Household Objects (or MacGyvering Non-D&D Ideas into my Games)

So, the other day my younger daughter’s boyfriend’s car broke down.  During the diagnosis and repair process, it was discovered that the belt for the “Harmonic Balancer” had to be replaced.  Now, I have no idea what a “Harmonic Balancer” is or what it does and I don’t care to Google it to find out.  Yet, I cannot help, but to want a “Harmonic Balancer” into my games.  This is not the first time that I have been inspired to create something for Rilmorn from a non-fantasy/non-D&D object or idea.

Before I get into some of my odd inspirations, let me talk about Listerine.  This one is a cheat; it had a D&D idea in it.  In 1992, Listerine put out some great ads; including one with a bottle of Listerine wielding a sword inscribed with “Plaque Slayer” on one side of the blade and “Germ Killer” on the other side.  This, perhaps not surprisingly, led me into creating a like-named sword that was dedicated to slaying oozes and slimes.  It seemed a bit silly, at the time, but it came in quite handy when my PCs encountered Juiblex and its minions.

Men at Work, an Australian band, had a hit called “Down Under,” which was all about people from Australia, but I saw it different and created the Morloi.  The song has a chorus that changes slightly each time it sung.  I took inspiration from two of those choruses:

And she said, “Do you come from a land down under? Where women glow and men plunder? Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder? You better run, you better take cover

And he said, “I come from a land down under Where beer does flow and men chunder Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder? You better run, you better take cover”

From this, I envisioned a race of humans that dwelt underground.  The men for heavy drinking raiders and the women were farmers that had visible auras about them.  I learned from Casey Kasem that “chundering” was an Australian term for “chugging beer,” thus my heavy drinking plunderers.  The idea that women were glowing farmers came from me misunderstanding one of the later choruses and believing that the line sang was “I come from a Land Down Under; where women plow and men plunder.”  How was I to know that they didn’t rhyme the words “plough” and “glow?”  I created their name by combining the two races of humanity the future presented in H. G. Wells The Time Machine, the Morlocks and the Eloi.  The last time I used the Morloi, they were traveling through time to escape a disaster that was destroying their homeland.

I don’t remember if I was using a Bulletin Board System (BBS) or was on Internet Relay Chat (IRC), but one day this GM posted asking about local businesses which had names that would make great D&D names or ideas.  He had such a name, but his Players all knew about the local business and it break the suspension of disbelief if he used it.  The name was “Lunghammer.”  I took that name a created a dragon slaying orc out of it.  “Lung” is the transliteration of the Chinese word for “dragon.”  “Lunghammer” is something that hits dragons.  He became an orc, because Lunghammer sounds like something that orc would do…”I hammer your lungs!”

So, what will the “Harmonic Balancer” be?  Is it a magical ritual that keeps intrusions from the Elemental Planes contained?  Could it be a bardic singing sword?  Does it have anything to with controlling the elementals that are being summoned within the Bazarene Circuit?  Could it be a device needed to keep the engines of Bazarene from exploding?  What would you do with such a named device?

Until we meet again, Game On!

Magic Items Should be Magical

Once again, Creighton Broadhurst has made a post that has touched on one of my complaints with some Role Playing Games.  Magic Items aren’t magical anymore.  This is one of my many complaints about 3E and 4E D&D (see paragraphs 4 and 5).  Magic items in these games become tools, like those that one may purchase at a hardware store or thrift shop.  Magic items become less magic al because there is nothing “magical” about them.

When all magical items can be codified and cataloged and any relatively aware person can look at a magic item and know its workings, then such things become no different than the often glossed over pitons and rope at the bottom of an adventurers backpack.  Magic items should have an air of mystery about them, a mystique that make even hardened adventurers and their players just a tad wary of them.

