park, in an essay on D. & D. (included in the anthology “Bound to Last”), celebrates the magnificent vocabulary of the game… Combined, the player’s manual, the Dungeon Master’s guide, and the monster manual (the core books of advanced D. & D.) add up to four hundred and sixty-eight pages of small-print, double-column text. I read them with studious devotion and headlong glee. Almost immediately, television all but disappeared from my life.

Before Michaud started playing, he spent his days watching TV while his grades were plummeting. As soon as the fantasy of D&D came into his life, however, that all changed. Michaud even goes so far as to say that Dungeons & Dragons “saved his life” because it got him on a better life track after reading more and finding something that excited him. Perhaps it won’t save your life, but it can still enhance it. As you play, you’ll develop creativity in a way you might not have experienced before. Whether you’re running the game as the “Dungeon Master”—controlling what happens to the players—or simply playing as one of the characters, your storytelling ability will increase.

Dungeon Masters—also called Game Masters in some games—must be particularly good storytellers. Even if you’re using a pre-made adventure with most of the work already done, you still have to be ready to come up with dialogue and personalities for the non-player characters, and be able to vividly describe the world your players explore. As a player, you have to find ways to make your character more interesting by creating personality quirks or a rich backstory.

Role-playing games force you to draw from what you know and create something that you and others can enjoy. A lot of famous creators have been influenced by Dungeons & Dragons as well. Comedian Stephen Colbert, writer George R. R. Martin, comedian Robin Williams, Simpsons creator Matt Groening, and Community creator Dan Harmon all played at one time or another. Storytelling is the one of the most basic creative skills that you can draw on for so many other skills, and being a good storyteller can even make you a more charismatic person. Dive in to another world and see what kind of cool stuff you can come up. You might surprise yourself with what you come up with.

Playing Levels Up Your Social Skills1

The Surprising Benefits of Role-Playing Games (and How to Get Started)

When you think Dungeons & Dragons, you probably don’t think social skills—but once again, that’s a stereotype that doesn’t necessarily hold true. Role-playing games are 100% social. You need to be able to talk to other people, express how you feel about certain situations, all in a group of people. Role-playing games come with a social network built directly into them.

Sure, to an extent, video games do the same thing—but it isn’t quite the same. Role-playing games bring the interaction right to your face, no screens between you. Plus, you get to hang out with your friends. Before and after a play session, you can catch up with what they’ve been up to and share what’s going on in your life. Once you know the rules for a particular game, you can easily make new friends too. You can hop into other game groups and make new friends; the process being easier because a giant plot of common ground is right out in the open. Making friends when you move can be really tough, but you can hit up a local game and hobby shop to see if there are any groups looking for more players.

This engrained social network can be particularly helpful for kids too. Making new friends can be more difficult for some people, and the forced social interaction of role-playing games can help them find people that share their interests. Additionally, kids and adults alike can use role-playing games to combat shyness. Players are given a mask in the form of their character that allows them to feel less vulnerable. Using my characters as a vehicle helped me feel more comfortable talking to others. Over time I got over shyness and felt comfortable cracking jokes and starting conversations on my own. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with being shy, but for those that do want to get out of their comfort zone a bit, role-playing games can offer some help.

Playing Encourages Teamwork and Cooperation

The Surprising Benefits of Role-Playing Games (and How to Get Started)

Most role playing games don’t end in a “win” or a “loss”, but they still require teamwork. The events depend on players’ actions, just like any other game, and failure to work with other players will guarantee a not-so-fun time. Role-playing games are designed from the ground up to be cooperative and it can be a lot of fun to play a game where there are no winners and losers.

A lot of games strive to be competitive, but life can be competitive enough, and role-playing games provide a refreshing change of pace. Additionally, learning to be a team player is highly important in the professional world. You take on a role at work and do the things that you’ve trained to do, and it works the same way in a role-playing game. Your character normally has a particular skillset, and that fills a role on a diverse team. Just like at work, if you don’t do your job, the whole team can suffer for it.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that role-playing games are as serious as work. They can just help you learn the basics of working with others. You get a feel for how you handle interactions in stressful settings. Maybe you’ll find that you’re a good leader, choreographing a perfect battle where nobody gets too hurt. Or maybe you’ll find that you’re more of a support-type, ready to jump to someone’s aid when they need it. Perhaps you can just think outside the box better than your peers, and figure your way out of complex situations. There are no good or bad roles, just the roles you can fill. By learning to play with a team, you can learn how to work with one.

