Two Score Years Ago…

Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson brought forth a new way to play make-believe.  It was called Dungeons and Dragons!

Jon Peterson says that the best guess for the release of Dungeon and Dragons is late January and the last Sunday in January 2014 is the day we can celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of D&D.  So, I did.  I celebrated the same way I do approximately every 2 weeks; I invited family and friends into my home to play D&D.  My Saturday group (Tasque Elzeny) consists of Christina (my wife), Spencer (my brother-in-law) and Clint (Spencer’s eldest child).  We are playing DnD Next.  My Sunday group (E3 Trading Company) holds my wife, Christina, and friends: James, Hil, and Matt; we are near the end of my Big 4E campaign: Giants in the Earth!  And now, I present to you my view of D&D:

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Tasque Elzeny

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E3 Trading Company

Yes, I still use my 1st Edition DM Screens.

I encountered out a few other people’s experiences with D&D.  Feel free to check out what Monte Cook, Mary Hamilton, Kobold Press, and RPG Geek have to say on the subject.  Like many people on the net, I, too, have gained great friendships through D&D.  I got to introduce friends to D&D.  My first days in D&D were, of course, among friends.  Without friends and players, I could not run a game, but that is not the best thing I get out of D&D.

I get to create.  I get to build.  I get to be every non PC in the multiverse.  I get to share in an interactive story crafted between my players and me.  I get to mess with maps.  I get to drop challenges into my games and watch amazing people completely bypass them by thinking of things of which I never conceived.  I get to play with languages.  I get to have fun.

Thank you, each and everyone on my players, past, present, and future.

Cross posting this on my Live Journal.

Random Stuff That May Help My Game

Recently found DKlarations on You Tube.  DK is a witty, thoughtful, and enjoyable vlogger, voice actor, and stage thespian (I only know the last from his own admission, I’ve never seen him in a play).  He has a very neat little video on “The Truth About Dungeons and Dragons.”  I used his explanation to explain D&D to Brandon, an employee at Zaxby‘s, just last night, when I went and bought supper for the household.  It is a reminder to me about what D&D is at its core.

I have not written flash fiction, but I’m going to try.  This article on Five Common Mistakes in writing Fantasy Flash Fiction can apply to designing scenarios and game sessions in my own game world.

I found DK‘s first post on DKlarations.  It carries great depth and fills me with the will to keep creating.  Thank you, DK and Martha Graham.

I’ve found a really cool Google+ Hangout that had some of the GMing ideas that I use and some that I can use.  Here’s the one on Google+ and here’s the same one on DKlarations.  Be warned it is LONG.

I think I saw this when it came out in November of 2013, but I saw it reposted on Google+ and followed it to Cavalorn’s LiveJournal.  It’s not really helpful, but it is fun and reminds me of the excitement of new players.  “What are my options?”

Game On!

Game Masters Part 2

Last post, I talked about many of the Game Masters that I have interacted with over the years.  James Burkett reminded me that I forgot a few GMs from my past.  I’d like to correct that oversight.

  • Charles Chen – Another friend from Emory days, Charles ran an amazing Shadowrun game.  It was full of magic, angst, and betrayal.  The characters James and I played always seemed to be at odds with each other in Charles games.  I recall many sessions that ended in lots of explosions, usually set by runners against other members of our own crew.
  • Brandon Mokofisi – Brandon and I met when were both working at DragonScroll.com (He is now doing lead vocals in Urban Tattoo; Check them Out.).  Brandon runs the best tactical game of anyone I know.  He can optimize any class to its maximum usefulness.  His games require quick thinking, strong combat skills, and a strategic mind set.
  • Heather Miller – Heather comes from the same gaming group, as Derek Johnson, Ray Boone, and Ronnie Cooley.  She liked to run Call of Cuthuhu games with lots of puzzles.  For her the game seemed to be a vehicle to introduce new and more involved puzzles.  Heather’s games required an analytical mind and willingness to think outside the box.
  • Ronnie Cooley – Ronnie, Heather, Ray, Derek, Sam, Kris, Marilyn, and I played several different games together, but I remember Ronnie running Cyberpunk.  Ronnie’s Cyberpunk game was a mix of combat and role playing, with an emphasis on combat.  It was fun, but in the end, I was killed by my own party for reasons still unknown.
  • Michael McMillan – Michael is Davy McMillian’s cousin and he ran many AD&D games for me and his brother Barry.  He had a wild imagination.  I remember encountering an iron golem with the mind of an ancient wizard trapped within.  I had to deal with magical shrines that would improve one abilities and grant wishes, if I did the right things and would bestow curses, if I did the wrong things.  It was in Michael’s game that Gregor O’Dragon gained his friend and companion, the dragon Zuth.