Way back in the days of 1E, I often played fast and loose with magic items.  You probably didn’t find much more than potions before you reached 4th level, but after that, watch out!  I loved weird magic; things that the Players wouldn’t expect.  Instead of dropping a ring of invisibility into a game, I’d drop a cap of invisibility or a sword of invisibility.  My players might find a ring of fireballs, instead of a wand of fireballs.  One of my favorite magic items was the lightning stone.  It was an electric blue crystal that would build up and discharge a blast of lightning ever 500 turns (a turn was time unit equal to 10 minutes in those days).  It could be discharged early, by throwing it against a hard surface, resetting the build up time.  If my Players went several days in game time without discharging the lightning stone, I would start counting down from some random number under 20.  They would panic and start shouting at the Player whose character was carrying the stone, “Throw it!  Throw it!”  Magic Swords, I loved magic swords with unreasonable powers.  Once I gave a player a sword that could cast a 100 d6 fireball that was a mile in diameter; the catch…ground zero was the sword.  Then there was Narnfriend, a dagger that could be used to cast a power word: Kill spell.  The only problem is that the caster had to make a Saving Throw or die, too.  Magic items were fun in 1E and 2E.

Magic items lost much of their fun after 2E.  In my 3E and 4E games, most magic items were nothing more than stat enhancers.  With Feats and Skills that allowed PCs to craft, modify, or completely remake magic items based on their spell selection, 3E made it very hard to make “magical” magic items.  The rules didn’t even, really, allow a GM to make items that had curses or quirks.  There were exceptions.  Raven Al’Bari, a PC in my Divlos campaign, crafted a series of Rings that had non-standard powers.  I let a Player get a Red Cap’s red cap.  So you know, a Red Cap is a type of murderous fairy; after it kills its chosen victim, the Red Cap soaks its cap in the deceased blood.  In my game, a red cap also granted a special form of invisibility called fairie invisibility, but for the cap to retain its power, it had to be regularly soaked in the blood of the wearer’s victims.  That made for a slightly morbid scene from time to time.  That cap reappeared in my 4E game with an additional power that allowed its wearer to phase thorough material objects.  It could be done, but the rules didn’t encourage it.

My 5E games are proving more “magical” than my previous games.  The characters in my Zentlan campaign have reasons to slay the fey lord Doresh, Lord of the Fading Dream, but to do so, they need a special sword.  The crippled storm giant Gormagon forged them a sword that can damage Doresh, whether he is in Dream or in Reality.  Last game, the aquagith swordsmith, Ja’Ruhl tempered the blade so that it is silvered and does psionic, as well as, slashing damage.  The characters will need to continue to seek out famous smiths and get them to enhance the weapon until it is truly a blade worthy of fighting a Lord of the Fae.  I, also, dropped a load of items of adaption on them, but what they are going to do with those rings, torcs, and bracelets, I’m not sure.  In my Bazarene Circuit game, my Players have found a slew of elemental crystals.  They are not magical in themselves, beyond their soft glowing, but they are useful ingredients in various magical spells and items.  They have also found two Masks of the Smoke Dragon; they may need to be wary of them.

A Mask of the Smoke Dragon grants its wearer darkvision and makes him or her immune to the effects of smoke and other airborne contaminants.  It’s not too powerful of an item for a 2nd level character.  It will let a PC move through a darkened room filled with poisonous gas without any inconvenience.  End of story, right?  I have a few questions for you all, Dear Readers.  1) Who made the masks?  2) Why were the masks made?  3) What is the Smoke Dragon?  4) Is the Smoke Dragon a real entity or a magical effect?  5) What were/are the aims of the Smoke Dragon and/or its creators?  6) Are there additional enchantments on the masks that the PCs do not know about?

Until next time, Game On!

Why do I Master Games?

So, a few days ago, I posted an old review in response to a Creighton Broadhurst post.  That post led my best friend to suggest that I start a blog wherein I review old gaming material.  I started working on a post for this potential project.  While I was working on that blog post, I realized something…I don’t remember why I got started GMing.

Granted, it has been over 30 years, since I sat down and started GMing, but I do not remember the steps between my first experience playing D&D that Sunday afternoon in March at Davy’s house and sitting down at my parent’s kitchen table drawing Lungold…I mean, Mythgold.  I know that I must have played D&D more than that one time.  I had an Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual that my parents gave me for Christmas.  So, what led me to wanting to create my first dungeon?  What led me to craft an overland map that led the PCs to Mythgold?  What set me on this path that I will not willingly leave?  I don’t remember.