Playing Teaches Problem Solving Skills2

The Surprising Benefits of Role-Playing Games (and How to Get Started)

Problem solving is what makes the world go ’round and role-playing games are filled to the brim with it. Layers upon layers of problems stand in front of you and your fellow party members. You could be trying to solve a riddle, while navigating a labyrinth, while deciding the best way to take out a band of goblins, while trying to solve a murder mystery, all while preventing a dark lord from taking over the kingdom. Talk about problems.

Role-playing games and their campaigns are problem after problem, all just barely solvable. As each event of your game unfolds, you’re forced to think on your feet and react. You develop some improvisation skill and feel a rush whenever your group finds a clever way to tackle a tough problem. In fact, some of your most memorable moments will likely end up being times that you felt like your back was against the wall, but you managed to pull through using your wit.

Learning how to solve problems develops your critical thinking and can help you approach problems in the future with the right mindset. In role-playing games you’re simultaneously the chess player and the chess piece. You learn to see problems from multiple perspectives and realize that there’s always a light at the end of the dark, goblin-filled cave.

Playing Is Fun

The Surprising Benefits of Role-Playing Games (and How to Get Started)

Seriously, playing role-playing games is an absolute blast. Try this: Imagine a time in your past that you did something that felt a little silly. Maybe you were at a party, or maybe you had a couple drinks and hit the dance floor at a wedding. Something you were worried about being embarrassed about it at first, but as soon as you gave in, it was some of the most fun you’ve ever had. That’s what role-playing games are like.

Half the fun is letting go of the heavy world around you and playing like you’re a kid again. You sit down at that table and suddenly you’re running around the playground, having adventures and saving the world. Can you honestly say that fun like that isn’t for everybody?

How to Get Started

The Surprising Benefits of Role-Playing Games (and How to Get Started)

Getting started can be the toughest part, but there are some things you can do to make it a lot easier. Unfortunately, there’s no way I could even come close to explaining how to play all of the role-playing games out there, but I can point you in the right direction.

First, you want to find a game that would interest you. The world of role-playing games can be very overwhelming, but it also means that there is literally something for everyone. If you like sci-fi, there’s plenty of that. If you like fantasy, there’s plenty of that too. Vampires? Check. Werewolves? Check. Super heroes, Lovecraft, zombies, aliens, Star Wars, wrestling… You name it, there’s probably a role-playing game for it. Heck, I’ve even played a role-playing game based around the movie Mean Girls (and it was, like, so fetch). So don’t worry if Dungeons & Dragons doesn’t sound like your cup of tea.

Do some research and see what you can dig up. Google “[thing you like] role-playing game” and you might be surprised at what you find. Certain games are going to be more popular, however—which means it might be easier to join or start one of those game types—but see what you can find that excites you. If you’re not into the world the game is portraying, you’re probably not going to enjoy yourself. As far as recommendations go, check out Fate, Pathfinder, Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, Call of Cthulhu, and (of course) Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition. You can even get a large taste of what D&D is like without paying a cent. If you’re still lost, hit up a game and hobby store and ask around. You’re sure to get more recommendations than you’ll what to do with.

When you find something that interests you, see what materials you need. Most role-playing games require that you at least own a copy of its player’s manual. Some games may require additional books as well, so make sure you’re getting what you need. These books can be very expensive—usually $40 and up—and the go-to, Amazon, won’t necessarily hook you up. Shop around online and check local game and hobby stores to find the best deals. You can also find digital versions of almost every current game and those can be significantly cheaper. There are a few other things you’ll need to play as well:

  • DM or GM guide: The Dungeon Master (DM) or Game Master (GM) usually can benefit from having this additional book.

Dice: You’ll usually need more than the standard six-sided (d6) dice. Some games require sets of their own special dice. Always check to see what you need.Character Sheets: You can normally find these in the back of the player’s manuals, but you can also find them on each game’s web site for free.Pencils: Not pens—especially if you’re just starting out.A table: The more space you have for books and character sheets the better. Some people like to use grid mats and figurines, but they aren’t completely necessary.People: Alas, you cannot play these games alone. Trust me, I’ve tried. It’s not nearly as fun. Two people will work in a pinch, but a group of four or five tends to be way more fun.

