The Treasure Trove Known as Polyhedron Magazine.

A good number of writers aspired to work for Dragon magazine back in the old days. One of the best and at that time only ways to really break into the RPG industry as a writer was to get published in Dragon or possibly Dungeon. It definitely looked great on one’s resume back then. An RPGA membership and writing credit in Polyhedron was a good foot in the door.

If you love #ttrpg I highly recommend looking it up.

I still have most of my print copies of the magazine around here. I loved Polyhedron and the Role Playing Game Association up into the Wizards of the Coast years. Here is a link to the Internet Archives. These magazines are part of gaming history alone with a veritable treasure trove of articles on a wide range of RPG topics.

Fair warning: you do have to slog through some of the RPGA bunk such as tournament results and specific club related articles. The ads are nostalgic T$R. A lot of the modules and tournaments are still useable in D&D today with just a bit of conversion. Some of the company’s best writers sidelined in Poly at different times.

Polyhedron was sort of the farm team for Dragon and Dungeon magazines.

A good number of writers aspired to work for Dragon magazine back in the old days. One of the best and at that time only ways to really break into the RPG industry as a writer was to get published in Dragon or possibly Dungeon. It definitely looked great on one’s resume back then. An RPGA membership and writing credit in Polyhedron was a good foot in the door.

I sat in on a number of writer’s workshops when I went to Gen Con many, many years ago. One of my first questions was always, “Where is the best place to start?” I took a lot of notes. I also met a lot of cool notables in the industry.

I was also fortunate enough to share a table with some of the RPGA notables at a few local conventions. Jim and Tom both gave me a lot of great advice on running a convention game and specifically running RPGA tournament modules. Those were truly good times.

Side note: If you have never been to a convention, I highly recommend trying it at least once. Not only do you meet a wider variety of players and game masters, but you get to occasionally bump into some big names in the industry. You also get to try out all kinds of neat games! 

Nowadays, WotC isn't the only company in the industry with big names in RPG design. Actual Play podcasters and notables also occasionally make con appearances. Either online on in-person, conventions are usually worth the price of admission, even for a day. Don't forget to visit the vendor's room.

The RPGA used to welcome tournament submissions from a wider variety of games than just D&D.

In case anyone wonders, I always type it out as T$R to honor this old logo. It’s a dragon, not a dollar sign.

Before WotC got ahold of T$R, the RPGA used to cater to a wider variety of games than just D&D. Much like Dragon, Polyhedron dwindled down slowly over the years from a variety of games ranging from D&D all the way through Marvel Super Heroes, Star Wars (West End,) Star Frontiers, Battletech, Gamma World, and Boot Hill. Top Secret S.I. and some other T$R properties were on the list. There were also some broad-ranging articles that could apply to any system.

I ran RPGA sanctioned Cyberpunk and Star Wars events at a convention. Back in those days, the industry was a great deal less competitive than it is now. Even though not everything was a T$R product, many were welcomed to the table in the name of camaraderie, fun, and role playing.

Sad to say I miss the magazine more than the organization.

It’s also why I don’t participate in the 5E Adventurers’ League, aside from some of the DM horror stories I hear about their content. The RPGA was always a bit too full of itself. It also had the tendency to bring out a real ugly side of people when it came to points, loot, and social status. I just want to run a fun game then and now.

After WotC took over, as you may have surmised by now, Polyhedron and Dragon became strictly current edition D&D. The ads were all aimed at D&D and other WotC products for the most part. Toward the very end, everything was just another promotion for the latest D&D product. I say this with all the love in the world: There are other games out there besides D&D.

Online/PDF ‘zines just don’t have the same look and feel to them for some reason.

Hey, my heart goes out to anyone producing an online PDF or other format magazine these days. It’s not like back when Polyhedron was huge and there was no Internet or professional trade publications to really compete with. I collected a few fanzines back in those days, but none came close to T$R quality.

The look was what we now think of as OSR. Mostly black and white artwork, reasonably cheap printing, and works of love by fans; some of whom happened to be T$R staffers. There was also an air of discovery. Tons of blogs and articles cover the same topics that originally appeared in those early ‘zines from “How to run a fun game,” to “What to do when D&D combat gets stale.” These types of articles are commonplace now.

So many resources that we take for granted now just weren’t available back then. There’s no need for a D&D trade magazine now. That goes for Dragon and Polyhedron. We also have lots of apps and sites such as Patreon to fill the same niches from various indie creators for about the same price we used to pay back in the day.

Would it fly now?

I’d have to say it’s unlikely. Even if it were an email newsletter or website, a ‘zine dedicated strictly to articles about D&D and related WotC content just doesn’t have the same appeal. With One D&D and the new VTT D&D Beyond coming, I feel like ‘zine style content is going to be more on the decline.

Now, that’s not to say a more generic fanzines or Gongfarmer’s Almanac, the Dungeon Crawl Classics (Unofficial) ‘zine don’t sell. There are fanzines likewise dedicated to OSR content all over the web that seem to be doing okay.

WIth approximately 50 million or more RPG fans in the world, I’d say the interest might still be there. If someone could pull together OGL content from a variety of sources and combine it with some general articles, fiction, and maybe some comic strips, it might do okay. But it will never have the official support that T$R and WotC gave to Polyhedron. Having really the only official club in the industry makes a bit of difference.

Lots of love to anyone who tries it, though. Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you. Game on.

Hobbyist vs “Professional?”

I still can’t believe we’re doing this. It truly makes me ill. I haven’t been this traumatized by an argument since World of Warcraft players were crying “Casuals are ruining the game!”

RPG Family, are we really doing this? Seriously?

This whole discussion is why I take meds. It’s as if Imposter Syndrome weren’t bad enough. It’s royally pissing me off. Seriously, it should come with a unique Trigger Warning.

Disclaimer: Statements expressed in this article are strictly my opinion. If you disagree or have a different opinion, that’s okay. I’m not an expert on everything. I’m not always right. I’m just writing from my experience as I know it. Your mileage may vary.

*TRIGGER WARNING* 
This entire debate is stupid, unproductive, divisive and generally fails out loud. Only consume in small quantities. Has been known to cause seizures in Old Grognards. It's right up there with the old MMORPG saying of "Get better, NOOB!" Jeff is not responsible for any brain damage caused by this debate. You were warned. 

Let’s define “Hobbyist” first.

I still can’t believe we’re doing this. It truly makes me ill. I haven’t been this traumatized by an argument since World of Warcraft players were crying “Casuals are ruining the game!”

Sigh… A Hobbyist in the TableTop Role Playing Game sphere is defined as someone who creates mostly free content. It’s part of the ttrpg experience. It’s what a GM/DM/Judge does for their campaign every day, every game session. New creatures, magic items, characters, cities, maps, dungeons, adventures, and so on are all a GM’s bread-n-butter as part of the hobby/game. It’s what we do!