Thank you all for many great games,

Game on!

Game Masters (or Those People Who Changed my View of GMing)

Since I first began playing Dungeons and Dragons in March of 1979 AD, I’ve ran more games than I’ve played, but I’ve had a fair number of game masters over the decades.  I tend to get more enjoyment from running games than I do playing them, but I have enjoyed many of the games I played.  Here are some of the notable GMs, I’ve encountered in my days of gaming.

  • Davy McMillan – He was my 1st DM.  He ran me through B1 – In Search of the Unknown.  If Davy had not introduced me to D&D, I’d never been involved in such a wonderful hobby and there would not be a blog for me to write.
  • Clyde Smith – Clyde and Davy were classmates at Vancleave High School.  He was the first DM I knew who would “break” the rules.  He had a predilection for variant classes.  I will always remember the flying-steed riding rangers.  “I live for love.  I love for danger.  I live to be an Airborne Ranger!”  Clyde showed me it was okay to invent things that the rules didn’t cover.
  • Denson Smith – Denson was Clyde’s older brother.  He was known as a “tough DM.”  He played fast and loose with combat and we fought some very tough fights.  We never had a TPK, but we ran awfully close.  I don’t know if I learned anything from Denson, but I felt a rivalry with him and worked hard to make my games talked about as much as others talked about his.
  • Ned Harvey – Ned was a friend of mine since my days at Ocean Springs Junior High.  I introduced him to D&D.  Ned was a good GM in many ways: he had strong ideas, he could devise good combats, and he was well read enough to catch most of the references his players used to create their characters.  His one flaw was that he let it get personal.  Sometimes, it became a GM vs. Player game.  If the Players wanted to go left and his game plan said they had to go straight, then it could become a game wherein Ned tried to force the Players to go back to the story.  I learned from Ned and a few horrid missteps of my own to go with the flow.  If the Players want to spend a game shopping, then they get to spend it shopping.  I just need to keep notes on who sells what and where it is sold.
  • Mike White – Mike and I met in 10th grade.  We played in other GMs’ games and Mike hit the occasional one-shot games that I ran, but I never played in any of his games.  Mike and I were GMs that went to each other, when we at a loss as what to do next in our own games.  We shared D&D modules and ideas.  Mike taught me that GMing could be a collaborative effort.
  • Todd Jordan – Todd joined my D&D game,   after watching me teach his mother, aunt, and cousins about D&D.  He was a fixture in my gaming sessions for a number of years.  Later, he took his characters and his girlfriend’s characters and moved them to his world of Plangenus.  I played a few games in his world.  He had a lot of incredible ideas, but his world was bland and he never followed his ideas to their ends.  His world was a moon of a Jovian planet.  Plangenus revolved around its primary at the same speed as Plangenus rotated, thus one side always faced the primary planet.  The planet bound side of Plangenus got light reflected from the surface of the planet.  It seemed to me that such a world should have special magic effects on the “dark” side.  No direct sunlight, no starlight…wouldn’t there be more drow and other dark loving beings casting special spells that would be ruined by the light of day?  When I asked about such things Todd said that it didn’t matter and my interest in his world waned.  So, I learned from Todd to have weird or special effects in your world, just make sure you follow them all the way to the end.
  • Mike Magee – Mike and I met in college and his second long running character in Rilmorn was Gareth Eybender.  His creation of the Kingdom of Elethar and the extensive family tree of the Eybenders have given me years’ worth of material for my games.  Mike ran two games in which I played: Isle of the Ape and Lichlords.  Both of those modules are high-level games.  Mike ran them with aplomb.  It was from him that I learned to give the high level villains their rightful due.  I often fail to do so, but I always intend to play my powerful NPCs as intelligent, strong people.  You don’t get to be high level, if you are incompetent.
  • Ray Boone – Ray is another college friend that gave me distinct characters and societies that still carry weight in Rilmorn; Levi Dyskor is the exemplar cavalier that all other cavaliers aspire to be.  Ray ran the creepiest Beyond the Supernatural game, I have ever played.  It was a one shot game.  It wasn’t creepy because of all the gore.  It wasn’t creepy because of the monsters.  It was creepy because of the little details.  Ray just, seeming at random, dropped simple observations of what our characters saw.  The descriptions didn’t carry any hideous descriptors.  We were in an Antarctic science station investigating the disappearance of the scientists.  There was no blood.  There were no bodies.  Everything was normal and clean…and every time Ray pointed that out to us, we freaked out a little more.  Ray taught me that the ordinary can be terrifying, if one is expecting something horrifying.
  • Derek Johnson – Derek and I have never played a game of D&D together in our lives.  I have been with groups for which he ran Castle Faulkenstien, Call of Cthulhu, Vampire: The Masquerade, and Bureau 13.  Derek showed me, what I long suspected, that you can make any game system tell whatever story you want to tell.  He plays every system like a musical instrument and delightfully mixes tone and leitmotif to turn Call of Cthulhu into an adventure game or Castle Faulkenstien into a mystery game with a hint of horror tinting the corners of the world.  I try to do the same with each edition of  DnD and Rilmorn.
  • Matt Wagner – Matt is one of my D&D players from Emory.  His game of choice is Call of Cthulhu.  He likes to play in a dimly lit room by candlelight when possible.  Matt showed me how much the table environment affects players’ actions.  He can still evoke terror in a game set at table in the middle of cafeteria by his storytelling alone, but at table of his preference, Matt rules the world where Knowledge Shall Make You Flee.  Now, when possible, I try to set the environment of the game table to set the mood I want in my game.