Once you have all of those things, you need to read. A lot. Role-playing games require some investment. The rules for each game can be complicated, and even though you shouldn’t let rules be the focus of your game sessions, you should get a basic idea of how they work. If you know someone that knows how to play, ask them to teach you! They’ll likely be glad to show you the ropes. They may even have their own group and invite you to join, even if it’s just for a few sessions so you can learn.

In the same vein, it doesn’t hurt to ask around if you’re looking for a group to play with. If none of your current friends play, ask around your local gaming stores. A lot of stores have regularly scheduled sessions in-store, and it’s a great way to learn to play without having to buy a rulebook or convince your current friends to come play with you. At the very least, someone might be able to point you in the right direction. You can also find playgroups online. Web sites like Meetup.com can help you find other people in your area that are interested in playing the games you want to play. It never hurts to check out the forums of big role-playing game publisher web sites—like Wizards of the Coast or Fantasy Flight Games—in search of players, either.

Lastly, if you’re having trouble understanding how things work, YouTube is your friend. You can find countless videos of real gameplay and rules explanation for whatever game you’re interested in. Watch a few games and you’ll start to see how the flow of a game should feel. This can be especially helpful if you want to run the game too.


Role-playing games are fun, exciting, and can actually help you learn a thing or two. So get out there, find a group, and don’t let the concept overwhelm you. Ease into the games and you may even make some new friends along the way. Role-playing games really are for everyone, especially you.

Photos by PublicDomainPictures, OpenClips, Dan Catchpole, Michael Harrison, Benny Mazur, potential past, Benny Mazur, Sean Ellis.

 

GIVE A LITTLE BIT…

Your Dungeon Master works hard to make sure you have a fantastic campaign. So how can you repay them? By showing your appreciation!

Since February is now officially “Dungeon Master Appreciation Month,” it only felt right to come up with 28 ways you can appreciate your DM. How many will you squeeze into the month?

  1. Offer to host the next session at your place!
  2. Create a soundtrack to match the current campaign setting.
  3. Make them a batch of Fireball truffles.
  4. Pay for the DM’s share of the pizza order.
  5. Submit the DM’s best quotes to outofcontextdnd.tumblr.com.
  6. Give them a hand-painted miniature of an important NPC in your campaign.
  7. Make sure the DM’s glass is always full, whether they’re drinking water, coffee, or mead.
  8. Recommend they DM for the D&D Adventurer’s League at your friendly local game store.
  9. Immortalize your campaign’s story in the GameTales subreddit.
  10. Secretly talk to all of the players in your campaign, and have everyone come to the next session dressed up as their character!
  11. Bring the DM a bottle of wine with a customized label matching your current campaign (handmade by you, of course!). You can find a template here.
  12. Share an amazing thing your DM did in the DnD subreddit.
  13. Make a batch of Tavern Stew for the DM and other players.
  14. Share a clip of the epic campaign (or the hilarious NPC the DM voices) on Vine or Instagram.
  15. Tweet your appreciation for your DM using #DnDDMA!
  16. Are you artistically inclined? Volunteer to draw/paint beautiful character representations or maps. Not so artsy? Find a talented friend and commission the artwork.
  17. Send a Thank You card after a fantastic session, and let them know what impressed you–was it the puzzle they wrote? How they had you laughing the whole time? How the monsters were perfectly matched to make it a hard (but not completely lethal) fight?
  18. Get tickets to an upcoming gaming convention and take your DM! Check out the cons recommended by the D&D team here.
  19. Offer to record your next session and edit into a podcast or video.
  20. Write an ode to your DM on the official Dungeons & Dragons Facebook page. 
  21. Sign your DM up for Dungeons and Dragons Online and play a session with them! (If you’re feeling extra generous, make them a VIP!)
  22. Create a sash, crown, robe, or other accessory to signify your DM is the “World’s Greatest.” Insist they wear it to each session!
  23. Make your DM a dice tower.
  24. Create a “pump up playlist” to get your DM in the mood on their way to the next session. Some suggestions are Assorted Intricacies’ “Roll a D6,” Weird Al’s “White and Nerdy,” Stephen Lynch’s “D&D,” and The Doubleclicks’ “This Fantasy World.”
  25. Present a gift to your DM, but make them solve a puzzle or riddle similar to ones they put in your campaign before they can receive it!
  26. Make an in-character “scrapbook” of your adventure with notes/”diary entries” from each day and drawings of people, places, and monsters you encountered. Give it to your DM at the end of the campaign!
  27. Make a dice bag using fabric patterns and colors that your DM will love!
  28. Offer to DM a future campaign so they have a chance to play!