The same can be said for Twitch streamers, YouTubers, Actual Play podcasters before they’re monetized. Artists, too. Sometimes people sketch their character. Some GMs sketch their monsters. We all have to start somewhere.

I use Bitmoji for my website. I would never *sell* anything with my Bitmoji on it. Ethically it’s a bit sketchy to do that. Legally, it could potentially cause a lot of trouble. This is similar to the arguments revolving around AI art right now.

I would like to point out a couple of Hobbyists that created this game called Dungeons & Dragons. T$R, the original company who produced D&D, was started when Mr Gygax and Mr Arneson got together with some friends and turned their hobby game into a money-making endeavor.

People are forgetting THE WHOLE DAMN INDUSTRY STARTED OUT AS SOMEONE’S HOBBY!!!

Yes, I use Bitmoji and stock photos on this site. Probably because my own art is mediocre at best and I know it.

There’s a monomolecular wire thin line between Hobbyist and Professional. Let’s talk about Pros.

Sorry, family. We all know how I feel about perfeshunalz. Sorry, Professionals. It’s a lot of things I don’t readily identify with because I’m pretty laid back. Yay, money. Boo snobby, pretentious, gatekeeping crap.

We’ll define “Professional” as someone who makes a living in the TTRPG space. They create games. They sell games.

The title likewise applies to the myriad of artists, editors, layout experts, and others who contribute to the TTRPG industry for a paycheck. Technically, if one has sold a PDF product on DriveThruRPG or Itch.io, they should be considered an RPG industry professional.

Professional is also an attitude. After some folx start making serious money selling their TTRPG products start looking down on the rest of us. Suddenly there seems to be some kind of competitive rivalry with anyone looking to break into the industry. It’s like people are afraid new writers are going to cut in on their bread and butter.

Where I become annoyed or even enraged:

Gatekeeping in the TTRPG sphere is not a new phenomenon. I’ve been personally seeing it in the RPG industry since 1988-ish. I once made the mistake of sending a letter (via snail mail, kids) to Dragon Magazine asking how to become a “professional game designer.”

The gist of what the editor told me was “Come back when you’ve been published elsewhere in the industry, kid.”

Yeah… 16 year old me was almost discouraged for life at that stage. Luckily, I’ve had plenty of teachers, friends, and even professional game writers tell me I’ve got potential.

Back in the 1980’s and 90’s, breaking into the industry was considerably harder than it is now. Now all I have to do is publish an adventure on DriveThruRPG or similar PDF sites. I have to make sure all the legalese is included and pay the artist if I have one. It’s not terribly hard.

Back in the day it was either sweat it out to hope to maybe get published by a major company or start one’s own. I dare say old T$R was indirectly responsible for starting several game companies. Those other companies were started because other writers had a plan and a dream that almost got shut down by professional gatekeepers.

Please forgive me if I rage on social media about this.

I love creators of all sizes when it comes to TTRPGs. It’s been my hobby and joy for 40+ years. I dream of having publishing credentials in the RPG field. I’ve only been on this quest since I was a starry-eyed nerd in a small Iowa town with my gaming books and legal pads.

I recently saw someone who used to work for Wizards of the Coast and is now in a similar position for another creator talking mad crap about us “casual hobbyists.” I won’t name and shame on my blog. Needless to say, I’m pissed.

Okay, I’m not working for Matt Colville or Matt Mercer. It doesn’t mean I’m not important. It doesn’t make me less of a creator. It sure as Hell doesn’t mean professionals are any better than the rest of us.

Yes, please be proud of your own accomplishments. Yes, love yourself. I never begrudge anyone for doing well. Don’t we all want to do what we love all day? Don’t we ALL want joy in our lives?

But, don’t shit all over the “hobbyists” who buy those products y’all produce. Don’t tread on the people who got you where are are today. And stop treating anyone trying to break into the industry as competition. There’s enough room for us all.

End rant for now. I’ll say it again when it comes to gatekeeping: Just. F*ckin. DON’T!!!

Thank you for hearing me out. I appreciate you being here. Game on. More tomorrow.

Where 5E of the World’s Most Famous RPG Loses Me. Part 2

Maybe you (Wizards) have overlooked the demographic of the 30+ year old gamers, many of whom were around for the older editions. Yes, it’s extremely important to continue to bring new players into the game. However, it’s also important to have people who want to be a DM. Some of us old guys are perfect in that role. Teaching younger generations is something we (“Old Grognards”) very good at.

Open Letter to Wizards of the Coast,

Thank you for coming back. Yesterday I discussed that the current edition of the game has become very player oriented. The Dungeon Master is slowly being pushed out of the process. Anemic creatures, the death of experience points, and a solid lack of encounter building guidelines combined with the official over-buffing of Player Characters is pushing long time DMs away and discouraging people from wanting to DM.

“Just wing it” worked in the early days of the game. Dumping everything in the DM’s lap was fine then when the game was in its fledgling state back in the 1970’s. One D&D is supposedly aimed at getting rid of the concept of editions. Yet, you (Wizards) have seem to have completely forgotten everything before Third Edition. I don’t think it’s a coincidence and it’s the reason why a lot of us “Old Grognards” have gone back to the Old School Renaissance which (no surprise) is based on Basic, B/X, BECMI, 1st Ed AD&D, and 2nd Ed AD&D.

Maybe you (Wizards) have overlooked the demographic of the 30+ year old gamers, many of whom were around for the older editions. Yes, it’s extremely important to continue to bring new players into the game. However, it’s also important to have people who want to be a DM. Some of us old guys are perfect in that role. Teaching younger generations is something we (“Old Grognards”) very good at.

Wizards, you’re growing to the point where you’re forgetting the name of the game. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is the name of the game. So, why are you getting to a point where there are practically no DUNGEONS and the DRAGONS are toothless and weak? But that’s okay, because players have tons of options

Seriously, it’s as if we’re talking about two completely different games now. There’s good old D&D with monsters to fight and underground complexes to explore. There are magical treasures to be found! You can slay monsters, explore forgotten pyramids, and gain fortunes.

Then there’s this kind of weird, overly dramatic, almost completely character focused “game” we see on Critical Role. It’s almost as if it’s scripted. As I stated in Part 1 of this article, if I wanted to watch drama? I wouldn’t be a DM. I’d watch TV, movies or read a book. This newer, evolved version of D&D is more like acting class with some dice.

D&D came from a time when we didn’t have computer games, cell phones, tablets, or an Internet to play games on. I see where One D&D is heading. Virtual Table Top (VTT) gaming is the wave of the future. That’s great. Connecting people via the Internet is a good thing. PDF books, cell phone apps, and conference call D&D became a way of life in 2020 and continues today. Great.

But please remember the origins of D&D. No electrical components needed. It’s about books, dice, pencils and paper. This hobby was born from miniatures wargaming. The original creators of D&D did not have cameras aimed at them while they were playing the game.

