A Game Master By Any Other Name.

Neat, huh? No matter what we’re called, we’re still at the head of the table, screen in front of us, running the game. Most of us manage a notebook or a loose pile of disheveled papers in front of us.

Is still running the game! Bwah ha ha!

Most TTRPGs refer to us as “Game Master.” D&D refers to us as “Dungeon Master.” Storyteller (aka World of Darkness) games call us “Storyteller.” Call of Cthulhu and Monster of the Week refer to us as “Keeper.” Dungeon Crawl Classics and Marvel Superheroes refer to our title as “Judge.”

Neat, huh? No matter what we’re called, we’re still at the head of the table, screen in front of us, running the game. Most of us manage a notebook or a loose pile of disheveled papers in front of us. We write down or even type out mounds of NPCs, location notes, tidbits about characters, and hastily scrawled monster stats. I usually have a pad of crossed out hp amounts and a coffee coaster behind my screen beside my dice tray along with heaps of dice, too.

I realized today I haven’t been giving out much GM advice here in my blog.

You can never be too prepared.

I’ve learned a lot in my many years in whatever role you want to call me. I’m usually that guy in the group with a pile of dice, a rulebook and a plan. Most days, that’s really all it takes. Plenty of GMs make it all up as they go. Some of us take copious amounts of notes. Others are literally doodling behind the screen making it look important. Maybe at least write down some NPC names to help keep track of who’s who.

My style is to be overly prepared. I like to have my NPCs drawn up. I like to have my maps already made. I usually have a specific outline or timeline of events built up well in advance. I have my miniatures sorted and ready to go well in advance of needing them. I make random d12 tables for when I have to improvise. I spend hours listening to classical music and prepping convention games ahead of time. (I miss conventions. *sniff.*)

One oddball piece of advice I give to almost all of my creative friends- keep a notebook or something handy to write down ideas when inspiration strikes. I have literally written out NPCs and plot outlines on restaurant napkins. Even if you scrawl out a few hasty lines in your phone’s memo pad, it’s better than forgetting it.

NPCs are key.

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Sometimes I generate a ton of characters just to get used to the system. It’s nice to be able to help your players or just hand someone a character in a pinch and say, “play this character. If you like it, keep playing it next week.”

Otherwise, some of my character heap become NPCs. Sometimes one of the BBEG’s lieutenants comes out of the character pile. Other times, the group’s loyal retainer over their entire adventuring careers started out as one of my characters.

I like to have a name for every character I think the group is going to interact with along with a few personality quirks to make them memorable. I try to come up with a voice and a pattern of speech for the ones I know the group will see more than once. I especially love it when the group adopts an NPC for multiple sessions.

Having detailed NPCs is part of the success of GMing. Even if the campaign flops. Even if we only run a few sessions before it all goes to pieces, I’d like to think some of the NPCs will stick with my players long after it ends. That, and it’s one of my favorite components of any game.

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It's not all about combat statistics. Most games involving NPCs rarely make use of those characters' combat talents at all. Sometimes I don't even spend time detailing them. If I do, I usually hand that character off to one of the players. It's one less thing for me to worry about and the character still contributes. 

For me, having 3-6 personality traits, quirks and ticks written down for an NPC is far more important that the attacks, damage, spells, etc. Sometimes key NPCs are pacifists, outright cowards, or designated non-combatants anyway. Not every NPC is going to fight, especially not to the death. 

So many elements to consider.

From Catacomb of the Wolf Lord.

More on NPCs in another article. We have a wide variety of other game elements to consider. Over the many years I have slowly started to get better about campaign/world mapping. Sometimes it’s a piece of typing paper with town/village names and arrows pointing toward other features with “2 days” written above the arrow indicating travel time on horseback.

Mapping larger land masses is kind of my weak point. Dungeon mapping is still one of my absolute favorite tasks. I lay all of my maps out on the table with dungeon tiles and pre printed blocks. Pretty much all of my maps are hand drawn otherwise.
I still use crudely drawn figures and old school D&D mapping annotations for the most part. It’s what I learned. It’s what I do best when it comes to maps.

I’m getting better about not railroading the players and creating more of an open, sandbox style environment for my players to adventure in. I still want to be prepared for when they stumble into a dungeon or town in the midst of whatever they’re doing. There are plenty of ways to do that.

One of the best pieces of advice I can ever give- Do what works best for you!

Listen to me or any other GM advice. Or don’t. It’s okay. As is often said in Law of Attraction circles, “You can’t get it wrong.”

Some GMs prefer various Virtual Tabletop formats and online map generators. Great! If you find a specific way of doing thing fits well with you and your players, awesome. Player feedback is a helpful tool as well. They want their game to be as much fun as you do. This tidbit applies to mapping, narrative styles, characters and the larger spectrum of the game as a whole.

Knowing all the rules and statistics is great, but

Making it up as I go.

If a rule is bogging you down, make the call and look it up after the game. You can always retcon the correct answer later. The important thing is to keep the game rolling forward.

Likewise, if a rule isn’t working for you, the GM, and your group? Toss it out. Make a house rule that does work for you. Welcome to creative freedom! Make the game yours!

Try to cut down on metagaming at the table as much as reasonably possible. Sometimes I wish certain players didn’t have access to a Monster Manual. This is why I try to find third party monster books or just create my own creatures.

Player: I do 18 damage. It’s dead.
GM: Nope. Still standing. Looks annoyed now.
Player: According to the MM on Page 37, they only have 18 hp max.
GM: Hmm. Here in my notes it says 24. Maybe this particular creature is a bit more buff than the ones you’re used to. OR it’s not one of those at all.
Player: Gulp. Who’s next on the initiative order? This looks grim.