(Editor’s Note: As mentioned in our earlier letter, if you’re feeling inspired to give Dungeon Mastering a try, or want to start appreciating your Dungeon Master right now, then the Dungeon Master’s Guide is the perfect gift for the storyteller in your life!)

About the Author

Geeky Hostess (Tara Theoharis) blogs about “incorporating your geeky passions into your everyday life through parties, gift ideas, home decor, recipes, etiquette, fashion, and more.” More advice, ideas and recipes can be found at http://geekyhostess.com.

THE PROJECTED GAME

Actually I’m working on an invention that would replace this altogether for all kinds of tabletop games, not just Role Play but Wargaming, Board Games, etc. Anything imaginable played on a tabletop.

But I still like the general set-up described/displayed here.

DnD_DigitalMap.jpg (1300×975)

Dungeons and Dragons comes to life on digital maps

A projector combined with a Web-based tabletop role playing game tool make for a new and really cool way to play Dungeons and Dragons.

Reddit user Silverlight is a developer for Roll20, an online tool for virtual tabletop role playing game sessions, so he knows a thing or two about blending technology into traditional RPG play. By pairing Roll20 with a projector mounted on the ceiling, Silverlight is able to display digital maps on the tabletop for a home session of D&D.

And the coolest thing about these digital maps is the ability to show characters’ actual line of sight as they explore. Discussing the setup on Reddit, Silverlight says that this functionality is built into Roll20, and he made the cones of vision possible by manually revealing portions of the map to the players.

This isn’t really a practical setup to replicate. Silverlight used an Epson brand projector to make the digital maps, and a cheap Epson projector should run you about $300 on Amazon. Still, it demonstrates new possibilities for playing tabletop role playing games. Roll20 runs in a Web browser. Maybe someone can figure out how to make this setup work using a much more affordable smartphone projector.

Photo via Silverlight/imgur

GOT 20?

Is this the oldest d20 on Earth?

57,985

Is this the oldest d20 on Earth?

Romans may have used 20-Sided die almost two millennia before D&D, but people in ancient Egypt were casting icosahedra even earlier. Pictured above is a twenty-faced die dating from somewhere between 304 and 30 B.C., a timespan also known as Egypt’s Ptolemaic Period.

According to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the gamepiece is held, the die was once held in the collection of one Reverend Chauncey Murch, who acquired it between 1883 and 1906 while conducting missionary work in Egypt.

Got a 20-sided die that predates the Ptolemaic Period? Post about it in the comments.

[The Metropolitan Museum of Art]

Hat tip to Polter Dog!

NATURALLY OCCURRING

GAME OF DICE SPELL

Wiz Dice is having a contest. Asking what you would do with 100+ dice.

I entered and replied that I would create IEDs (Improvised Exploding Dice). As a new spell.

The contest/giveaway is here: What Would You Do With 100+ Dice?

Below is the new spell I would create using these Improvised Exploding Dice. Well, the sketch notes for when I actually create the parameters for the spell itself, anyway.

 

GAME OF DICE SPELL (aka, Game of Chance Spell)

I was thinking that characters could carry with them small clusters of gaming dice, as if they carried their own gaming dice for games of chance. Though technically it could be any small, easily potable object. But the gaming dice, and dice games go back thousands of years, would be both easily portable and a splendidly innocuous cover-device so the targets do not suspect the users intentions.

(Of course you could always just use a version of the spell to create IEDs out of other people’s dice, ad hoc.)

The spell could then be exercised in such a way that the dice explode upon contact, explode when thrown or rolled, after a certain number of rolls, or set to explode after a certain period of time has elapsed.

The dice could then be used at a dice game (say you encounter a Thieves’ Guild or group of assassins and as an infiltration method you play a game of dice with them or give the dice as a gift), as a pre-set trap, or simply thrown like small hand-grenades. You could also just leave them lying around and when someone touches them to investigate you have a cheap but effective improvised explosive.

They could also be set to glow, to smell attractive, or to make unusual noises, so as to attract attention or to encourage theft.

More advanced versions of the spell might allow the dice to be used as tracking locators or beacons before they detonate. And the most advanced version of IED spell would allow the user to create his own dice, and depending on how the faces are decorated, carved, or painted (or maybe due to the numerical value expressed on the various faces) that would determine detonation force and how big of an explosion they would create.