People play D&D on camping trips. People play together in person in their parents’ basements, in the back of the Friendly Local Game Stores, and in classrooms. That’s not going away, especially with families of older gamers bringing their kids and students into the game. Please remember the rest of your audience?

Sorry, I know this was kind of a long rant. Thank you for being here and bearing with me. I’m going to put out a Part 3 to this series of articles, but more from my own perspective and my own benefit. I appreciate you. Thank you!

Where 5E of the World’s Most Famous RPG Loses Me.

Dear Wizards of the Coast,
Okay, I’m one of thousands of Dungeon Masters who have experienced A LOT of frustration with 5E. I know your new not-an-edition is coming out and you’re looking for feedback. I don’t think you’re asking the right questions.

An Open Letter to Wizards of the Coast,


Okay, I’m one of thousands of Dungeon Masters who have experienced A LOT of frustration with 5E. I know your new not-an-edition is coming out and you’re looking for feedback. I don’t think you’re asking the right questions.

From Day 1 of owning 5E, I’ve wondered where the rules for creating fair and challenging encounters are. The Dungeon Master’s Guide failed us in that regard. Other roleplaying games and other editions of D&D had mechanics that get it done. Why wouldn’t I play those instead?

This is also why I think so many DMs have switched to Milestones as the preferred method of character leveling. Experience points seem to be dying as a concept. Other games and editions still use XP.

A lack of effective encounter creation guidelines is accompanied by the rather anemic Monster Manual. Why do you think there are so many monster books on DriveThruRPG.com/DMsGuild.com? It’s because many of the basic core monsters are easily overcome at low levels.

This leads to another problem. Why do most campaigns seem to drop off at about 10th Level? Could it be there just aren’t a lot of good challenges at higher levels? Many DMs are just plain frustrated with the higher end of the game.

Let’s talk about what I feel is the most basic issue in the game as of 2022. The D&D game has become too player-oriented. The DM, that person running the game? Has been completely overlooked. And from what I hear about One D&D so far, it’s only going to get worse.

Don’t worry about new DM’s right now. Worry about retaining people who want to be a DM at all! If you don’t have people wanting to run the game, it’s going to fall apart. Yes, thank you for bringing more players into the game. Now focus on DMs a bit more, please?

Players are constantly seeing character buffs and very beneficial class revisions. That’s great for the players. Please bear in mind, this is not about the DM having an adversarial relationship with the players. It’s about the DM having the ability to challenge powerful character builds with monsters, otherwise the game devolves into a game of one upmanship among the players.

If I just want to watch characters banter among themselves, I’d watch TV or read a book. Yay plot! Yay description! I love telling great stories, but we’re starting to lose the game part of roleplaying game. I don’t need to be a DM just to give a few prompts for the characters to play off-of. Why have game stats at all?

As this letter is getting rather long, please see Part 2 of this article. Thank you! I appreciate you stopping by. You rock! Game on.

Backgrounds in Fantasy RPGs

Seriously, too much background story is a lot of reading, however interesting, for GMs who usually have a lot on their plate already. Personally, I find anything much beyond three standard typed pages to be overkill. Other GMs might see this differently.

The comment in question specifically referred to D&D, but I think we can broaden it to all fantasy RPGs in general.

I personally love it when players take the time somewhere in the first session or two to provide me with some kind of background on their character. I realize some games have a basic background generator built into them. (Notably 5E and W.O.I.N.)

Dungeon Crawl Classics has its infamous 0-Level funnel wherein the PCs are considered peasants who decided to take up the life of adventuring and miraculously survived long enough reach an actual character class. Unfortunately, the town is now missing its butcher, candlestick maker, haberdasher, and about a dozen other peasants who went down into some scary hole in the ground and never returned. Some background of the surviving actual characters is already built in. That poor, poor village, though.

Whether it provides a statistical advantage or free item, it should still be worth creating a background.

Every character in books, theatre, TV, or movies has to start somewhere. True, Peasant #3 in the background of the bar scene probably lives out his entire life in those ten minutes, but he still might have had a cool backstory. If the group actually took a minute out to talk to him, they might even learn something. Maybe not even relevant to the plot, but… can’t win em all.

I know a lot of games are trying to coax players into coming up with more elaborate backgrounds with all kinds of rewards. Everything from skill boosts to items, even magic items can be awarded depending on the system and whether or not the GM thinks the player did enough. I’m even somewhat guilty of this. I’ve handed out Experience points for anything over half a page but fewer than three pages. I’ve also given out minor trinkets or even masterwork/low end magic items for a well-written, well thought out background. I like to have something to work with as much as any GM does.

Photo by Kevin Bidwell on Pexels.com

Plenty of resources to help players generate that background.

One of the best backstory generators ever made.

My all time favorite books for generating character backgrounds are Central Casting: Heroes of Legend. (Also Heroes Now! and Heroes for Tomorrow.) A quick search of DriveThruRPG gave thousands of options for fantasy character backgrounds. A quick Google search of fantasy character backstory generator listed several hundred more options, many of which were free.

Even the often maligned 1st Edition AD&D Unearthed Arcana had something of a background generator vaguely sandwiched into it. 3E D&D had the Hero Builder’s Guidebook which contained a very nice background generator. One of my absolute favorite 4th Ed D&D books, the Player’s Strategy Guide also had some great tools for building a backstory. These are all very helpful if you can find them.

Players: Please don’t write a novel about the character?

Lovingly submitted, your GM. Seriously, too much background story is a lot of reading, however interesting, for GMs who usually have a lot on their plate already. Personally, I find anything much beyond three standard typed pages to be overkill. Other GMs might see this differently.

It’s good to give the character some depth of personality. Reason and motivations that have helped shape the way the character acts in certain situations are good for roleplay. Not every character has to be suitable for television or movie drama. Too much background might make it look as if the character should already be 5th level and have some really decent magic items.

On the other side of this, I always ask players for at least a half page (even hand written) of background for their characters. I know there are plenty of minimalists and adult players with other commitments. I understand having a busy schedule. But, half a page? C’mon. Three key lines. I’m not picky.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Here’s an example:

Bronk, Half Orc Fighter:
Bronk was born to a family of peasant sharecroppers who were very poor. Father was an Orc cast out of his traditional Orc clan and went to live with mom’s Human village. Bronk heard many tales from adventurers at the pub and thought adventuring would bring him more gold than farming and help his family.

Count it! Now we know a little about the character, who/what is important to him, and why he started adventuring. Not overly dramatic. No distinct character advantages written in. Manageable in less than 5 minutes.

Score! 500 XP for the character and inherits dad’s old leather armor and gets to keep his trusty farm ax to help him on his was courtesy of a grateful GM. Nothing freaky. No angst for anyone. Easy.

One of the new, great ongoing Internet debates.

Thank all of the gods, not another D&D edition war. (Although it’s probably coming.) One of the new Twit-ragers is going to be Backstories: Are they necessary? I know I’ve already seen some shameful examples of this, not to name any names.

