How To Roleplay A Chronic Drunk (In Character)

If I ask you to pretend to be drunk right now, you might try stumbling around the room like a marionette with half its strings cut. Or you might emulate the inebriate’s native language; the slow-drawl moist-lipped slur. Or, if you’re especially imaginative, you might act confused, like a geriatric with dementia waiting to be wheeled back into your room. These are the common signs of intoxication the media has embedded in our minds. These are the behaviors players will adopt if they check the “alcoholic” box on their character sheet’s list of flaws. And, without exception, these are wrong. Continue reading “How To Roleplay A Chronic Drunk (In Character)”


S.C.O.R.E. (Not Your Father’s Tabletop)

I’m not satisfied with my RPG gaming experience. And I don’t just mean that I haven’t had a game in over a year. I mean even when I’ve got a game together I’m not satisfied with the experience. There is, and almost always has been, something missing from my game table. And I think I’ve found a solution. But first I’ve got to lay the foundation. Continue reading “S.C.O.R.E. (Not Your Father’s Tabletop)”

The Cups Game (A Mind-Melting D&D Puzzle)

Usually when I write puzzles for my game it’s to entertain the players. But sometimes, on rare occasion, I throw a puzzle at the party that’s so dangerous, so devious, and so rewarding, that they can’t not resist it. They squirm and sweat and curse, trying to choose a course of action, when in reality there is no way to know what the correct path is. These hair-pulling puzzles are not to entertain the player. These enraging, crazy-making games of sadism are all for my enjoyment.

And here is just such a puzzle, so you can torture your players too. Continue reading “The Cups Game (A Mind-Melting D&D Puzzle)”

5 Essential Traits of a Pants-Ruining Monster

Once in a while we need to frighten the players. A house on a haunted hill. A monster in the closet. A sewer full of horrors. The next campaign calls for major creeps. But the problem with players (nay, media consumers) is that they’ve seen it all before. Most horror movies on Netflix have stranger monsters than the Monster’s Manual. Even your average non-horror RPG game, like Fallout or Skyrim, contain thrills that make old slasher flicks look like Anna Karenina.

How do I scare my players? How do I legitimately freak them out? How do I make their pulse pound after a lifetime of slaying vampires, goblins, and trolls? Continue reading “5 Essential Traits of a Pants-Ruining Monster”

Life After Death (In D&D)

Somewhere in the world today, a tabletop player got his or her favorite character killed. The chasm was too wide to jump. The gelatinous cube wasn’t edible. The dragon wasn’t really sleeping. The Orcs apparently take offense to making ‘Handle Animal’ attempts on them. For whatever reason the player is no longer the owner of a proud, courageous denizen of middle earth, but an arrow-riddled corpse and whatever equipment the party is willing to pass on to their new character.

Character death is usually dealt with like a child’s backstroke goldfish. Unceremoniously discarded, and replaced before anyone feels any real loss. Players are quick to throw up their hands Continue reading “Life After Death (In D&D)”

Free Will and Traitors in D&D

You lovingly crafted the end-dungeon boss encounter, carefully balancing his stats. You painted a miniature of his hideous drooling face, and spent hours at the table leading up to the climactic battle between the party and Sneery Evilton, mayor of Dicksberg. You even wrote some canned dialogue for him to recite to the party. Some pithy villainous barbs, like;

“We’re not so different, you and I.”


“Join me or die.”

And it’s at this moment, as the players clutch their d20’s in preparation to dispatch one of several Big Bads sprinkled throughout your game, this happens…

“Sure, I’ll join. What do I get in return?”

That’s right. One of the players has agreed to fall in line with the villain’s plans Continue reading “Free Will and Traitors in D&D”

The Importance of Player Recognition

One of my favorite Ted Talks comes from Dan Ariely, in a presentation from 2012 about personal recognition and what makes us motivated to work hard. If you haven’t seen this speech it isn’t a requisite to understand what I’m going to rap about today, but it’s a damn good presentation and you should just go watch the bloody thing.

What Mr. Ariely talks about is the importance of recognizing the labor of workers. Not rewarding. Not praising. Not encouraging. Simply acknowledging the labors of another can double the amount of menial work they’re willing to put in. This is a notion that can easily be applied to your gaming. Continue reading “The Importance of Player Recognition”

D&D Prop – The Mad Grimoire (A How-To Guide)


In mythology, fantasy, or D&D, the allure of forbidden knowledge is rife with possibility. Tell someone they can’t look inside the box or push the mysterious red button, and they’re on it like stink on rice. Well, here’s an easy way to port that nagging curiosity into your game while simultaneously tricking your players into absorbing some world lore: The Mad Grimoire

Continue reading “D&D Prop – The Mad Grimoire (A How-To Guide)”

How Tabletop Games Ruined Magic Swords

Last week I sat in for a session at my local game shop, and I noticed something weird. Magic swords, as a plot device, have become utterly useless. In brief, here were the events that played out:

  • The players arrive at a dungeon, seeking an ancient artifact.
  • The dungeon master lovingly describes the magic sword, its history, and why it was entombed.
  • The players solve the puzzle, loot the sword, and leave the dungeon.
  • Players go back to town and have the sword identified (beyond its special name) and find that its stat bonus is not as high as they expected.
  • The players sell the sword at the general store.

Continue reading “How Tabletop Games Ruined Magic Swords”

5 Tip For Writing Sympathetic NPCs

Player sympathy in tabletop gaming is like a quick DMV line. Theoretically it’s happened somewhere, to someone. But not to me. Out there, among the thousands of gaming groups, a player has refused to bludgeon an unguarded merchant over his countertop of shiny baubles. Somewhere the pleas of an orphan in the street weren’t met with suspicious purse-clutching. In someone’s game– maybe even your game, dear reader– a damsel was saved because it was the right thing to do, without anybody rolling a Charisma check for a “happy ending.”

Those are not in my games. Continue reading “5 Tip For Writing Sympathetic NPCs”