Thank you all for inspiring me to try and be a better Game Master.

Game On!

Dragons, Dragons, and More Dragons (or “A Big, Boring List About Gregory’s Obsession”)

I love dragons.  I don’t remember when I first discovered dragons and my love for them, but I do love them.  It may have been the summer I read the Science Fiction Book Club Edition of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern.  It may have been when I discovered, thanks to Suzanne White’s book Chinese Astrology, that I was born in the Year of the Dragon.  It may have been when I got my hands on copy of the 1977, 1978 edition of the Monster Manual.  Whenever it was, that love led me into placing a lot of dragons in my games.

Back in the Before Time, when Rilmorn was still being born, I gamed with a group of people that had multiple DMs.  While many of us took turns running games, each of us only played a single character.  Because each of saw things differently, it like slipping from world to world each game.  I was the first one to drop a a dragon in to the game and it was dead before the PCs found it.  It was a brass dragonskin that had magically inscribed names on it.  It was found in Mythgold and I’m fairly certain I stole that idea from B1In Search of the Unknown.  I don’t recall the first living dragon that I pitted against the PCs, but I suspect it was a green, given the Green Dragon Inn and the back story that I layered in.  It was during this period of my gaming career that Gregor the Gaunt (my, oh so creatively named, character) got his bronze dragon, Zuth, and became Gregor O’Dragon.  Gregor and Donalis rescued Zuth from the abandoned city of Wondercliff.  This period was a good time to encounter dragons and attempt to kill them. (2014.01.14)

After the other DMs decided to quit gaming or just sit on the other side of the screen, I became THE DM and truly began running games in the still unnamed world that would be called Rilmorn.  I put lots of dragons in my games during this time.  I used the five chromatic dragons to the best of their abilities.  I lifted the ice dragon from Pegasus Magazine and freaked out few players.  I dropped dragonettes in, as companions and familiars to PCs and NPCs.  Dragon Magazine issue 50 gave me “True Dragons;” it was a great article and gave me plenty of good ideas.  The Fiend Folio came out and I found oriental dragons.  I was very happy to drop the god Anu and the three-headed dragon, Dahak into my world, after I found them in the “Babylonian Pantheon” in Deities and Demigods.  The Monster Manual II gave me a couple new favorites, the mist and shadow dragons.  I crafted the Chalice of Dragons during this time; if a being bleed into the cup and then focused his or her will on it, a small dragon “familiar” would form out of the blood…the user had to randomly roll for which dragon type he or she got.  This time was notable for the sheer variety of dragons, it was fun. (2014.01.14)

My gaming group split up after several years of gaming.  We graduated high school and such.  About this time, Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church in Vancleave, MS got a new minister, Andy Cotten.  The parsonage became the place to game and it was during this time that Rilmorn was named and I started writing Rilmorn’s history.  I do not know where I lifted the idea of naming the Ages of History, but I liked the idea and named the era in which I was running games the “Age of Dragons.”  There were dragons in this era of gaming, but only one stands out.  It was the “woolly dragon,” from the cover of Dragon Magazine issue 81.  It was a good time for gaming, but a poor poor time for dragons. (2014.01.14)