There are two main camps of (mostly) D&D players on this one. Either you’re big on the newer editions and think backgrounds are an absolute must-have OR you’re totally old school and think backstory is something that might happen later if you absolutely must.

I’ve done it both ways over the years and seen it used, mistreated, and even abused in the past. Modern-ish D&D is systemically built about more drama and depth of character. Looking back and 2E and older, we were happy if the character survived long enough to warrant putting a last name on the their line.

Heck, I remember a time when physical description was asking a lot. Wouldn’t matter much if the character fell 30′ into a dungeon’s giant meat grinder. Alas, poor Dave Number 3 we knew him for one hour. Oh, look it’s Dave Number 4 coming around the corner with fresh rations and torches. Yay!

Now we have all kinds of Death Saves, healing and other second through fourth chances short of bribing the DM. (I accept bribes, or more like Faustian bargains, but at least your character gets to live.) 5th Ed has built up the notion that story comes before statistics. Do kids even have characters wander into dungeons any more in D&D?

Hopefully this has provided a little amusement. More on the story of backstories to come someday. Thanks for stopping by. Please be good to one another.

It’s Freedom Day, 14 Months In.

There’s a few other minor tidbits to share. I find myself constantly burned out on depression. The only thing more disappointing than my career aspirations is the lack of funds in my wallet. (LOL!)

My monthly personal share. This month I learned…

New psychiatrists ask a LOT of questions. New to me, not new to the profession. He’s a nice guy, though. Hopefully I’ll stick with seeing him. Or he’ll want me to? However that works.

There’s a few other minor tidbits to share. I find myself constantly burned out on depression. The only thing more disappointing than my career aspirations is the lack of funds in my wallet. (LOL!) I’ve even been staving off writer’s block and I never thought that was possible. Finally, summer vacations are nice for the teachers and kids but school starting is priceless when I’m home all alone with just the cats.

Nemo (Left) and Snoopy (Right) just snuggled up on the couch.

I’m looking for positives here.

“Pain. All I know is pain.”
Pain Bot- Teen Titans Go!

I wake up in pain every morning. I go to bed in pain every night. Somewhere in the middle, there are a lot of ups and downs. Usually pain, too.

Anybody who tries to convince me I stupidly chose this? Is probably crazier than people accuse me of being. Oh, I hear plenty of “It’s all in your head,” and “You’re making it all up,” from doctors and nurses who I thought were supposed to be helping me. Well, if I’m nuts, then it’s from the pain on top of why ever else I might be crazy. I know what I go through every day.

Each morning I get to wake up in pain is still another morning I get to wake up. I’m grateful for that. There’s a roof over my head and a warm cat by my feet. I celebrate any time I find a quarter in the laundry or a dime on the ground. (It adds up.) There’s a bumper crop of abundance in each day if you know where to look.

I’d be happy if corporate America shriveled up and blew away tomorrow.

Disclaimer: Some people mistake me for a Socialist or a Communist. Now, to be fair, I have studied about both quite a bit over the years. If we’re being honest, some tenets of a socialist democracy do appeal. Unfortunately it’s prone to abuse, corruption, misinterpretation, and ultimately suffering. So, love our government and economic system in the US or hate it? Still better than the alternatives as far as I’m concerned.

Yeah, I know. I’m anti-capitalist. I’m what the crazier half calls crazy. I’m a lunatic, a socialist, and a dreamer. I’m just “woke” enough to believe there’s maybe life outside of chasing the almighty dollar. Not that I trust my government any more than I trust corporations. They’re all corrupt and greedy as Hell. Prove me wrong.

Okay, admittedly I’m pretty bitter. I’ve tried like mad to get over it, pretend it isn’t a thing, even spiritually bypass the fact that I’m unemployed. I’m still pretty pissed off over a year later. It’s just like any relationship ending suddenly, really.

I still can’t give specifics because ya never know when one of the shifty lil shitz might be reading my blog in an effort to hang me with my own words. I’ll just say that if I ever hear “It’s what’s best for the company” ever again? Well, friends and family will be visiting me in the nut farm for a while.

F$@&%x*

You hear about “quiet firing” and “quiet quitting” these days more and more. I think there’s some truth to it. People are getting fed up with being mistreated and undervalued in the workplace. And, strangely enough, large corporations are usually the workplace in question. I never want to find myself tied up in that position again. Any employer lacking in compassion should be… Well, uh, trying to think of something at least Rated R to say right now. Yeah.

I still stand by the notion it’s better to suffer the lack of free spending cash and a lavish lifestyle than to go to a job where my values don’t match my employer’s. I think it’s better to breathe fresh air than show up to a stuffy office building every day and hate it. I firmly believe I’m better off writing blog articles about my unemployment and the inconveniences it has caused than blindly trudging through life every day just waiting to kick the bucket.

My psychological journey has been in the forefront of my day-to-day life these days.

It ain’t pretty. I’ve been in a pretty dark place. I haven’t tried to delete myself or anything, but I ain’t happy. Not kidding, I really feel like a failure most days. I don’t know where I’m headed, but I sure know where I’ve been.

I had quite a day a couple of days ago. There was a big shift from my sort of quiet, stagnant state to an overwhelming amount of domestic productivity and creative energy. It’s a little freaky, but I like it. Then, the next day I crashed- hard. Suddenly I was back to being exhausted, sore, and somewhat unmotivated.

Even my beloved hobby, TableTop RolePlaying Games, has had it’s shares of ups and downs as of late. We spend a lot of time in the TTRPG community discussing racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, transphobia, homophobia and other negative things. Sure, it would be more fun discussing books, settings, dice, Game Master advice, Player advice or really anything game related, but a few rotten dipshits have wrecked that for all of us. Someday down the road I hope people will embrace what they love and joy instead of criticism and hate.

Life is full of ups and downs. Learning experiences come in all sorts of sizes, shapes and forms. Sometimes we don’t know what it all means until ages down the road. I’d throw my hands up and say. “It’s all part of God’s plan,” but we all know that’s not how I do things.

Speaking of my favorite hobby.

TTRPGs have been a big part of my life for 40+ years. Yeah, I take my gaming pretty seriously. I’ve been a collector, player, DM/GM/Judge/whatever, designer, writer, and critic for most of those years. I still have a lot to learn. The hobby has only really been around for a little over 50 years in a way we would recognize it.

Modern Dungeons & Dragons (Fifth Edition or 5E) has failed some of us. This has led to the creation of the Old School Renaissance movement. (Or Revival, Rescue, Revision. Just insert your favorite “R” word after Old School.) Some of us in the #ttrpg community really enjoy running older versions of D&D or even other games developed in the 1980s and 90s.

The problem arose when a lot of us older, white, male gamers gained a reputation for bigotry and other negative behaviors. It may have always been there, but this modern crowd of gamers is far more sensitive (in a good way) than those in the past. It’s not going to fly now.