Be kind.

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Players make mistakes. People make mistakes, for that matter. It’s going to happen. Someone calls out a spell they’ve already cast for the day. Someone rolls the wrong damage dice and has been for three rounds. A player forgets to write down their character’s health between sessions.

Please, above all else, be nice. Try to come up with a fair and equitable solution. Try to run the game you would want to be a player in. If it’s not a ruling you’d want to hear as a player, you might want to evaluate the call and try something else. Empathy goes a long way as a GM.

However, that does not mean you need to be a pushover. Just as a judge in the real world has to rule, please try to be fair and understanding, but resolute in your judgments. You ARE the GM, after all. With great responsibility comes awesome power.

One last tidbit for today.

There are a lot of things still to cover about narratives, campaigns, stats, and genres that we can go into later. The one last thought I’d like to leave before I sign off today- As a GM, you’re always going to have to deal with something not covered anywhere else. Scheduling, paying for pizza, printing extra character sheets, lending dice, and a lot of freaky, weird things (player fraternization is one of my favorites. LOL!) come up between games and out of the scope of the game. Just do the best you can with what you’ve got.

It’s never going to be perfect. Being in charge of the game is often more about human relations than characters and rules. Always try to listen and say what’s on your mind. Do what you think is best. Oh, and know when to step back. Remember, you’re in charge of the game, not the players themselves.

People. Am I right?

Thanks for stopping by. More to come. I appreciate you being here.

You folx are the best. Thank You!

Back When My Characters Were Written on a Legal Pad.

Everything was written out by hand. Some of us used typing paper to create mock-up character sheets, which took some time. And really kinda sucked if you spent half an hour or more painstakingly drawing your character sheet just to have your Thief get eaten by the Owlbear in Room Number 2. Also, some of us did everything with pen back then.

I have so many characters, it’s not even funny.

Not just D&D, either. Oh no. Old Guy story time everyone gather around.

See, back in my day (*my kids just ran for cover) we were kinda poor. It was the 1980’s. Cell phones, computers with scanners, and printers that did everything weren’t really around at all. Photocopies at the dime store or public library, or post office cost money. No PDFs, obviously.

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So, that left us pretty much one good, fast option.

Everything was written out by hand. Some of us used typing paper to create mock-up character sheets, which took some time. And really kinda sucked if you spent half an hour or more painstakingly drawing your character sheet just to have your Thief get eaten by the Owlbear in Room Number 2. Also, some of us did everything with pen back then.

For the player that wanted to get a character made relatively quickly, we wrote everything down by hand. That meant having all of the important stuff memorized. D&D and AD&D were pretty easy to remember (spellcasters notwithstanding.) Marvel Superheroes? Easy. (Still had to look up skills and powers, but otherwise not hard.) Warhammer Fantasy literally took 10 minutes or fewer for basic characters. Star Wars RPG (WEG D6,) I can still build build a character and a ship in my head and write the whole thing down in minutes.

I discovered a ton of my old characters when I was cleaning house recently. I was so thrilled. I still even have all of my 11×17 legal pads with my 2nd Ed AD&D characters. I made so many characters back then. I still fondly remember those days with love and joy.

Some things still got us dirty looks from whoever was in charge of the copier.

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Heck, by the time I got to college, I could write down an entire DC Heroes character from scratch without even picking up a rulebook and still have it come out balanced and point correct. But there were a few games that gave us a tough time and required a trip to the copier, unfortunately.

Any of FASA’s excellent wargames at the time pretty much required photocopies. Battletech, Mechwarrior (RPG,) and Centurion all took a lot of time to write out by hand. FASA’s Shadowrun went easier with professional character sheets. Vampire: the Masquerade pretty much necessitated it. Role Master was detailed to the point where we pretty much needed character sheets. It made those high end lightning crits a truly character-changing moment.

As I stated, the worst part was getting the stink eye from whoever was in charge of the copier. I mean, obviously as far as they were concerned we were playing that devil-worshipper game Mazes & Monsters from the “documentary” starring Tom Hanks. Some of the keepers of the photocopier were happy to take our money. Others were a little more preachy and/or judgey.

Things got really high tech later on.

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Any time we wanted to play Middle Earth Role Playing, (MERP,) my best friend printed our characters out on his dot-matrix printer. Super high tech, right? The best part was, I think he programmed the sheet himself.

About the time I discovered Palladium’s RIFTS, I had this really neat word processor that had about three pages of memory and used floppy disks. Which is great because if anyone remembers RIFTS and Robotech, you probably remember how detailed the skill lists for those games were. I had to make my own spreadsheets the hard way on ye olde word processor. It took me a couple of days of typing and typesetting. Don’t get me started on my favorite Palladium game ever, Ninjas and Superspies.

Once the Internet became a popular thing, it got a lot easier. I was on Usenet News talking about RIFTS, Shadowrun, and D&D. I have entire dot-matrix printouts of fan sourcebooks and weapons conversions. Cyberpunk 2020 was the future. Now 2020 is a year that nearly requires a memory wipe and I still don’t have my cyberware.

Thank you for stopping by. It’s been fun. I appreciate you. More fun tomorrow.

Thank you!

G.I. JOE the RPG Review.

In honor of our hard workin, hard fightin real life American heroes, I thought I’d do my long overdue review of GI JOE the RPG from Renegade Studios. I have literally waited 40 years for this game to be made officially.

HAPPY FOURTH of JULY!