My college days were days of dragons.  I got a copy of Dragons by Cory Glaberson.  Gem dragons and the missing color wheel (orange, purple, and yellow) dragons saw heavy play.  Gareth Eybender, an elven ranger ran by Mike Magee, ate the silver fruit of the Tree of Dianides and became silver dragon.  The Sept of the Dragon began collecting artifacts and other treasures to give in worship to or to control of various dragons.  The Dragon War began and every third or fourth game the PCs were faced with another dragon to battle.  The characters carried the battle to Kardon and its partdragon overlord and with his death hunted down his liege Babylon.  When the War of Dragons ended the political and parts of the physical landscape of Moytonia (the main continent of my gaming world) were completely reshaped.  Several more dragons were appeared before the end of the age: Chronepsis – Dragon of Fate, Dhivanara of the Purple Sands, and Tel-Mordin the Feared being three of the more important.  Tel-Mordin’s death marked the end the Age of Dragons and the beginning of the Age of Empire.

During my 3E days, I only remember the appearance of one dragon, Gareth Eybender, and he only appeared in his elf form.  3E dragons were meh to me.

I spent some time thinking on my 3E games and remembered that I had a pyroclastic dragon that the party defeated and once the dragon was dead, Hassiem (Matt Wagner’s character) bathed in its blood getting an extreme Natural Armor Class.  It was enjoyable. (2014.06.18)

 4E dragons in, probable, order of appearance

  • Ramala: green dragon – daughter of Rahab and Kitiara, wounded by her brother Sargon, finished off by the adventurers Surana and Aktara
  • Kitiara: green dragon – blue dragonborn that ate of the Tree of Dianides, grandmother of Kharus, a blue dragonborn, and grandmother-in-law of Suarana (played by Christina Guldensupp), a bronze dragonborn
  • Vanik: orium (red steel) dragon – poses as a brown dragonborn prince
  • Gareth Eybender: silver dragon from the Age of Dragons
  • Bolenbach: “Ship Dragon” – sea dragon slain by Gareth Eybender and Alkin du Fey, who used body to build a ship.  Ages later, Bollenbach was the figurehead for E3’s flying steamship, the Enterprise, as they continued to add magical improvements, Bollenboch returned to life.
  • Menethesis: argentyl (star silver) dragon – prophet who believed the adventurers known as E3 were a threat to the world, killed by E3
  • Io-Vol: dreamwrath dragon – bound to the artifact known as the Flask of Dragons
  • Feldspar (played by Matt Wagner): silver dragon – shifter, who under the influence of the Blood of Io from the Flask of Dragons, ate Menethesis’ heart and transformed into a silver dragon; lost his dragon form through a faery “blessing,” but regained it after eating of the fruit of Dianides
  • Paracelsus: purple dragon – oldest living child of Io-Vol-First of the Dreamwrath Dragons, master psion, and crafter of a clan of purple dragonspawn; found trapped in a mirror of life trapping and freed by Feldspar under the possession of Io-Val.
  • Esaerian: steel dragon – poses as a human, captain of the Enterprise, Bollenbach’s mate
  • Chronepsis: Triple Dragon of Fate – Stopped by to see what E3 was doing to the Kron, Chronepsis’ favorite humans
  • Unnamed: black “True Dragon” – Mutant black dragon from Dragon Isle, has two sets of wings and no forelimbs.
  • Belvar (played by James Burkett): silver dragon – Ate the Fruit of Dianides wrapped in a silver dragon scale to “assure” dragon form transformation. 
  • Dragotha: Undead Dragon – is involved in a Great Game with Gareth Eybender and the Lich Morgreth
  • Unnamed: firewrack dragon – guardian of Hellspawn Isle
  • Unnamed: seawrack dragon – guardian of Deathwater Isle
  • Unnamed: woodwrack dragon – guardian of Truewood Isle
  • Unnamed: vile dragon – defender of Colossus
  • Unnamed: vile dragon – defender of Goliath
  • Unnamed: vile dragon – defender of Titan

Wizards of the Coast has posted a History of Dragons in D&D on their DnD site.  I like it.