If new players are discouraged from joining in at the game table, turned away from conventions, or shouted down on social media? Those are players that might never come back. New players are the lifeblood of any game system. For the Love of God, please consider inclusivity and diversity in all things hobby related. We (humanity) have got to get past the hate and the negative rhetoric or we’re never going to evolve as a species.

This takes a toll on my mental health. I get that we old, white, (presumably cishet) males have been screwing up the US for centuries. It’s finally coming back around to haunt us in our own socio-cultural interactions. I’m pretty saddened that people behave so poorly toward one another.

The TTRPG/boardgame industry is just one tiny example. It’s not even that many of us OGs have these hateful feelings or are bigoted in some way. It’s the perception that we’re bad news. That stereotype is going to kill the OSR despite our best efforts. And trying to break that negative stereotype through love and positivity can be exhausting mentally as well as emotionally. Then we go out into the rest of the (“real”) world and see it even more prevalent out there.

This seems like a good stopping point for now.

Please remember to be kind to one another. Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate you, always. Take care.

So, I Woke Up to This Video Yesterday…

I’m an OG (Old Gamer) fighting an uphill battle, starting with my own mental health.

Here’s the video from Gamers on Games:
He can be found on Twitter here, which is where I met him: https://twitter.com/YTGamersonGames

Strap in, family. This is going to be a LONG article. There’s a lot to unpack here.

He makes a lot of good points. Well worth listening.

When I woke up to this video yesterday. (literally, not “Woke.” Although that’s an issue, too.) I wanted to argue initially. I agree with most but not all of what was said. We’ve got some people in the Old School Renaissance community that regularly make embarrassing, bigoted comments.

We are literally seeing the tides of racism turning the other way within the RolePlaying Game hobby. Older cishet white (Caucasian) males are rapidly on our way out. (I say “our” because I’m sorta in that category.) There are still plenty of us around and the camps of bigots/everyone else are rapidly dividing.

The tragic irony is Dungeons and Dragons was created by a bunch of older white guys who were originally miniatures wargamers. Minis wargames were traditionally dominated by older white guys. It’s getting better. #warhammer is seeing a broader audience despite the gatekeeping in that community. The OSR RPG community is struggling with racism.

Racism is not possible in the face of Universal love and peace.

Get it right. It’s “Awakened,” not “woke.” This is NOT directed at Gamers On Games. I know all too well there are members of the OSR community who will cringe when I start talking about spiritual awakening. Right wing Christians, racists, transphobes/homophobes and others call it “woke.” My eyes were opened by the Universe.

Maybe racism has always been present in the RPG community. Maybe the spotlight has finally shown upon the dark corner that is racism in the RPG hobby/community in general. I’m Old School. I’ve had some pretty sketchy players in my groups before which were okay at the time as long as they kept their mouths shut about race, politics, and religion.

Over the years it has gotten better. The hobby has changed. I have changed. When one awakens to the Source of all creation and realizes we are all one at the end of the day. We are all a miniscule speck in the greater Universe. When one realizes we are effectively God experiencing all of creation, perspective on race shifts dramatically. How can one look at another person and hate when one is effectively hating on oneself?

I believe in forgiveness. I believe in a benevolent Creator. Yes, there is bad shit out there. There are very difficult people in every community, not just RPGs. These people (racists, -phobes, haters) are a challenge placed in the path of anyone who seeks to love all beings (in the spiritual sense.)

I’ve made my share of dumb mistakes in life and said some pretty horrific, regrettable things that I can’t ever get back. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I intend to do better. We’re ALL in this together. Some of us have bigger burdens to bear than others, especially in the RPG community.

#DropDaveCon is a legit hashtag.

Long spiritual rant aside, The nice folks at DaveCon, a premier gaming convention in the Midwest needs to either drop known bigots from their Guest of Honor roll, or lose attendees and vendors. There needs to be a clear, obvious message sent to the organizers of this convention that these old school bigots need to hit the road or radically change their views.

This hashtag, this convention makes me sad. I live in Des Moines, IA. It’s pretty much a gaming convention deadzone. We have one or two piddly conventions per year. I’d organize my own, (*And I KNOW how,) but it’s a lot of work and a lot of money to put a convention together.

Minnesota, on the other hand, has a ton of conventions. Davecon is about a three hour drive from where I live. I’d love to go. Except, money aside, their guest list includes some people I just can’t hang out with.

Sorry. Imagine driving all the way to Bloomington, MN just to be turned away from the table because of the color of your skin or your blue/pink hair? I can’t let that go. That would suck. Why not support conventions that encourage inclusivity and diversity instead?

Having an entire hashtag telling people to boycott a convention? Ouch. That’s bad press for any convention. Losing attendees can kill a convention for good. I’ve seen it happen. It’s not pretty.

Let’s talk Gygax for a moment.

Learn a little more about Ernie.https://g.co/kgs/Ger99Z

We all know and love E Gary Gygax, creator of the original T$R Games and specifically Dungeons & Dragons (Along with Dave Arneson and others.) Gary was an amazing man. Unfortunately, he did have some quacky views of women in gaming, but every big name game designer has a few skeletons. But Gary is still revered and loved by the most of the RPG community.

His son, Ernie Gygax (Jr.) is another story entirely. He has aligned and embedded himself in what we call NuTSR. For those who might not know, NuTSR has nothing to do with the old company beyond buying up the Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum in Lake Geneva, WI, birthplace of D&D.

I’ve listened to interviews with Ernie. Some of them make me cringe because of some of the just ignorant things that roll out of his mouth. He’s kind of the face of the OSR in some ways, being the son of Gygax. His brother, Luke Gygax is still involved with the hobby to some extent, but not nearly as vocal.

Truthfully, I want to side with Ernie on one concept and only one. He is honestly trying to keep his father’s dream/legacy alive. I’d support him more if he hadn’t fallen in with the likes of Dave Johnson and Justin LaNasa. I’d be a fan if he hadn’t openly spewed a lot of negative comments about the LGTBQIA++ community and some pretty racist comments.

Having Ernie as a “Special Guest of Honor” at any convention? Ouch. I seriously question the judgment of the convention organizers at this point. #DropDaveCon. Yeah. Let’s say no to racism.

None of us are getting any younger.

The video, getting back to the original point, makes a very obvious, true statement about a lot of us OGs. Here in the next 20-30 years, most of us older (white) guys will be gone. I’ve got diabetes, fibromyalgia, obesity, bad teeth and bifocals. The video really makes me feel my mortality.

I’m just one example. I know a lot of OSR gamers have their share of health issues and none of us are getting any younger. However, I happen to know a younger generation of gamers that are starting to embrace a bit of that OSR goodness. It is possible for that part of the hobby to survive in much warmer, more sensitive, caring hands.

Take a look at a game called ShadowDark. It’s an OSR game if I’ve ever played one. If one were to talk to Kelsey, you would know she’s not one of us OGs. She is a brilliant, hard working RPG designer. @thearcanelibrary. on Twitter. I’ve written about her before here. (Yeah, I’m a fan.)