I remember long hours of playing my cleric Gregor O’Dragon nee The Gaunt, but a fair number of those hours happened after I first ran Players through parts of Mythgold.  I remember being fascinated by the descriptions of the rooms in the module B1In Search of the Unknown.  I remember stealing ideas right out of that module for Mythgold.  I just don’t remember why I wanted to DM.

Our gaming group, in the early days, consisted of Davy McMillian, Michael McMillian (Davy’s cousin), Stephen Goff (my cousin), Clyde Smith(Davy’s friend), and Mark Inabinette (my cousin).  Davy started out as DM, because he had the books.  Shortly, thereafter, Davy and Clyde began taking turns at DMing.  I don’t remember what happened at most or any of those games, but it was during those early days that I must have begun to desire to sit on the other side of the DM’s Screen.

What if my memory is faulty?  What if I am wrong about which AD&D book my parents bought me for Christmas?  What if I started drawing Mythgold before I had any D&D books of my own?  It doesn’t really matter, because the truth of the thing is that I wanted to create.  I wanted to make a dungeon.  I wanted PCs and their Players to interact with the monsters that I had placed within it.  I just don’t know why?

Even if I do not remember why I started GMing, I know why I do it today.  I do it today, because I am a poor player.  I have a hard time sitting on the far side of the Game Master Screen and not think about how I would run the game different.  I enjoy creating.  I get a great joy spending time designing maps.  Working up NPC personalities gives me great satisfaction.  Writing secret cards helps me to think outside of the box and fuels further creativity.  Running games makes all the creative work I do worth the effort and time that goes into creating.  Being caught off guard by my Players and having to maintain composure, think on my feet, and give the illusion that I had everything already planned out gives me a thrill that outweighs the glory of creating.  Watching a story unfold, a story that I could not have crafted on my own, is like watching a flower bud open.  It is a thing of beauty.  Seeing Players getting caught up in the moment gives me energy to go deeper and draw forth more better encounters and adventures.  It helps me make my world a more real place, at least for a short while, than the rest of reality in which we dwell.

So, why do you Master Games, my Good Readers?  What draws you into the bright darkness that requires us to fill crannies full of goblins and sow the seeds of dragons?  Until next time, Game On!


An Epiphany of Time (or Does Gregory Know When the Prophecy Will be Fulfilled?)

On this the Twelfth Day of Christmas, I want to talk about my attempts at cosmology and calendar keeping.  Before I get to that, I would like you, dear reader, to drop over to Falling Toward Mythopoesis and check out Sarah McCabe’s commentary on Christmas and time keeping.

When I started creating Rilmorn, I decided that Rillmorn had two suns, three moons, and twenty-six hour days.  I did this mostly to be difficult, but soon those features of my game.  My Players and I soon began discussing what would the effect of three moons be upon lycanthropes.  I told my players that Rillorrn was at the apex of triangle formed by the two suns and Rillmorrn and that they all orbited around a central point and that led to all sort of questions concerning the three body problem and how the axial tilt of the world affected the apparent positions of the suns based on the seasons.  I gave the three moons orbital cycles of 4, 9, and 38 days and using those numbers, I created a three-year perpetual calendar that covered the times each moon was full.  While my Players and I often forgot what day it was supposed to be in the campaign, I often got to use those 36 pages to set up important ceremonies and planar openings in game based on which moons were full and were they fell in the seasons.  Over time I added a wandering star that appeared ever 26 years, “God’s Eye,” a comet with a 27 year cycle named the “Dragon’s Tear,” and Mondham, a city that appears for a year once every 7 years.  I never successfully added those cosmological events into my calculations.