Some dice might even explode by dispensing magical shrapnel or by a ejecting gas or other toxins – like snake venom, or even dissolve into or explode as a corrosive acid.

Anyway those are my initial sketches for an IED spell.

As for more modern or futuristic games you could simply create technological/Real World versions of such dice (or such small objects) useful for everything from espionage to weaponry, and I have some ideas where that is concerned too.
When I get the details worked out I’ll post the completed spell here.

GAME CHANGER

I learned a great deal from playing D&D (as well as numerous other games). And many of those things were even useful.

After-school Game Changer program combines education, dragon-slaying

Dungeons & Dragons game at the Misty Forest Academy


Phil Zoshak, right, leads kids during a Dungeons & Dragons game at the Misty Forest Academy in Orlando on Friday, December 5, 2014. The kids are, from left: Tessa Adamopoulos, 10, Brett Miller, 11, Bobby Melia, 11, and Daniel Hernandez, 10. (Stephen M. Dowell, Orlando Sentinel)
By Tod Caviness Orlando Sentinel contact the reporter

Television Industry

Game Changer program uses Dungeons & Dragons as a teaching tool

Outside of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, you won’t find swords and spellcraft on the curriculum at too many learning institutions.

But Phil Zoshak of Orlando isn’t just any teacher.

Each Friday, children ages 7 to 14 in his after-school Game Changer program are transformed into wizards and warriors as they participate in storytelling sessions loosely based on the popular fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. In Zoshak’s games, kids aren’t just battling dragons, they’re learning math, leadership and social skills.

“We are riding on a wave of nerd right now,” said Zoshak. “Tabletop gaming is coming back, and if that’s the case, let’s get these kids unplugged off the video games and get them having positive gaming experiences.”

Zoshak is a program coordinator for Page 15, a nonprofit organization that provides free creative-writing activities for children in Orange County Public Schools. Game Changer is Page 15’s newest initiative, and students currently take part during weekly sessions at Misty Forest Academy in Orlando, a private education facility that caters to children in both public and home schools.

Dungeons & Dragons has been played by generations of “proud nerds” such as Zoshak since its original release in 1974. In the game, players assume the roles of fantasy characters in an adventure guided by a “dungeon master” who sets the scene. Each player’s character exists only in their imagination and on a sheet that breaks down their abilities and weaknesses into numerical ratings. Success can depend on the roll of a specialized set of dice.

In Zoshak’s version, the dice-rolling is kept to a minimum and the imagination emphasized. In one recent session, his group of seven players came under siege at the hall of the mythological hero Beowulf. Spell-casters in the group were given a word-search game to finish before the clock ran out; the more words they could find, the stronger the spell of protection they placed on the door.

In the end, the spell wasn’t enough. Zoshak described “splinters spraying out from the door” as the hulking monster Grendel finally forced his way in.

“What do you do?” he asked his players. A flurry of replies ensued. Zoshak gently reminded the excitable adventurers to speak one at a time and encouraged them to work together.

“I can do an invisibility spell,” said Brett Miller, 10, of Orlando.

“I’m going to run and hide and be ready to heal some people,” said Tessa Adamopoulos, 11, whose character was an Oracle, game-speak for a magical medic.

The game was the fifth session Zoshak has organized for the youngest age group in the Game Changer program. Each week, Brett and Tessa join their companions on a time-traveling, episodic adventure through various eras out of history and mythology — two subjects that Zoshak is also happy to teach.

“When I think of how Game Changer started, I think of how I grew up, how I learned,” said Zoshak, who has raised more than $4,500 through crowdfunding on indiegogo.com to purchase writing journals, dice and other materials that will support Game Changer during the next two years.

Now 27, Zoshak first discovered D&D as a 14-year-old in Daytona Beach. An avid video-gamer, the teenage Zoshak found that the social, collaborative aspects of role-playing games sparked his creativity more — and jump-started a dormant interest in literacy.

“Yeah, I have to do math and all this,” Zoshak recalled, “but it’s a lot of reading, a lot of storytelling. Suddenly I’m interested in language and stories. By the end of ninth grade, after having failed my first semester in English, I got an A. I really think that mostly attributes to gaming.”

Although the use of D&D may be a novel idea, the presence of other games in the classroom is common, according to Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television & Popular Culture.

Games of any kind can be useful as a “curricular Trojan horse,” said the former professor at Northwestern University in Illinois.