The Map of Dragons (2014.01.14)

Wyrnflight by Deby Fredericks is a blog about Dragons!  Go and Read it!  (2014.01.14)

 

With the Blood of Dragons

Dragonborn.  Half-dragons.  Draconians.  Cecrops.

This post was inspired by this Facebook thread.

I have long been fascinated by dragons and dragon/human mixes.  The image of Cecrops in Mythology by Edith Hamilton has stuck with me from the moment I saw it in Seventh Grade.  That image was the basis for “The Overlord,” a conquering despot who ruled over the City of Kardon for his liege, the seven-headed dragon Babylon.  Years before my players fought in the Dragon War (Yes, I had a dragon apocalypse, who hasn’t?), other PCs had to deal with Mandragora (pronounced MAN drag ore uh), which I based on an image from the third installment of “Dragonsword”, a secondary story in the back of The Warlord comic issue 54.  I crafted those on my own, but soon enough I was to discover other people’s versions of dragonmen.

Draconians are the redeeming feature of Dragonlance, which dropped on us the following evils: tinker gnomes, Raistlin, gully dwarves, the Knights of Solamnia, and kender, in order of greatest to least annoying.  I found the draconians fascinating.  They had cool powers and special effects when they died.  I happily yanked them into Rylmorn and used them as shock troops in the War of the Dragons (AKA the Dragon War).  I particularly enjoyed using aurak draconians to torment my players.  I was very happy when the Draconomicon: Metallic Dragons updated draconians for 4E .  Now, that Prince Vanik is restoring the Fortress State of Arkohsia and it’s already history that some draconians have pledged themselves to the service of Prince Vanik and defense of Arkohsia, I look forward to using them again.

Half-dragons…what can I really say.  They first appeared in Council of Wyrms setting for 2nd edition AD&D.  I was not impressed with the setting and really didn’t use much, if anyof it.  3E overused the idea of the half-dragon template.  I don’t think all dragons are interfertile with other living things.  Even if I accepted the idea that all dragons could interbreed with non-dragons, 3E just went too far with the concept.  I got really disgusted when I encountered a black dragon/tendriculos.  It’s a giant plant, people, a giant plant!  Next!

Even though I thought half dragons were overused in 3E, I did not let that stop me from creating a community of half-dragons in the Rilmoré Cluster campaign, my campaign set in a massive archipelago.  I got a great deal of personal amusement in crafting a monastery and surrounding community filled with half dragons.  One of my biggest personal jokes was a Zen pool that had six amber balls on its sandy bed.  If one was perceptive enough, one might notice that the balls had five-pointed stars on them.  The stars varied number from one to seven, missing only the four.  I’ve talked about running a campaign based around Arkohsia with all the PCs being dragon humanoids.  If I do run that campaign, the Monks of the Dragon may be an opposing group.

My wife is running a dragonborn, twin blade ranger in my present campaign.  She’s the one who is credited with starting Prince Vanik on his quest to restore the Fortress State.  Her character, Surana, traces her ancestry back to the children, guards, and servants of Zoë Dragonmaker and Alexsi Lungtai of Mythgold.  Surana’s ancestors were transformed into dragonborn by the use a powerful artifact, the Chalice of Dragons.  Surana’s mate, Kharus, is a blue dragonborn, whose ancestors born from the Black Egg.  There are small enclaves of chromatic dragonbborn in Sigil and Kharus is from the blue enclave.  The PCs have met the following dragonborn in the course of my 4E game: Sargon – black dragonborn dragon killer with a huge chip on his shoulder; Kitiara – blue dragonborn, owner of the tavern Wyrm’s Lair in Sigil and Kharus’ grandmother; Kharus – blue dragonborn, Surana’s mate and son of Sargon and the late Kahladnay; Prince Vanik – brown dragonborn from an unspecified and unnamed kingdom; Kuryon – blue dragonborn poet and Lawgiver of Ancient Arkhosia; and a couple unnamed red dragonborn purists who attacked Surana and Kharus because they were “mixing the colors.”  I’ve enjoyed the drgonborn in 4E.

If my plan for an Arkohsia campaign goes through, I look forward to the interactions between the half-dragon monks, the True Dragons of Dragon Isle, and the Scions of Arkohsia.  Will they find the Black Egg and the Chalice of Dragons?  Will they have to defend themselves against attacks by the True Dragons?  What will they learn from the Monks of the Dragon?  Until then, I shall Game On!