Given all this information, I should be able to pinpoint the date of Llywelyn’s Return, but after the Cataclysm that precipitated transition from 2E to 3E, the suns named Mercy and Justice were no longer in synchronous orbit with Rillmorn.  With that, I have too many variables to track.  Fortunately, my friend Thom made me a website that can.  Using this calendar and the information that I created to fit the Prophecy, I know that Llywelyn is prophesied to return 1 Aris 2029 Age of Wyrms.  This stuff makes it much easier to work out prophecies and track celebrations and holy days.  Do any of you have similarly complex calendar/cosmologies?

Game On!

Sticks and Stones (or What Special Materials Have Appeared on Rilmorn)

D. over at Fluer du mal posted about the materials used to make magic items in his games. It got me thinking about the special materials that have appeared on Rilmorn.  Here is my post on those thoughts.

Way back in the day, I was seventeen and not nearly as well read or knowledgeable as I thought I was, but I knew enough about copyright and plagiarism that I didn’t want to do it.  Even back at the beginning I wanted to publish my game world, so I couldn’t use “mithril,” since that came from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.  Thus, I named my star silver metal argentyl.  Since those early days, other materials have made their way into my games, but argentyl is still the most likely to appear.

Ages ago, I read H. Warner Munn’s Merlin’s Godson and Merlin’s Ring and from it I got the impression that orichalcum was milky-gold in color, extremely strong, and had not magical properties, but magical affecting properties.  Thus, I introduced two forms of orichalcum into Rillmorn.  The first was simply swords made of an orichalcum and iron alloy that had “pluses to hit and damage,” but were not magical.  A +2 orichalcum blade would retain its attack and damage bonuses even if its wielder were in an anti-magic zone.  The second way in which orichalcum appeared was in the form of “spell breakers.”  Spell breakers were magical daggers that could be used to “kill” incoming spells.  If a spell breaker wielder had his weapon ready when a spell was cast, the wielder could make an attack roll against the spell’s armor class, if the wielder hit the AC in question the spell “broke.”  Spell breakers were useless in combat.  Spell breakers haven’t been seen since before my USM days and the last orichalcum blade to appear was the one found by Alkin du Fey Duncan and it was rumored to be a pure orichalcum (a +5 weapon) blade.

I do not remember when I came up with the idea of trollsilver, but it was wildly popular for several games.  Before there were spell foci in D&D, a spellcaster using an object made trollsilver to cast a spell could roll a d6 to see how the trollsilver empowered the spell.  On a 1 or 2, the duration of spell increased threefold.  On a 3 or 4, the range and area of effect increased three times.  On a 5 or 6, the “power” of the spell increased by three: IE – 6th level fireball would do 18 dice of damage instead of 6 dice.  Trollsilver faded into the background after a just a few adventures.

One of the rarest of all gemstones on Rilmorrin is the prismate.  Prismate is a gem forged stone.  Gem forging is a psionic/magical art that blends two or more precious or semiprecious stones into a single stone.  Prismates are made up of the dust of numerous gemstones and when completed each facet is a different color.  Only one magic item ever has ever been found with a prismate as part of it.  A flawed prismate was the pommel stone of the sword Policrom.  Prismates still appear occasionally in treasure hoards around the world.

While I’ve used other materials in Rimoranic history, but I think these are the best.  What materials have you created for your games?

Game On!

From the Ashes of Past Campaigns

Back in the mid 1990s, I tried to run a non-Realmorin campaign.  It was going to be based in Celto-Nordic setting with Greco-Roman invaders as the sometimes allies/sometimes enemies.  I had made many lists of important persons, each list based around a culture or or location.  I had a Bard NPC, who was the lynch pin to the campaign plot.  I got to pull ideas and uses from my Chivalry and Sorcery books.  It was great!