“You’ve got teachers who are competing with kids who are on YouTube and have this constant ability to stimulate themselves whenever they want it and stop it whenever they want it,” Thompson said. “The challenge of sending someone through the long process of teaching them to write, teaching them leadership skills, that is a difficult thing to do. And I think you take any arrow out of your quiver that you possibly can. If Dungeons & Dragons works to do that, I’m all for it.”

A prolific writer, Zoshak hopes that Game Changer inspires the 17 kids in his program. He wants to incorporate other games into the initiative: A chess tournament is scheduled for spring at the Parramore Kidz Zone in Orlando, and Zoshak is hard at work on an educational variant of the fantasy card game Magic: The Gathering.

Tessa had never played a role-playing game before encountering Game Changer, but the Orlando youngster said she “took to it in a snap.”

“Usually, I like to do stuff independently,” she said, “but Game Changer taught me that teamwork can take you anywhere.”

INDEED

Indeed. I hate this crap too.

This is, in my opinion, nothing more than bad design left over as tactical battle unit attack initiative from D&D’s origins as a wargame.

It should either be drastically improved or eliminated altogether in D&D. I favor total elimination.

DEED-IN-DEED

How D&D swallowed another innocent clandestine female nerd… is there no end to this effrontery?

That Time I Started Playing Dungeons & Dragons for a Blog Post…

I recently went on a deep undercover writing assignment. My goal was to infiltrate a local Dungeons & Dragons group and make them believe I could be one of them, just for one night, so that I could write about the shenanigans that are role playing games.

I wanted to try something new, and my boyfriend kept going on and on about Pathfinder (which is an off shoot of Dungeons & Dragons, basically) so I figured hey, I could go for 4 hours and give it a shot, blog about it, and then move on. That was six months ago. The reason I didn’t write the blog post was because I’m still playing it and you know what? It’s really cool.

dice

Image: James Bowe via FlickrUntil I started dating my boyfriend I always thought Pathfinder was just someone mispronouncing “Pathfinders,” and that they were referring to that later version of Girl Guides where teenagers learn how to braid and roast s’mores over a bonfire while singing Kumbaya. Which is why I found it really confusing when my boyfriend told me he was going to join a Pathfinder group. It became less confusing when he explained to me that Pathfinder is an RPG (role playing game) much like Dungeons and Dragons. I mean, I still found the whole Dungeons and Dragons thing confusing, but at least I wasn’t picturing my boyfriend learning how to braid his beard while wearing a green vest full of badges anymore.

So I began to learn bits and pieces of what playing an RPG is like because I like taking interest in my boyfriend’s interests. He would come home from game night and regale me with tales of his journey through what I assumed was Middle Earth. He went on and on about slaying all sorts of monsters and finding treasures, and he talked about the jokes that were made during the night and it seemed like fun. It basically sounded like Game of Thrones if Game of Thrones were a comedy on FX. He explained to me that Pathfinder was like the younger sibling of Dungeons and Dragons. Basically if Dungeons and Dragons were Disney, Pathfinder would be Pixar.

Part of me wanted to try Pathfinder as soon as my boyfriend began explaining it to me, but there was still part of me that grew up being told “Dungeons and Dragons just isn’t cool.” This was long before Community did an episode on it, of course. I hate to admit it but I heard whispers about the people playing Dungeons and Dragons in high school, and it always seemed frowned upon. It was just Darwinism coming into play when I found myself never wanting to associate with Dungeons and Dragons. I didn’t want to get pummeled to death in the school yard. I didn’t want to be turned upside down and have my lunch money stolen.

So I continued on through my life associating RPGs with wedgies and swirlies, and I probably even snickered negatively on occasion when people talked about their Dungeons and Dragons days. And then something wonderful happened: I woke up one day and realized that I didn’t want to be at all associated with the people who bullied other people for playing games in their basement. I realized that it’s cool to do whatever the heck you want to do if it makes you happy. Trust me, that’s a hard thing to realize when you come from the small town I come from. If you replace dancing with Dungeons and Dragons then my hometown is essentially the town from Footloose.

It’s no real secret that my boyfriend is a “nerd,” as some people would say. He reads comic books, he watches sci-fi shows and movies, he plays board games and role playing games. For years now I have been toeing the “nerd” line myself. I grew up watching shows like Buffy and Dark Angel. I always loved sci-fi movies more than any other genre. But that was where it ended. I didn’t play games. I didn’t read comics or fantasy novels. If you asked me what “the TARDIS” was, I would assume it was some sort of French dessert. And I certainly didn’t have a sweet clue what a D20 was.