In honor of our hard workin, hard fightin real life American heroes, I thought I’d do my long overdue review of GI JOE the RPG from Renegade Studios. I have literally waited 40 years for this game to be made officially. It’s at the top of my list next to Power Rangers and Transformers. I was so stoked when I saw these three games on Kickstarter a couple of years ago.

The dream has been realized minus Transformers. I see it’s been moved to Q04 of 2022. (What the heck, guys?) I mean, how many of us want to someday realize the GI JOE/Transformers crossover we’ve been dreaming about for decades? I know I’m not alone.

I think nostalgia is the primary appeal of GI Joe. All of us who ever ran games from other systems who always wanted an official Joe RPG for the last 40 years or so finally got our wish. I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of my old favorite characters, vehicles, and weapons from the action figures and the cartoon in print.

This has been four decades in the making. YAY!!!

Essence20 keeps getting better.

Renegade is becoming a very solid company when it comes to game design. I still think Power Rangers RPG is a little shaky under the same system, but the writers have gotten better with GI Joe. Everything flows together with the system so far and I’ve had no hiccups creating characters thusfar.

Renegade also provides downloadable character sheets and prefilled sheets for some noteworthy characters such as Duke and Scarlet. My hat’s off to the writers for being more ready up front with this game. It’s very well put together.

Combat can be as cartoony or as meaty as you’d like.

I was glad to see the discussion of weapon damage being a group consensus. The group can decide to treat it like the 1980’s cartoon with the pew-pew lasers set on stun and parachutes that always deployed. Or they can make it gritty and realistic like a more modern military style game where getting shot is serious business and vehicles can explode with all occupants aboard.

Combat is a key element in this game and I’m glad to see a fairly thorough treatment throughout the book. Weapons are customizable. The vehicles are as cool as any toy playset ever made. Personally, I’m excited to see characters in jet packs and Trouble Bubbles.

The diversity of character options is stunning.

If you ever saw a character in the cartoon that you wanted to emulate or have a particular fan fiction character you want to play, this system has it covered. The same goes for Cobra, though. Anything the GM ever wanted to see Cobra get correct, they can do now. No more incompetent Cobra Commander or bumbling minions unless that’s how you want to play it.

The other neat thing is the sheer amount of character volume included in the core rules. You get to fight alongside Joe luminaries such as Duke, Snake Eyes, Sgt Slaughter, Jinx, Quick Kick and so many, many more. They even went so far as to give a full page treatment to the ones they didn’t have room for in the Core Book.

Oh no! They missed my favorite character! No worries.

One really nice touch they did throughout the game was the “Knowing is Half the Battle” segments that further define a rule or clarify a lot of potential questions. Another great moment came when I found the Perk: Kung Fu Grip. They even mention the historic origins of the name and Yo Joe! is a legitimate battle cry with in game effects. (Kind of like saying It’s Morphin Time or Autobots, Transform and Roll Out.)

I know I've mentioned before that art sells RPG books. The GI JOE RPG has some of the most gorgeous artwork of any RPG ever produced. Admittedly, they might have had a slightly easier time given the volume of art for the animated series and comics that accumulated over the years, but still. This game looks great! Good job team! 

If I was ever waffling on whether or not to by this book, the layout and presentation along with the gorgeous artwork sells it. 

The only thing I hope and pray for Renegade to do-

Renegade folx, if you see this, please hear my pathetic begging. There needs to be a sourcebook with more of the original Joes statted up. Of course there needs to be an extensive book of all the Joe vehicles. Please, please, please give us a solid Cobra sourcebook complete with characters, vehicles, weapons and cool science projects. If you really wanted to make this fanboy happy, please make a Sigma 6 sourcebook.

I give it 5 stars. Keep up the awesome work! Can’t wait to see Transformers.

Thank you all for stopping by. I appreciate it. Have a happy and safe holiday!

1d12 Hex Crawl Land Terrain Interactions

Dragon! Very large, very powerful, and hungry.
Apex Predator. (T Rex, Dire Ape, Giant Feral Carnivorous Chinchilla, etc.)
Snake! Either one giant snake or a pod of several venomous snakes.
Un-dead: Intangible. (Wraiths, ghosts, will-o-wisps, etc.)

Designed for DCC. Suitable for any Fantasy RPG.

Roll 1d12 and consult the tables below each time the group enters a new hex:

Encounter?

  1. Bad News!
  2. Negative Encounter.
  3. No Encounter,
  4. No Encounter.
  5. Negative Encounter.
  6. Neutral Encounter.
  7. Positive Encounter.
  8. Neutral Encounter
  9. No Encounter.
  10. No Encounter.
  11. Positive Encounter.
  12. Great News!
Bad News!

Roll 1d12 and consult the table below.

  1. Dragon! Very large, very powerful, and hungry.
  2. Apex Predator. (T Rex, Dire Ape, Giant Feral Carnivorous Chinchilla, etc.)
  3. Snake! Either one giant snake or a pod of several venomous snakes.
  4. Un-dead: Intangible. (Wraiths, ghosts, will-o-wisps, etc.)
  5. Monstrous Wildlife. Regular wildlife magnified up to 100x.
  6. Pack of demons. A pack of wild demons/daemons roams the area.
  7. Little monsters. Small, rabid, vicious creatures. (Stirges, rabid squirrels, etc.)
  8. Un-dead: Powerful. Lich, Vampire, Zombie Lord, Wights, etc.
  9. Giants. At least 2d4 of any type.
  10. Another adventuring party. Opposite alignment/intentions of the group.
  11. Frightening, Vile Predator: Displacing Beasts, Chimaera, Wyverns, Manticores…
  12. Huge Demon/Devil/Big Scary Evil Thing. Plus multiple summons/adds.
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Negative Encounters:

  1. Hydra (Keeper’s Choice as to type.)
  2. Giant Arachnids: Monstrous spiders, scorpions, etc.
  3. Carnivorous Plant Life: Strangleweed, Man Eating Plants, Venus Mantraps.
  4. Lycanthropes. Will attempt to accompany group during the day.
  5. Snakes! As few as 1 or 2 venomous, slithering locals. Could be more.
  6. Larger Humanoids. Ogres, Cyclops, Minotaurs, etc.
  7. Vicious Medium Humanoids. Hobgoblins, Gnolls, Lizardfolk, etc.
  8. Lesser Un-dead. Skeletons Shamblers, or Zombies. (Relatively unintelligent.)
  9. Trolls. Vicious, feral, highly regenerative, aggressive.
  10. Mutants! Two headed, fire-breathing mutant prairie dogs or something.
  11. Forgotten Constructs. Someone left golems just wandering around.
  12. Predatory Pack Hunters. Lions, Wolves, Velociraptors, etc.
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Neutral Encounters:

These encounters have the option to go either way or not be a serious encounter at all if the group chooses not to make anything of it. You leave them alone, they leave you alone.

  1. Medium Humanoids. Orcs, Elves, Dwarves, Humans or ???
  2. Herd Animals. Antelope, Deer, Bison, Llamas, etc.
  3. Giant Flightless Birds. Ostriches, Emus, Penguins or other wild flightless fowl.
  4. Small Humanoids: Goblins, Kobolds, Halflings, Gnomes, Pechs, etc.
  5. Pixies/Faeries. Small, potentially annoying, magical creatures.
  6. Lumbering Herbivores: Plant eating dinosaurs, giraffes, other large creatures.
  7. Centaurs. They might be harmless or very hostile toward intruders passing by.
  8. Giant Beetles or Ants. As long as they don’t perceive the group as food.
  9. Rodent Swarms: Massive packs of rats, gophers, weasels or lemmings.
  10. Skunk! Possibly a giant skunk. Be nice or be smelly for days.
  11. Elementals: Creatures from the elemental planes of earth or air playing around.
  12. Strange Caravan. Why are they here? Are they who they claim to be?
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Positive Encounters:

If the group plays their cards right, makes nice, or shows kindness, something good might come their way.

  1. Wandering Merchant. Has only what he can carry and pull in a small cart.
  2. Monks. A small group of monks has been making their way across the land.
  3. Small Barbarian Band: 2d6+ Leader + Shaman. Kind and respectful.
  4. Horses. The group runs across 1d6 wild horses. No idea how they got there.
  5. Good Omen: A hawk circles overhead or some other sign of good fortune. +1 luck bonus on any one roll following seeing whatever it is.
  6. A discarded or abandoned chest containing random non-magical loot.
  7. An abandoned rickshaw or pull cart.
  8. Lost Troubadour. Will trade wine and song for company and safety.
  9. Benevolent Fae. Fairies and/or Brownies, Pixies or other easy going Fae.
  10. Retired Orc Warrior. Has a small homestead and a farm. Friendly.
  11. Someone’s dog. It’s very friendly. Follows the group. Begs for food/water.
  12. Abandoned Satchel. 3d12 Gold, scrolls with correspondence and a treasure map.
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Great News!

However, sometimes this could come with some other news…

  1. Benevolent Dragon! A Dragon with good intent lives nearby.
  2. Humanoid Caravan. 5 wagons looking for more. Looking for civilization.
  3. Magical Shelter. An abandoned magical tent that creates food and water.
  4. Abandoned magical carriage. May need parts or magic to power it.
  5. Shutdown Automaton. Will follow whomever reactivates it.
  6. Civilization! A small village of fewer than 100 beings welcomes the group!
  7. Wizard’s Tower. May or may not still be occupied. There may be loot?
  8. Big, Gentle, Sphinx greets you. He may be of assistance to the intelligent.
  9. A Large Oasis Appears. Edible fruit trees, fresh water, nearby camping space.
  10. Filthy Lucre Mountain! An overturned wagon with loot, possibly magical.
  11. A Ki-Rin descends from the clouds above to check out the party.
  12. An angelic being appears before the group. How can you help one another?

That’s it for this round of d12 tables. Scenarios to be added at a later date. Aquatic and Wasteland tables are also in the works. Oh, and the ever so popular (or dreaded) Dungeon encounters are coming.

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you. Game on!

DCC RPG: Hexcrawling Around.

Your characters are everyday villagers, or maybe even young, budding adventurers in a run of the mill medieval fantasy village of Dunbury Glen. Dark forces have been at work, unseen in the background for years in the quiet farming/fishing village.

Welcome to my thought exercise/solo roleplay hexcrawl to start defining my new campaign world.

Hand drawn. Colored pencils. Starter map. (Already has a coffee stain.)

A Little Background: Your characters are everyday villagers, or maybe even young, budding adventurers in a run of the mill medieval fantasy village of Dunbury Glen. Dark forces have been at work, unseen in the background for years in the quiet farming/fishing village.

Black stone obelisks appeared in the fields and on the river bank. No one knew where they came from or when. It was if some great dark hand planted them during the night while everyone slept.

Then one day, it all changed. In the early dawn hours just before everyone would normally rise to do the daily chores, the entire village and much of the surrounding area was ripped from the very ground and flung across space and dimensions, possibly even time itself.

The PCs at first find themselves waking up to this strange new world. Everything is askew from the village’s abrupt landing in the new environment. Livestock and pets are behaving strangely. Crops somehow look different. We are definitely not in the proverbial kingdom of Kansas any more.