It ended with the first game.  It was not as quick an ending as the “Thirty Minute Campaign” (If you really want to know about this one, comment and I’ll try to develop a decent post about it), but it ended quick enough.  The game ended when one of my Players got it in his head to kill off the Camber McGregor – the Bard that my plot hinged upon.  The game folded at that point, because I saw no way to move the game forward and it seemed obvious that my Players didn’t care for this campaign.  It was sad; I was really invested in that campaign setting. (2013.11.23)

Twenty Years Later – I can make use of the lists of NPCs that I created so long ago.  I don’t even remember the plot line of the original campaign, but that doesn’t matter.  What does matter is the setting.  Iolta and Thrain is a Celto-Nordic setting.  I’ve got my reclusive dwarven kingdom and my hidden elven realms.  Norn is Viking-central.  I am thrilled to have players invested in the setting and since I am not thrusting a plot upon them, I can fill in the Spaces of Setting and enjoy it as much as my Players enjoy playing in it.


Do any of my fellow GMs have tales of getting to use things that they failed to use before?

Game On!

Gods, Demigods, and Heroes

In the nature of full disclosure, I feel obligated to reveal the following information.  I was born and raised a Christian (denomination: Methodist).  I am still a practicing Christian, though at the present time I do not have a home church.  I attended Chandler School of Theology, Emory University; I did not complete my Masters of Divinity degree.  I believe that there are multiple deities…” Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3 KJV), not “There are no other gods.”  Now, on to our randomly scheduled post.

I recently finished reading Hammered by Kevin Hearne: the third in the Iron Druid Chronicles and the way Mr. Hearne deals with gods and faith has led me to reexamine the deities of Rilmorn.  Shortly after I finished Hammered, I found a link directing me to a video of Monte Cook giving a lecture on designing gods for Dungeons and Dragons to the Religious Studies Student Organization at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee.  Mr. Cook’s take on faith in D&D worlds only adds reason for my meditation on the gods and goddesses in Rilmorrin.  Together, they force me to ask, “Gregory, how have you treated gods and faith in your game world and what is the best way to way to deal with religion and divine beings in the future?”

In the Iron Druid Chronicles, Kevin Hearne takes some potentially controversial stands on faith, gods, and religion.  All the gods from all the faiths that ever existed are real.  The gods, if they admit it, do not remember their origins…one day each god just was and they didn’t create the world.  Gods are bond by what their followers believe of them.  Add all of this together and introduce a few scenes with Jesus and Mary and I can see where Mr. Hearne could be stomping on more than a few toes; yet he seems to work it all together (with the possible exception of his portrayal of Thor) with grace and respect.  I would like to believe I can do the same with the divine beings of Rilmorrin.

In his lecture, Monte Cook discusses the slippery slope of putting “real-world” deities into a game.  A game designer is going to offend someone, if he or she puts a being that people worship into a game.  Some worshiper is going to feel that the designer is ridiculing or dismissing his or her faith, because designer is using the god as a fictional character.  It only gets worse, if the game designer stats up the god.  Anything with hit points can be killed and sooner or later, some PC will kill it.  I have never statted up gods for Rilmorn, but I have used deities from past and present faiths in my games.  So, how should I handle deities in game and did I do it right in the past?

When I started playing D&D, Davy, Clyde, Tommy, and I all took turns GMing a shared “world.”  It was a world in the sense that all of the PCs existed together and they obviously lived somewhere.  We went out to taverns and drank ale together.  We shopped at the same general goods stores.  We knew the same NPCs.  If that is not a definition of a world, I don’t know what is.  Because we took turns GMing, some games our PCs would tag along in the adventuring party, as an NPC.  It was during one of the times I was GMing the party through Mythgold that Gregor the Gaunt, my cleric of Thor, encountered a chapel dedicated to G_d, discovered a Latin translation of the Bible, and converted on the spot.  This was the first time that I put a religion that I knew was being practiced in the flesh world into my imaginary world.  It was not the last.

Clerics get their power from the gods.  The gods are real.  They are not the deities of Star Trek; to be obliterated when you phaser their temples.  They exist outside of belief and they are often inscrutable, but they have a definite interest in the wellbeing of Rilmoren.  So what I have done with them and their religions over the years.

In the early days, I just accepted all of the gods from the Deities and Demigods Cyclopedia as being part of Rilmorn’s religious biosphere.  I accepted that Christians and Jews existed on Rilmorn, thus the G_d of the Hebrews and the Christ of the Christians existed.  I regretfully admit that I knew nothing about Islam until I was in college.  If I had been asked, before I was twenty, who the Crusaders fought in the Middle East, I would have had to say, “I don’t know.”  Thus, there were no Muslims on Rilmorn.