Yes, there are parts of the OSR that will vanish from the Earth eventually. Maybe they need to as a natural course of the hobby’s evolution. It saddens me as a RPG aficionado, writer, and lifelong GM that our legacy as gamers is so tarnished by a pack of loudmouth hate mongers as Gamers On Game’s video suggests.

I wish he (Dave/GamersonGames) was wrong. I would love to say, “Let’s just get back to gaming.” For the Love of God, I just can’t do it anymore. I can’t bring myself to ignore the hate and negativity in OUR (as in ALL of us) gaming community. We need to heal. We need to grow.

I love my hobby with all my heart. I love humanity in the eyes of Source. I won’t just sit here and let the racist crap go unchallenged any more. We have to live on this Earth as a family. Skin color, gender, sexuality, age, and so on has to be something we ALL have to accept as people. If Jesus and Buddha (or some other deific figures) wanted to sit in on your gaming session, wouldn’t you let them?

I’m not making excuses for all of the NuTSR crowd, Venger Satanis, and Evil DM. I think a lot of things that have been said and done at this point that are inexcusable. The sad part is, the actions of a few have spoken for the many in the OSR segment of the community, if not RPG enthusiasts in general. It stinks. I hate it. It’s up to the rest of the RPG community to pick up the pieces and try to repair the damage that has been done to the hobby’s reputation.

I feel for the companies that could potentially go belly up as a result of the OSR movement going away.

The one last point I want to make about the video is I have a lot of concern for companies such as Goodman Games, Necrotic Gnome, and the Arcane Library if the OSR movement in the RPG hobby goes away, which we most assuredly will someday. I love those companies that are putting out OSR/D&D retro clones. I have high hopes that some or all of the OSR producers will survive.

Wizards of the Coast is kinda the elephant in the room. You can’t swing a dice bag around in the convention scene or a game shop without hitting something touched by Hasbro. Wizards of the Coast and Renegade Game Studios are huge right now. That’s probably not going to change. However, that means the RPG community has to deal with their corporate culture for better or worse.

Wizards of the Coast profits from pretty much all of it, and they don’t seem to care much about the OSR.

WotC also controls the rights to most or all of the original TSR trademarks and copyrights. This is especially true of D&D. I know they want to push their new products. We’re going to hear no end of rhetoric about One D&D for the next approximately two years. When 2024 rolls around, we could very easily see WotC pull the plug on all of the reprints, DMsGuild, and pretty much anything in the various Open Game License content that they don’t like.

WotC could end up being the dreadful gatekeepers of PDF products, especially TSR reprints, that some of us were always afraid they would become. I’m sure they’ll find some clever McCorporate way to put it to the fans like, “We don’t see editions any more in One D&D. Come buy all the new stuff.” All the Indie creators that rely on OGL products could have to move away from DriveThruRPG in the coming years. That will also fuel the demise of the OSR because we rely on reprints and a lot of independent content providers for our games.

Imagine a world where no one plays original D&D, BECMI, 1st AD&D, 2nd Ed D&D or anything that remotely resembles them ever again. Imagine entire conventions shutting down because attendance fell off. What’s it going to be like when WotC presents their virtual platform and all their new, young 5E/One D&D crowd flocks to it, consequences and side effects be damned. Yeah, I’d say a world without an OSR is possible.

Remember, RPG family: your hobby is being judged by the actions of some loudmouth, hate-mongering stooges.

WotC was smart to file an injunction against NuTSR to stop production on Star Frontiers New Genesis and other reprint products. An inferior product produced by a pack of known, very vocal bigots would not help the hobby. It would make us ALL look like idiots. It’s bad enough we OGs have to try to shake the stereotype applied to the OSR.

That’s my final thought on the subject. It was pointed out in the video. All of us old, white guy gamers are being stereotyped and judged based on the actions of loudmouth racists. I can’t stop stupid. Duct tape can’t fix it. Please forgive those of us who don’t think the way they do and don’t behave the way they do. Thank you!

I appreciate you being here. More on this topic to come. It really hit home between the old white guy/OSR stereotype and the mortality bit. I’m not lying when I say I’m pretty bummed out right now.

1d12 Pocket Dimensions.

A demiplane filled with gravitational anomalies and (sometimes) floating rocks. The flora is globs of unintelligent algae or lichens floating about or stuck to things. The fauna are confusing amorphous blobs of semi-intelligent life. The place is as dangerous as it is confusing.

Maybe your Transwarp Drive malfunctioned, or a Portal spell went awry.

Roll 1d12 to see where you end up:

  1. Minor Hell. Lots of little demons. (They hate short jokes, btw.) Red skies and dark clouds. Fear is amplified.
  2. Red Desert. The sky is red, the sand is orange and it goes on in barren, windy desert for miles in every direction. Could there be something under the sand?
  3. Junk Rift: There are random heaps of trash everywhere from multiple different societies and tech levels. Everything from soup cans to wingnuts strewn about everywhere. Where did it come from?
  4. Paraelemental Pocket of Lightning: Dimly lit, very cloudy smells of ozone, the surface is like glass. At any given moment electrical bolts could strike. The creatures here must be very tough if there are any.
  5. Fey Forest: Everything here is vibrant and alive! There are birds and blooming flowers. Faeries and fuzzy animals abound. Forests and grasslands stretch endlessly. The sky is always sunny. Everyone seems very happy here.
  6. Upside Down World: A demiplane filled with gravitational anomalies and (sometimes) floating rocks. The flora is globs of unintelligent algae or lichens floating about or stuck to things. The fauna are confusing amorphous blobs of semi-intelligent life. The place is as dangerous as it is confusing.
  7. Psych-a-la-del-ica-la: A colorful place where things are very surreal, almost nonsensical. Has been known to cause mental and emotional instability in those who stay too long. Some never want to leave.
  8. Ethereal Cloud Layer: Upon entering, the traveller immediately begins falling. There are clouds, but nothing solid to grab onto. Luckily, an effect of this pocket dimension is the fall is slowed after a few minutes and does not increase beyond 30’/round.
  9. Brutal Barbaria: This place is full of carnivorous apex predators 10x larger and more powerful than regular lions, tigers, bears, velociraptors, etc. It is only slightly safer to travel on land during the day. Nights are far scarier and last about 16 out of 30 hour cycles. Most of the plants are poisonous or covered in thick spines. There are no signs of civilizations or intelligent life.
  10. Hexagon Lands: The sky is perpetually cloudy and there is no night time cycle. The “land” consists of gray, clear, yellow, green and blue plasticine hexes of the same size. some are linked in a straight line or formed into islands. All of the land masses are floating randomly at varying heights and seem to go on in every direction forever. There is no sign of naturally occurring flora. What could the fauna be?
  11. Greco-Romania: This plane is a giant cloud city that goes for miles in every direction. The goblins that rule this dimension seem to form a pantheon similar to those of Greece and Rome on Earth. Other goblins have wings similar to doves or eagles. It is very peaceful as long as the rules are followed.
  12. Iowa: Vast fields of grass, corn, or beans stretch in every direction as far as the eye can see. The only things sticking up in the distance are a few trees situated around a creek or pond. With a little luck, adventurers might find a small town. The most exciting feature is when UFOs come down at night to abduct the local livestock which are always returned the next morning. This pocket dimension is also a time loop wherein nothing ever really changes from one day to the next.