Things are just getting started. There are many questions to answer and ground to explore. We’re just beginning to uncover the mysteries.

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First Step: Dealing with the DCC Character Funnel. The characters’ lives have just been turned upside down when some unseen force wrenched the world that they possibly grew up in out of the ground and planted it millions of miles away. This makes it easy for the characters to have come from almost any walk of life waking up in this new reality.

The first and most obvious mystery will be the swirling dark portal at the center of the town square. It contains a dungeon suitable for 0 Level characters that will unlock part of the mystery regarding what happened to the village. Upon surviving, the characters will receive their 10 XP and First Character Levels.

At the Judge’s discretion, would-be adventurers can face trials and tribulations elsewhere, possibly just running around the village checking on friends and family in the wake of the disaster. All kinds of secrets lie within Dunbury Glen itself, including the “who” and “why” of what happened to the village. Eventually the group may wish to explore the mysteries surrounding the obelisks and assist the village in recovery.

However, the emergency town meeting held by the local baron and the village elders will take precedence over much of the day’s proceedings. The second way to proceed with the Character Funnel will be in the form of volunteers to explore the immediate surroundings outside the village. At first no one will be allowed to travel more than one day (A single hex) in any given direction. A hex will be worth 10 XP regardless of the encounters within, assuming the characters survive.

Please note there are only so many pack animals and mounts available to start. Certainly most horse owners will NOT want to part with their animals. If nothing else, the various animals are still panicky from being moved abruptly by unseen magical forces. The characters will all be on foot to begin their journey.

The third potential character funnel will come in the form of NPCs the characters know asking for help and support in the early days living in the new environment. The village could randomly come under attack from any number of threats, causing the 0 Level characters to come to its aid. The group should be rewarded accordingly in conjunction with their efforts.

Time to break out the 12-Siders.

Step 2: Random Tables and a Map.

To be continued…

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you. Lots more to come.

AD&D, But the “A” is Not What You Think, Part 2

I love D&D 5E. I love all of the editions for different reasons. There are even mechanics in the much maligned 4E that I thought would be interesting to bring back. It begs the question, though- if 5E is so awesome then why is there such a push for OSR? (*Old School Revival.)

Say what you wish about 5E, but its days are coming to an official close in the coming years.

I love D&D 5E. I love all of the editions for different reasons. There are even mechanics in the much maligned 4E that I thought would be interesting to bring back. It begs the question, though- if 5E is so awesome then why is there such a push for OSR? (*Old School Revival.)

I think the easy answer is that the more the game evolves into new editions, the more some of us OGs miss simpler times and familiar record keeping. I know a lot of people in all walks of D&D fandom think it’s all or nothing when it comes to a favorite edition. I’ll talk more about this sometime down the road. My purpose here is not to engage in the infamous Edition Wars, but to see what a mash-up of editions might look like.

When last we left our heroes…

We talked about character creation. Every edition has something to contribute. 4E had a really interesting book that many probably overlooked. The 4E Player’s Strategy Guide was underrated. I forgot to mention it in the previous article, but it really was a good way to bring people into the game.

I thought the 3E/3.5 Dragon Compendium (Paizo) offered up a lot of interesting class options, especially the Savant. This class offered an opportunity to sample all of the main core classes (Cleric, Fighter, Thief, Wizard.)

Equipment:
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The most extensive equipment guide for any edition was probably 3E. I don’t necessarily think every single lantern and wagon wheel needs an entry, but there were some neat pieces of gear and mounts for players to explore.

Armor:
Again, my first choice is 3E/3.5E. There were a lot of variations and piecemeal armor sets. I think with a few minor tweaks, the armor table for amalgam would be complete as a revision of 3.5E.

Weapons:
No surprise here, I’m going with 3.5’s weapons list. No lie, I miss having the exotic weapons in the game, quirky though they were. I also miss all of the Monk and Samurai weapons in the game. Oddly, I would fix the Bastard Sword and Katana back to their 2E glory days. Also, the amalgam weapon list would have to be adjusted to include Weapon Speeds to go with the hybrid initiative system.

Spells:
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Okay, I’m sure the pitchforks and torches are coming out for this. I actually liked the 2nd Ed AD&D spells. Specifically the Priest’s Spell Compendiums and Wizard’s Spell Compendiums. I also enjoyed creating spells in 2nd Ed.

For a bit of added excitement, (and I may have to move to an undisclosed address after this,) I think the 4E casting options work a little better than the old, tired, fire-and-forget spell system. Don’t get me wrong, healing surges can stay dead. I don’t think every spell should be re-castable every round. But wouldn’t it be great to recast spells like, Magic Missile and maybe Fireball more than once per combat without burning slots for Utility Spells? How about Cure Light Wounds?

Certain spells that take more than a turn or two would continue to take some kind of spell slot. Obviously V, S, M components would have to stay in the game unless negated by Feats. I know some of these concepts might be daunting to new players, but I think with time and a little game time experience, it could work. Playtesting might indicate otherwise.

I think some special treatment needs to be given to Clerics’ Turning Undead and Healing. (Again, healing surges are still dead.) While turning should stay a separate ability from spellcasting, what if Clerics or Paladins could burn a spell slot to recover or enhance a turn attempt? Or maybe treat healing like a turning attempt and have some (not ALL) healing be recoverable per round/rest period/day? OR even burn turning to heal more?

Feats are a nice multitool for casters to gain a little advantage with spells. IF/F we altered casting to make some spells re-castable, how to cover things such as casting a low level spell at a higher level? Do we follow the 4E model of every single spell has a table with damage bumps? Burn a higher level slot and scale the damage?