Later, I would begin picking a choosing deities from multiple sources and attempting to design pantheons and alliances of various faiths for my game world.  I had pared it down to thirty-seven deities and had divided them into thirteen pantheons, some of which shared gods between them.  Even with all of this work other gods and demigods continued to appear.  I failed to really flesh out any of the religions of these divine beings, but I tried to have them available for my Players to use, if they had PCs that wanted a god to venerate.  It was during this time that I met Robert Hegwood and he helped me design a “Christian” faith that could have developed on a world away from Earth.  Also, Mike Magee’s character Gareth Eybender helped a group of desperate cultists turn an efreet into the “God in the Bottle.”  It was time of deep questions in Rilmornic Theology; “What is a god,” was regularly asked during those days.  I look back on Robert’s inclusions in my world’s history and am disturbed by the “faith makes right” attitude of his religion.  I wonder what is going to be the best way for me to make use of this in the future.

After the switch to 3E, I “lost” a bunch of gods in the Cataclysm that made 3E possible.  An unknown number of gods blended themselves together to stop the war that was ripping apart the world.  The new god was Rao and Rao had a vaguely medieval Catholic theme going for him.  He was played off the demons and local demigods of my Rilmoré campaign.  In my Thrasiri campaign, the PCs worshipped the post Ragnarök deities, these are the gods who are to have survived the End of the World in Nordic myth.  In my Divlos campaign, I created a pseudo-Egyptian pantheon with the faith of Rao being an interloper in the region.  Most of my universal deities vanished, but locale pantheons rose up to fill the vacuum.

Now, I am starting up my long proposed 5E game, my Iolta and Thrain campaign.  I have chosen to go with a variant origin of the Tuatha de Danu as the primary deities of the setting.  (Looking at the stuff I worked up months ago, I see it really pairs up nicely with Kevin Hearne’s take on the Tuatha de Dannan.) In the Iron Druid Chronicles, the Tuahta are amortal, they do not age, but they can die; will I need to stat them up?   I’ve got Robert’s “Church of the One God” scattered throughout the lands of Iolta and Thrain, as well.  What do I need to decide about G_d, Jesus, the angels, and the demons?  I’ve spent a lot of words talking about what I did and what I’m doing, but I’ve not really addressed the questions of how I am going to use Earth-world faiths and give them the respect and reverence that they deserve.  Anybody got any advice for me?

Game On!

Grognard Gripe

Wizards of the Coast has deleted all their 4E content and I did not finish downloading my copies of Dragon and Dungeon.  This is one of the reasons, I am not always on board with online content; it is too easy to alter and/or delete.  This means many of the links in my blog are now 404ed.  I was not thrilled with 4E, but I really did get a lot of good ideas from that site.  I will miss it and I am irritated about the sudden (at least to me) change. Here’s the new site.

Just found a listing of articles.  I may be able to find all the things I want and redirect my links to the new pages.  Here’s hoping (2014.07.29) (2014.07.30)

Game On!

To Mod or Not to Mod (or Why Gregory is Bad at Running Modules)

The Games Librarian recently posted about a Game Master’s desire to revisit places in his or her games in which his or her Players invested their time and effort. This was in response to Admiral Ironbombs’ post about Player vs. Character Buy-in when running Adventure Paths or Modules. Both are good reads and I encourage you to check them out.  Mike Mearls of WotC talks about the new Starter Set for 5E and the emphasis they are putting on the included adventure in his Legend and Lore Column. Together, they really got me thinking about how I build and run Ryllmorrin and why I don’t use more Modules.