Obviously when you spend a lot of time with another human being, you tend to take on some of their interests as your own. It was only natural that I would sit down and watch all of Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who with my boyfriend. Of course I would go to Comic Con in Montreal with him next. Then came the board games like Munchkin and Carcassone. I enjoyed everything he introduced me to. So naturally when he started talking about Pathfinder I began to wonder if it was something I could enjoy with him.

THROUGH THE AGES…

Changes and consistencies through the various incarnations…

A HANDFULL OF CLASS-IC HISTORIES

(article continued at link)

Clerics, fighters, rangers, rogues, and wizards all have long histories in the D&D game.

Throughout the Tyranny of Dragons storyline, we’ve been following the online comic adventures of five heroes—representatives of their factions, but also of five key classes to the game. In today’s D&D Alumni, we take a brief look back at the history of these classes, and how they’ve evolved into their current inception in the Player’s Handbook.

Fighters: 1972-Present

The fighters of D&D can trace their genealogy back to the heroes and super heroes of the Chainmail (1971) miniatures game, who were “well-known knights, leaders of army contingents, and similar men”. However fighters more obviously appeared in their modern form as the “fighting men” of OD&D (1974)—who became heroes at 4th level and super heroes at 8th.

From there, D&D fighters embarked on a long road to balance their power levels with their magical brethren. When they picked up the name “fighters” in AD&D (1977-1979), they also got multiple attacks a round, going as high as two attacks per round at 13th level; while Unearthed Arcana (1985) introduced weapon mastery and specialization for fighters only. Meanwhile new subclasses like the ranger, the paladin, the cavalier, and the barbarian were proliferating—and usually overshadowing the original fighter class. AD&D 2e (1989) was more of the same, except the fighter was temporarily a member of the warrior category.

The 21st century has seen the biggest changes to fighters. With D&D 3e (2000) their damage potential went through the roof, helped in part by the game’s new feats, which made high-level fighters truly dangerous for perhaps the first time. Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords (2006) made fighters even more interesting by giving them evocative special attacks, an idea that also underlay D&D 4e (2008).

In D&D 5e (2014), fighters now lie somewhere between earlier editions. The base class has more class features than early incarnations, while players who want to have more tactical options can play the Battle Master archetype and select different fighting maneuvers each turn.

Wizards: 1972-Present

Like fighters, wizards originated with Chainmail (1971). They appear there in a surprisingly mature form, already possessing well-known spells like fireball, lightning bolt, phantasmal force, protection from evil, cloudkill, and anti-magic shell. Seers, magicians, warlocks, and sorcerers also appear as less powerful wizard variants.

When the wizard returned in OD&D (1974), he was now called the magic-user, but all the wizardly variants from Chainmail appear as level titles: seer at 2nd level, magician at 6th, warlock at 8th, sorcerer at 9th, and wizard at 11th. Magic-users now also had to memorize their spells, then lost them when casting. Those primeval OD&D wizards got just six levels of spells; they’d have to wait for Supplement I: Greyhawk (1975) to learn higher level spells like power word: kill, time stop, and wish.

AD&D (1977-1979) kept magic-users largely the same, though the illusionist subclass from The Strategic Review #4 (Winter 1975) also appeared. 2nd Edition (1989) saw magic-users reclassified as mages, who were a member of the wizard category—which once more became their official name. More importantly, mages could now specialize in specific types of magic, changing the special rules for illusionists into a much more general framework that allowed for eight types of magicians. When Dark Sun (1991) was published a few years later, it introduced even more variety with defilers and preservers who cast magic in connection with the world (parasitically or cooperatively).

More variants appeared in D&D 3e (2000), which introduced new sorts of magic-users who cast their spells in different ways: the core rules brought in sorcerers, who didn’t need to memorize spells; while Complete Arcane (2004) premiered warlocks, who could cast spell-like invocations at will. These ideas created a foundation for D&D 4e (2008), which allowed wizards to cast many of their spells round after round—with more powerful spells limited to fewer uses.

More recently, D&D 5e (2014) brought back the fire-and-forget mage of old with a few compromises: wizards can recover a few spells more quickly through the study of the spellbooks in the middle of day and at high levels can cast a few spells constantly. Meanwhile, fans of other styles of casting can still play the newest versions of the sorcerer and the warlock.

 

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