How about changing the die type for damaging spells? So instead of 2d4 Magic Missile damage, we cast it as a 5th level spell and now it does 2d10? But it still recharges… Hmmm.

More dice? Bigger dice? OR both?

More to come. Combat is on my list of things to cover next time. Thank you for being here. I appreciate you.

AD&D, But the “A” is Not What You Think. (Part 1.)

I realize that not everyone is going to see eye-to-eye regarding the “best” elements of each edition. I certainly don’t want to start another round of Edition Wars. Trust me. Nobody wants that. I’m going to put out my opinion and if you have a better take on it, great.

How about “Amalgam” Dungeons & Dragons?

I was recently listening to Table Top Taproom you YouTube. Tom wasn’t engaging in Edition Wars, but he was talking about the various editions of the game over the years and his experiences with them. It got me thinking. What if we merged the best parts of all editions?

Now, I realize that not everyone is going to see eye-to-eye regarding the “best” elements of each edition. I certainly don’t want to start another round of Edition Wars. Trust me. Nobody wants that. I’m going to put out my opinion and if you have a better take on it, great.

I’m going to list various key elements from the game and which edition they would best come from (in my opinion)

Attribute Generation: AD&D 1E. So many diverse options! You almost always had stats that were super happy. Unearthed Arcana- love that book so much. We could even relabel the methods to make them sound more exciting and modern. I.E. 3d6 in order is now Hardcore, 4d6 drop the lowest is now Standard. Reroll 1’s is now Gentle and so on.

Races: I feel like they’re all the right answer here. 5E had the most amazingly diverse selection of any game. Oddly enough, the races resembling those in World of Warcraft is kind of a fun idea. [Actually a 3.5E Setting Sourcebook from Sword & Sorcery/Arthaus/(White Wolf.)] The only things I think should be avoided are attribute penalties and races as classes (As in Basic or B/X.)

I know races have become a touchy subject in the community and I don’t want to specifically point out any keepers or omissions. I think there needs to be a lot of leeway for the DM and the setting writers to include or exclude whatever they see fit. Personally, I have about a dozen I would recommend and I’ll work with just about anything after that. I believe WotC has some other ideas they’re going to implement down the road.

Classes: Okay, this is actually a tough call. Honestly, my favorite version is the Player’s Option: Skills & Powers in AD&D 2E. However, point buy doesn’t work for everyone- especially new players. So in to remedy this, I would recommend a return to AD&D 2E with Kits. New to the game? Here’s your basic class.

I know there are D&D fans who would probably pillory me for suggesting that insanity, but there’s a method to my madness. The beauty of Kits was the ability to plug-n-play character options. Samurai? Make a Warrior, add Samurai. Benefits are always an upward gain on top of the class. Very few penalties/adjustments to the base class. Good times.

I would also go so far as to roll in the Sage, the Shaman, and the Warlock as either base classes or sample builds in the PHB. For pretty much everything else there are kits. Of course, sourcebooks and 3rd party supplements would expand the base class list. Artificer, Blood Hunter and Gunslinger are floating around out there, too. Psionics are always a hot topic in any edition. (I still have nightmares from 1E AD&D psionics…)

I think it would also be fun to really dig into classes such as Monk. Let them create their own martial arts options/maneuvers from a menu as they progress. Give them weapon katas outside of the usual martial arts d6 damage salad.

The things to be avoided here would be any return to Prestige Classes, Epic Tier Classes, etc. I’m also not a big fan of Subclasses, although it’s pretty much what Kits are. The only noticeable difference between Kits and 5E subclasses are that Kits only modify the base class. Subclasses are a branch choice that alters everything about the character thereafter.

Advancement: I’ve always been an Experience Point guy. Milestones work, too. Honestly it’s not a big deal to me. Do what works for you and your group.

The main reason I mention advancement is because we have the issue of attribute gains and/or Feats. Feats are a sticky wicket. I like the 5E choice of attribute gain OR a Feat. I feel like Feats overwhelmed the game in 3rd/3.5E. They’re a great game mechanic in moderation.

I also think +1/+1 Attribute bonuses or +1/Feat every other level would be pretty okay. I like it when the players have something to look forward to at pretty much each level. Otherwise TTRPGs suffer the same fate as MMOs where some levels feel very grindy. Like, why bother? Maybe it’s time to spread the level bonuses a bit more evenly?

Skills: Here’s where we turn the entire thing sideways. I like 5E for skills. The only exception to class building is Rogue/Thief skills. Everyone gets access to Stealth. Overall skill advancement would work the same as 5E. Less record keeping is better.

Weapon Skills: My craziness continues. Any character may pick ONE weapon of choice and earn a +1 To Hit with said weapon. However, Fighters/Warriors get Mastery. This would track with Proficiency bonus. +1/+1 at first level. The rest of this mirrors the weapon mastery from Basic D&D including additional attacks. Now fighters are a really awesome character choice.

I also think allowing fighters to choose a fighting style early on would be of great benefit to the class. Sort of similar to the way 5E has it. You can be a sword and board tanky type, a great 2H weapon fighter, dual wield dps like a champ, a polearm warrior, or possibly a generalist soldier/commander.

Rangers would probably get to keep their free dual wield, but it wouldn’t be as amazing as the Fighter version. Feats would modify the varying degrees/forms of weapon mastery.

Feats: Okay, I picture rabid players showing up at my door with torches and pitchforks. I would actually espouse the idea of allowing an extensively edited version of 3.5E feats. There are some pretty worthwhile feats that have been since removed that I’m sure many of us would like to see again.