I have owned or borrowed an untold number of Adventure Modules, since I started gaming. I even ran a few of them.  Any decent Game Master will tell you that unless you are running a One Shot Game, adapt the Module you are running for your campaign.  I did that.  I used NPCs in my game to fit the roles presented in the Modules.  I used my cities and villages in place of the settings in the Adventures.  I did my best to fold them into the World of Rilmorn and make the Modules seem to be part of it.  Yet, I never seemed successful in running an Adventure that I didn’t design. Things always go wrong and I have to throw out the Adventure Module and improvise.  I think I know why I run modules so poorly and I’ll try to explain why over the next few paragraph.

When I began GMing, I possessed the Basic D&D blue book by Dr. Eric Holmes (just the book, not the rest of the boxed set), a borrowed Dungeon Masters Guide, a Monster Manual and the module B1 – In Search of the Unknown.  With that, I began building my campaign.  I did not have a lot of examples to use in my design process, so I made it up as I went along.

I’ve talked about my first games and Mythgold the Underground City of Wizards. When I first ran it, Mythgold was not a complete map. I would fill in the areas I thought I needed, leave the rest blank, and fill in more before the next session. I do not remember when my players decided to go off the map section I had completed and head into the unknown, but I’d bet it was fairly early on. I had to jump through some hoops to keep the game going.

When my players went off map, I would describe what the person making the map would need to know to continue the map (because making the map was a BIG part of D&D in the early days) and while they drew in the map section I had just described, I would pretend to check my notes and fill in what I had just described. Every time from that point on, when my players decided to talk among themselves, I’d draw a bit more on my map and make notes as to what was therein. I did everything I could to keep up the illusion that I had everything planned out and that my players couldn’t catch me off guard. I guess I did/do the same thing when I run Modules/Adventures.

I know I run a very sandbox-style of game and that may predicate my aversion to running Canned Adventures. I, also, have had a number of players, who want to “make the plot train jump the tracks.” They are the players that when presented with a plot hook of “Save the Princess and You’ll be Gifted with Titles and Lands by the King,” say “Why should we do that? We are adventurers and can claim lands and keeps from the monsters we defeat in the wilderness, so what else will you give us? Make it good or we might go help the kidnapper.” So, when these Players know there is a Module being run, they try to break out of the rails from the word “Go!” These are two things that make running Modules difficult for me.

Another thing that makes running Canned Adventures and Adventure paths difficult for me is the fact that sometimes I think what the Module says is supposed to happen is stupid or unfair. My latest complaint of this nature is with the 4E Adventure Revenge of the Giants.


SPOILER BEGINS (Highlight to see Spoiler)

On pages 154-155 of Revenge of the Giants, the Adventure sets up the ultimate fight between the drow priestess Lolestra, as she attempts to free the primordial Piranoth, and the Heroes.  There is way for the PCs to defeat Lolestra before she releases the primordial.  Here’s where I get upset, if the PCs defeat Lolestra, then her goddess Lolth steps in and frees the primordial, so the PCs then have to defeat the Primodial, too.


That is unfair. If the Players come up with a way to circumvent the Big Boss Fight, then they should be awarded the Experience Points for that fight for thinking outside the box or getting lucky and doing all the things they needed to do right to prevent the fight from happening.

In addition to “Rail Buster” Players, I’ve also had really good “Lateral Thinker” Players (sometimes, they are the same Player). I like it when my Players come up with ideas outside the box and I know good GMs always go beyond the Adventure Path or Module and let the unexpected idea work, because it is the good GMing thing to do. But what does a GM do, when the Players take such an idea to a logical conclusion? Admiral Ironbombs describes this exact scenario in his post. I understand why he did what he did, but when I encounter this problem, I leave the Path.  When I’m running a Module and my Players get caught up in a subplot or tangent, I rum with it. I use as much of the material in the Adventure as possible and fill in the gaps as I go. I guess the final answer, as to why I run Canned Adventures so poorly, is I’m more interested in what my players are doing, than I am in what the Adventure Path or Module is doing.

Tony Powers over at Epic Heroes is gearing up to run the Pathfinder Adventure Path Skulls and Shackles.  Here is his post about prep. (2014.07.21)

The GM Behind the Screen also has a post about players Riding Off The Rails. (2014.09.10)


Until next time, Game On!