You discover an abandoned ship floating in space.

Roll 1d12 to see which version you’ve discovered.

  1. U.S.S. Cloudbreaker. The crew abandoned ship following an encounter with a time/space/dimensional anomaly. The engineers were forced to eject the warp core after the anomaly caused a matter/antimatter instability.
  2. Smurf Cloudbreaker: The crew are all 2 apples high and eager to explore space. The ship itself is made out of wood, mushrooms, cloth, and held together with magic. Captain and Papa Smurf ordered an abandon ship when Gargamel and Azreal cornered it in a pitched space battle.
  3. I.K.C Cloudbreaker: A fight broke out amongst the crew. The captain was honorably killed by one of the engineers and things devolved from there. It turns out a sentient ball of energy projected its emotions onto the crew, causing them to seek honor or death. It might be long gone.
  4. Space Hulk Cloudbreaker: A Tyranid outbreak on board forced the crew to defend themselves. Unfortunately, an accident with a Shokk Attack Gun projected Snotlings into the life support system. The end result was pretty messy.
  5. I.S.S. Cloudbreaker: This Imperial Star Destroyer was taking a group of Neimoidian prisoners and several experimental battle droids to a black site on a remote world when the prisoners broke free and activated the droids. The droids were the only survivors.
  6. The Correlon Cloudbreaker: Survived the initial Cylon assault on the colonies long enough to make the first jump with the fleet. Unfortunately, human-appearing Cylons vented the atmosphere, killing most of the occupants in the outer compartments. Fierce onboard fighting ensued until the last remaining cylons boarded the escape pods and ejected.
  7. Mining Colony Ship Cloud Breaker: Was doing okay until they found a strange egg while mining in an asteroid field. The captain was attacked by a creature that attached itself to his face. Later, the creature fell off on its own. At dinner, the captain had some sort of xenomorph burst from his chest. The beast then killed the rest of the crew and is still on board, along with a lot of eggs.
  8. TFTC Cloudbreaker: The unfortunate victim of an experimental Arachnid space mine. Infested with Arachnids. The bug presence will be pretty obvious upon scanning the ship.
  9. Bioship Cloudbreaker: This very strange craft is actually a living being. Currently no crew aboard save one being permanently fused with engineering. The engineer will be able to explain that the crew went down to the planet to observe a religious ritual and came back with a virus that killed all of them.
  10. Union Ship Cloudbreaker: This vessel is reminiscent of Earth vessels seen in the movie 2001 A Space Odyssey. Internal surveillance systems indicate the crew was grabbed by a freaky wormlike race for use in nefarious experiments.
  11. Spelljamming Ship Cloudbreaker: An astrogation error led to the crew running out of air and supplies. It’s messy and smells terrible on board. Otherwise salvageable. It’s got a very strange power source and jump drive compared to those used by technological societies.
  12. Space Freighter One! He’s not abandoned. He’s not even adrift. He was just observing one of his maintenance cycles when you bumbled into him. He’s a loveable intelligent starship and will gladly stay and chat about humon culture and society.

Enjoy. I hope you found these tables useful or even slightly amusing. Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate you all so much.

Power Rangers Super Lightning Force Ongoing Story Episode 3.

The team continues their search for a new Pink Ranger, but one has not been found yet. Billy has been unable to contact his Earth or any incarnation of Zordon through the Morphin Grid. Xander has been working feverishly to rebuild his own Morpher and convince the Triceratops Zord to reconfigure into the new Megazord formation.

It’s a difficult time for our heroes.

Billy Cranston from Earth 011 and Alpha Four are running HQ. Zordon has disappeared completely. Olivia’s Green Ranger powers are waning more with every battle. The Lightning Sword gives one Ranger access to Super Mode at a time. The old Zords are changing.

The team continues their search for a new Pink Ranger, but one has not been found yet. Billy has been unable to contact his Earth or any incarnation of Zordon through the Morphin Grid. Xander has been working feverishly to rebuild his own Morpher and convince the Triceratops Zord to reconfigure into the new Megazord formation.

Meanwhile, on the other side of things, Kronus has retreated to Earth’s moon following an intense battle with the Rangers and the near loss of the Triumvirate battle cruiser. He is now teleporting his minions and the Evil Ranger down to Earth to cause havoc as often as possible. Rumors of a greater evil force deep in space have come to Kronus’ attention, forcing him to accelerate his plans to conquer Earth.

A hit team is sent to Bennett’s Cove High School to capture Olivia Thomas.

Objectives:

  • Prevent Olivia from being captured and taken to the moon.
  • Defeat the hit team putties while protecting the school without any students getting hurt.
  • Protect their secret identities.
  • Keep Olivia from having to Morph.
Kommandon, Leader of the Hit Team:

(Art forthcoming.)

THREAT LEVEL: 6
SIZE: Medium | HEALTH: 3
TOUGHNESS: 16 | EVASION: 12
WILLPOWER: 12 | CLEVERNESS: 12
GROUND MOVEMENT: 25 ft.
A highly trained commando hand picked from the Triumvirates’ forces.
SKILLS:
Might +d6
Diplomacy +d6
Intimidation +d8
Perception +d4
Targeting +d6
Languages: Putty, English.
PERKS:
Energy Shield: Kommandon has incredible defense, easily shrugging off most attacks and deflecting laser blasts with his reflective armor plating.
Immunity: Energy Attacks.

ATTACKS:
Sword* (Might): +d6, Reach (Toughness, Armor Piercing, 1 Sharp Damage)

Energy Pulse Pistol* (Targeting): +d6*, Range 60 ft. (Evasion, 1 Energy Stun Damage)

Stun Bomb: (Targeting): +d6, Range 50 ft. Radius 20 square ft. (Evasion, 1 Energy, Stun Damage)

POWERS:
Teleport: One way ticket back to the moon with a prisoner in tow.
Handcuffs: Standard handcuffs.

HANGUPS:
Can’t be gigantified.

Kommandon will be accompanied by 12 regular Putty Patrollers. Their mission is to scare the student population while two of them and Kommandon grab Olivia.

IF Kommandon is successful, Olivia will be detained in suspended animation while the mysterious Dark Phoenix Ranger and Voltrix study her morpher in order to copy it free of the degradation effect by exploiting the Zeo Crystal’s powers. The end result will be an ultra powerful Evil Green Ranger.

After they acquire the Morpher and finish their examination, Olivia will be teleported back to Earth (unharmed) without it.