Again, not trying to restart the Edition Wars. Your mileage may vary with this homebrew. I’ll continue the rest of the conceptualizing in the next article. It’s a lot to wrap my head around. I’ve also realized while reading back through this that much of what I’m talking about sounds similar to Pathfinder. We may be exploring that further down the road, too.

Thanks for stopping by. Have a great day! I appreciate you.

On Turning 50.

Today’s the day.

Wow. I’m not sure I ever thought I’d make it this far. Half a century ago, Donna Craigmile gave birth to a bouncing baby boy ahead of schedule. Somehow I survived.

Here I am, 50 years later. I often ponder how my dad felt when he was this age. I probably should have asked him at the time. Alas, I was a rebellious teenager. Always arguing with the old man about something. I didn’t appreciate what he went through until long after his passing.

Some things haven’t changed much, oddly.

Back when I was 10, I was introduced to tabletop roleplaying games in the form of Marvel Superheroes and Dungeons & Dragons. I was totally hooked. I still am to this day. I have a lot of treasured, beloved memories of those games and many since.

Along with D&D and comic books, came my love of all things strange. I mean, I was already kind of an outcast amongst my peers in a small Iowa town. I wasn’t terribly athletic or interested in sports. (Sorry, Dad.) May as well read the National Enquirer and learn about aliens, demons, and bigfoot, right? Ah. Good times.

I think my love for Star Wars really got the whole ball rolling.

I plum lost my marbles when the original Star Wars RPG was released. That game is still like a second language to me. I’ve logged an insane number of hours creating starships, droids, races, characters, and so many other things for that one RPG.

Before roleplaying was my love of Star Wars action figures. We didn’t have tons of money back in those days, but I still managed to have a fairly okay toy collection. Spaceships and aliens were really my thing then and now. And the whole Jedi thing is cool, too. Plus Boba Fett, because back then he was a Star Wars icon.

From Star Wars fandom to RPGs, my interest in many other things blossomed. Science fiction, fantasy, and horror were my mainstream escapes growing up. Somewhere in there I also learned a little about Zen Buddhism and meditation. I also developed an interest in the paranormal and psychic phenomena.

Then college happened.

I started out as a Theatre/Speech major with a minor in Journalism/Mass Communications. Acting- Star Wars again. Journalism because I shadowed a reporter for the local newspaper when I was in Eighth Grade and thought it was pretty cool.

I bounced around majors a LOT back in those days. I had fallen in love with Sociology in college. Sociology + Theatre + Writing = RPGs. But I also tinkered with my major repeatedly and considered becoming an Alcohol/Drug Abuse counselor, a History teacher, a parapsychologist, and a Public Relations specialist. I ended going back to Journalism/Sociology. Theatre is awesome, but in the end most of us end up eloquently asking, “Do you wish to have fries with that?”

Good times were had in college.

I got to work in a game shop, Mayhem Collectibles. Truthfully one of the best times of my life. I wish I had been a better employee back in those days, but I was a dumb kid. What did I know, right? Gotta learn sometime, I guess. Thanks Rob and Dave for giving me a chance. You guys rocked!

I also discovered even more RPG experiences, and wargaming. I even did LARP for a while. I met so many awesome people and had so much fun gaming back then. It eventually led to me meeting my wife, Heather at a convention.

She came back to Ames and found me at my all time lowest some years later. She sorta rescued me and brought me to Des Moines. She divorced my former best friend. (Messy, ugly story.) We eventually started dating again and low and behold we ended up married.

About 16 years flew by after the wedding.

I’d be lying if I said I remembered all of it. I’ve had different jobs. For a while there, I ate, slept, worked, played World of Warcraft and raised babies. I love the life I have now, but there are definitely some gaps where nothing seemingly nothing happened between then and now.

About seven years ago, not long after my fourth son was born, I really got into Ufology again. That led to a major spiritual awakening. Then things got really weird.

For a brief time, I almost did the unthinkable.

Yeah. I nearly gave up on all of it. RPGs, science fiction, movies, TV, non-spiritual books, almost everything nearly went by the wayside. It really mellowed me out. I’ve learned to love the connectedness amongst us all.

I have a bit of an obsessive personality (disorder?) which led me into a deep dive down many rabbit holes. Some of those things weren’t bunnies, either. Turns out some of the stuff written in the National Enquirer back then actually had a basis in fact. Like, some of that sh*t is real!

I have to thank Dr Steven Greer for getting me interested in meditation again. That drew me further into spirituality. I’m one of those wacky “New Age” kids, I guess. I don’t do organized religion, so we have to call it something.

I also want to again thank Laura DiBenedetto for being my self-growth, self improvement seifu. I don’t know what I’d have done without her exactly. Oddly enough, my obsession with Law of Attraction led me to her. It’s all one big cycle.

I have to thank the entity known as Añjali as much as it pains me to do so. If it weren’t for the debacle caused by her sham event and false extraterrestrial contact, I might not have gotten back into RPGs at all. It’s not that I’ve given up on Ufology, ETs, extradimensional beings, spirituality or the paranormal. I’m just a LOT more skeptical of certain sources because Ufology is a rat’s nest of government spooks and black budget special interest corporate operators.

So, here we are now.

I plan to out live other men in my family. The death clock starts ticking pretty loudly at about 65 in my family. My goal is 100. Guess we’ll find out when I get there where the end was supposed to be.

I love you all, family. Thanks for being here. I appreciate you every day. Please be kind to one another. See ya tomorrow.



The “Zord Alone Project” for Power Rangers RPG.

That’s where things went wrong, horribly wrong. The Triumvirate was quick to take advantage of the situation, mind controlling the pilot and and sending the Zord on a rampage in Bennett’s Cove.