Edition Wars (or OH, NO! Here We Go Again)

I’ve seen various people post about the announcement of 5E – Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition release dates.  Some are jaded and feel that it has all been done before.  Others are offering a depressed, but optimistic, hope that it will be good.  Various forums have people shouting for their favorite edition or bemoaning the idea that Wizards of the Coast are trying to get more money out of them.  I was going to keep quiet about the whole deal and do my best to ignore it.  I can’t.

Having played D&D starting with the Holmesian Blue Book version of Basic Dungeons and Dragons and played through each and every version of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons to date, including the playtest version DnD Next, I have an opinion on this subject.  I’m tired of the fighting.  That’s my opinion.

Edition Wars did not begin with 3E.  They began with Basic and Advanced.  There was enough demand for Basic Dungeons and Dragons that TSR built an entire product line around the Known World (what would become known as Mystara).  This happened right alongside Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.  People would meet up in game stores, at conventions, and, later, on online bulletin board systems to deride and attack the other side for selling out or being poor gamers.  This is not new.

The wars did not end with one’s preferred version of D&D.  People would fight over Role Playing vs. Roll Playing.  (Sound familiar?)  Munchkins were vilified by True Role Players.  Monty Haul Games were ridiculed as low brow, beer and pretzel games by those who believed themselves more sophisticated.  Gary Gygax even took umbrage against those who didn’t play Real Dungeons and Dragons (I talk about that article in this post).  It is all the same story: “Do it my way or hit the highway.”

It gets even uglier, when one considers other games by other companies.  “How could you play Runequest; it’s a D&D rip off?”  “Call of Cthulhu is just superior to any other RPG because it uses percentile dice and has a literary foundation.”  “How can you play Rolemaster?  It’s all tables.”  Go ahead pick a game and I’d feel comfortable betting that I can find a website that has proponents that feel that all other games are stupid.  I may be wrong, but I doubt it.

Grognards have always existed.  They were even present at the release of 2E.  A long time ago, I was given a small, typewritten, piece of paper that humorously and ironically described the transition from 1E to 2E.  It talked about the shift from Greyhawk to the Forgotten Realms.  It joked about the sudden change of paladins to cavaliers.  There were other sly observations about how the “new” D&D universe worked, but it ended with the very unkind idea that only stupid people would want Gary Gygax back in charge of D&D and that good, smart people would kill anyone who tried.  When it dawned on me that that type of thinking was fanaticism and the same ignorance espoused by those who didn’t want to change from their beloved edition to whatever new was coming out, I got rid of it.  I do not want to be one of those that promotes hate, even in what is meant to be a joke.  There will always be those who fear or hate change.  It is sad, but true.

To those who bemoan the fact that WotC is trying to make more money, I’ve only this to say, “Of course, they are; Wizards of the Coast is a business and if they don’t make money, they have to quit being a business!”  This is no different than Pazio selling Pathfinder or Monte Cook selling Numenera.  It is their job to make stuff for gamers to buy.  If you don’t want to support the people whose jobs it is to design, write, and publish games, game modules, and gaming supplements, then don’t buy the stuff they put out and quit trying to make those people that do buy their products feel bad for buying what they want to buy.

I doubt it happen, but I do wish the gaming community at large would grow up.  A new edition does not diminish your personal games in any way.  People playing with different styles of game play are not better or lesser than you and you do not need to “convert them to the true path of gaming.”  Maybe the newest edition on the block isn’t all that new in its concepts or game play.  Maybe it is a ploy to get people to buy more stuff.  Maybe it is better than anything that has gone before it.  In the end, it doesn’t matter.  If you don’t want it, don’t get it.  If you don’t like it, don’t do it.  Unless gaming is a virus and one needs to be inoculated to prevent the spread of disease, let it go and enjoy what you have.

DMing with Charisma posted a response to this post and I really like it.

I found A Brief History of the Edition Wars by Admiral Ironbombs on his site Logic is my Virgin Sacrifice to Reality.  Please check it out.


Until we meet again, Game On!