IF Kommandon is unsuccessful, he will teleport back to the moon as soon as it looks as if the mission has failed. He will keep coming back until he succeeds. The Rangers will have to be extra cautious not to let Olivia get nabbed.

However, if the Rangers get wise, they could use this as an opportunity to get a better look at the base on the moon.

This is one of the rare episodes where the Zords don’t get a workout. However, if time runs long, Kronus will send a replicated Tankzor to Earth just to distract the Rangers while he plots his next move.

Books Full of Challenges and Traps for Fantasy RPGs. Dungeon Room Design Part 1.

So, you’ve decided to maybe bump off a few of the PCs in tonight’s game, huh? Well, you’ve come to the right place if you’re using anything in the Grimtooth’s Traps collection. These traps books have been around a while in various forms. Some of us OGs might just happen to have the original Flying Buffalo versions lying around. I prefer the collections because they put all or most of them in one place.

There’s a good reason for keeping some of the old Grimtooth’s Traps (among other) books handy.

Can’t think of traps without good ol’ Grimtooth coming to mind.

So, you’ve decided to maybe bump off a few of the PCs in tonight’s game, huh? Well, you’ve come to the right place if you’re using anything in the Grimtooth’s Traps collection. These traps books have been around a while in various forms. Some of us OGs might just happen to have the original Flying Buffalo versions lying around. I prefer the collections because they put all or most of them in one place.

There is also a 3rd Ed D&D book called the Book of Challenges that comes in handy for designing dungeon rooms, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. We’ll discuss it further in another article. There are countless other resources throughout the years, too many to effectively list here.

Some DMs/GMs shy away from the use of “death” traps. Like they’re afraid of mangling a character or something.

I’ve always had a very light-hearted, easy going approach to traps. I’ve ground up a few characters in them. Not all of them are an instant TPK, but a good number of them do require the attention of a skilled healer afterward. That’s something you just don’t get in the newest incarnation of D&D.

If I’m running a game and I say, “click,” everyone had better be prepared to roll a saving throw of some kind. Mechanical traps are the easy ones. When we start mixing in magic- that’s where things get really exciting. Oh, plus boobytrapped/cursed items. I might have a sadistic streak in my personality? (LOL!!!)

I used to build dungeons around the notion of being a gauntlet of traps with a few creatures strewn in for good measure. Some of those dungeons had some really sweet loot, though. I find that one has to entice the characters and even the players to a certain extent. Gauntlets of Ogre Power, +5 Holy Avenger, +3 Sword of Sharpness, and the occasional +1/+3 Dragon Slayer serve as good treasure should the group survive. (*Back in the day we had a lot of Fighters, Barbarians, and Assassins in the group.)

This is a trap I’ve used before. It’s a meat grinder.

But what about the ones that get squished?

Back in the old days, if a character ate it in a particularly brutal trap, Grimtooth’s or something I made up, we let the player roll up a new character two levels lower than the party. We let the new characters roll for loot plus whatever the group salvaged off of the squished character. Usually the group was pretty cool about helping out if someone lost a character in a dungeon in such a grim way.

Then it was just a matter of working the new character into the party as soon as they left the dungeon to sell treasure or replenish supplies. I recall a few rare occasions when the new characters wandered into the dungeon and rescued the preexisting group. Most of the time cherished, long term characters would miraculously survive certain doom with clever thinking and lucky rolls.

Proper prevention is worth a pound of premade characters.

Of course, the best way to prevent character death was to be on the constant lookout for traps. It was sometimes hilarious watching the group meticulously checking every square for pressure plates, tripwires, shifting floors, subtle inclines and holes in the walls. Sometimes they’d get lucky and find a secret door or a concealed room instead.

I had a player take a dwarven miner into a dungeon once who managed to circumvent several traps and monsters by tunneling straight through the walls of the dungeon. I was caught off guard by this maneuver and really had no counter for it the first time it happened. I’ve also seen high level spells used to flood, gas, or detonate some dungeon areas. (*Note, above-ground structures are particularly vulnerable to kabooms from the sky.)

After death traps really started taking their toll in the game, a couple of players got really smart and started playing Thieves. They’d warm up the percentile dice and then we didn’t see as many characters die in trap dungeons. Monsters, on the other hand…

After 3.5 or 4th Ed, traps fell out of style.

The pillars of adventuring: Grimtooth style.

Dungeons in D&D just ain’t what they used to be. Or at least in 5E people are slightly more attached to their characters. 4th Ed was fun because of the timing elements and the way the action economy worked. 4th also saw a lot of monsters get nerfed pretty bad.

Nowadays players tend to put a lot of thought and careful background planning into their new D&D characters. It makes the DM look bad when someone’s prized Tiefling Bard of Twitch and Instagram fame buys the farm in the most awful corridor trap the DM could find in Grimtooth’s Traps. It would upset the cosplayer/player horribly, and we just can’t have that.

OSR games usually aren’t hampered by such unofficial restrictions, of course. Most of us OGs are used to the possibility of being reckless in a dungeon being the end of a character. A lot of us don’t get overly attached to a character for just that reason. Some GM/DMs are more kind than others, though.

The best advice for handling traps in most games:

Talk about it before characters are made. That way someone might want to make a Thief. The group might want to hire some added help. (Alas, poor Jimmy the Torchbearer, back for more dungeon romps.) Knowing death could be lurking around any corner, the players may wish to brush up on Dungeoneering 101 somewhere. There are some key survival tactics out there if you read up.

On the other hand, if the prospect of traps that can literally swallow a character whole terrifies or slightly concerns the group? Please refrain from using them? Especially new players might be turned off of gaming if one of their characters runs afoul of one of the Grimtooth style character grinders.

The other rule I’ve incorporated into my game over the years is the “Click” Rule. If the DM/GM says “Click!” while the group is wassailing around in a dungeon, we go around the table and each player gets to describe one action before the trap goes off. I forget exactly who came up with this rule, but I love it. It has made traps far more interesting when players do all kinds of crazy, paranoid things because they think the trap is on them.

Remember, as a GM/DM you always have the option to not use traps or nerf them.

You can always select a less lethal option or just omit the trap all together. When I make a Five Room Dungeon, (*See Johnn Four’s Five Room Dungeon Guide for more.) I like to make at least one of the rooms some sort of trap element. There’s also usually a room with a puzzle or special lock.

The idea, of course, is to make the players think on their feet a bit more. If every room has a trap, the group is likely going to get bored. Or start finding ways to set everything off without their precious characters getting greased. (Alas, poor Sparky the Squirrel familiar. May he rest until summoned again.) But, if carefully planned and executed, traps can be a heap of fun.

I hope you found some use of this article. Traps are one of my favorite dungeoneering aspects to any fantasy game. Thank you for being here. I appreciate you. Game on!

Disclaimer: Never build or use any traps in real life. Someone could be seriously injured or worse. In short- It’s just not worth it. Be kind. Talk it out.

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