Inspired by their first encounter with the Rangers, the US Army decides to build their own Zord, and create a Power Ranger to pilot it.

Only neither is actually connected to the Morphing Grid. That’s where things went wrong, horribly wrong. The Triumvirate was quick to take advantage of the situation, mind controlling the pilot and and sending the Zord on a rampage in Bennett’s Cove.

Resilient THREAT LEVEL: 14
SIZE: Extended II/Extended II/Gigantic | HEALTH: 25
STRENGTH 15 | SPEED 15 | SMARTS *2 | SOCIAL *2
TOUGHNESS: 28 (4 Armor) | EVASION: 25
WILLPOWER: *12 | CLEVERNESS: *12
GROUND MOVEMENT: 50 ft. | FLY: 80 ft. | RUN: 40 ft.
SKILLS:
Might +d12
Brawn +d12
Initiative: +d8
Targeting (*Main Gun): +d12
Finesse (Power Sword) +d10
Alertness: +d4
Intimidation +d4
Languages: Putty, English

PERKS:
Triple Changer: Tank/Jet/Soldier

ATTACKS:

Main Gun: (Targeting, 5x/scene): +d12*, Range 40/200 ft. (Evasion, 3 Explosive, Area, 15′ radius, Fire Damage)

Missiles: (Targeting, 2x/scene) +d12, Range 50/120 ft., Area of Effect 20’ x 20’. Effect: 3 Energy Damage.

Secondary Energy Cannons: +d12, Range 30/100ft; (Evasion, 2 Energy) 2 attacks per round OR 1 attack + Main Gun/Missiles.

Power Sword: +1d10, Reach, Toughness, 3 Energy Damage.

POWERS:
Tank Mode/Jet Mode/Soldier Mode.
Self Activated. Limited autopilot capabilities. (+d8* Piloting, Zord) Capable of defending itself and following orders if pilot is not present/unconscious.
Not attached to the Morphing Grid.


Hang-Ups:
Must shut down for cooling after 60 minutes of use or it will explode!
Hangar Queen. Requires a lot of maintenance.
Not Really a Zord. Not linked to the Morphin Grid. Not actually sentient.
Nuclear Core. Can only be shut down from small engineering compartment behind the pilot seat. If not cooled and maintained, it will explode in a nuclear blast. 5 mile primary blast, 10 Mile secondary blast. 50 additional miles fallout damage.

For those unfamiliar, this Threat has inspiration from two sources.

The first is Blitzwing, the triple changer Decepticon from Transformers. He fits with the military theme and I’ve always liked the character. He’s a bad guy and just a little schizophrenic.

The other inspiration and the name was derived from one of my favorite episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion. This probably won’t be the last Evangelion reference I will do. I’ve always liked the angels from that series.

This Threat was inspired by the Jet Alone Project, which as a rival’s attempt to compete with Nerv by building their own EVA. Of course the whole thing backfired and Misato ended up inside the robot shutting it down before it went supernova.


Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you! Happy gaming.

The Minions of the Werewolf Lord DCC RPG

What would the Werewolf Lord be like? What would his minions be like? Why wouldn’t there be a natural Wolf Lord?

There is mention of a Werewolf Lord on Page 123 of the DCC Annual Number One.

It got me thinking, what would such a creature be like? What would his minions be like? Why wouldn’t there be a natural Wolf Lord?

Werewolf by Seda YAZICI is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0

Werewolf, Dire: Init +7; Atk bite +8 melee (1d8+2,) claw (1d6); AC 16; HD 2d6 +2; MV 40’;Infravision 100′; Act 1d24 + 1d20; SV Fort +6, Ref +6, Will +5; AL C. The beast’s mystical nature reduces the damage of all blows against it by 5 points, save those of magic, Silver, and Wolfsbane.

Werewolf Mage: Init +2; Atk Claw +5 (1d6) or harmful spell (see below); AC 12; HD 3d4 +3; MV 40’; Act 1d24 + 1d20; SP prestidigitation, harmful spell 3/day; SV Fort +1, Ref +1, Will +4; AL C. The beast’s mystical nature reduces the damage of all blows against it by 5 points, save those of magic, Silver, and Wolfsbane.

Dire Werewolf Fighter: Init +3; Atk axe +2 melee (1d6) Claw +2 melee (1d6); AC 16; HD 1d8+1; MV 25’; Act 1d24 + 1d20; SV Fort +4, Ref +4, Will +3; AL C. The beast’s mystical nature reduces the damage of all blows against it by 5 points, save those of magic, Silver, and Wolfsbane.

Demon Wolf (Type II Demon): Size: Large; Init +5; Atk bite +6 melee (2d6+2) Victims bitten by demon wolves must make a Fort Save DC 14 or become afflicted with the curse of lycanthropy. A new save is made each time the creature does damage; AC 14; HD 4d6; MV 40’; Act 1d20; SV Fort +4, Ref +4, Will +3; AL C.

The Demon Wolf servants of the Werewolf Lord are larger than average wolves with thick black fur, red eyes and sabretooth fangs. Their bite carries the curse of lycanthropy. Usually found in packs of 2d6 with one alpha. (Alpha gains +1 Init, +1, +1 Atk, +1 HD, 1d24 Act, +1 all saves.

These horrible minions and more will be pursuing our heroes after their visit to The Catacomb of the Wolf Lord.

Made for Dungeon Crawl Classics.

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you! The conclusion of my short dungeon crawl, Catacomb of the Wolf Lord will be wrapping up soon featuring some of the monsters mentioned above. Happy gaming!

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