Miniature Spelljammer – WIP

For anyone unfamiliar with the Spelljammer expansions, back in 1989 the writers of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons decided that a magical middle-earth fueled by the dreams of nerds and libraries of modules wasn’t expansive enough. So they took us to space.

Dungeons and Dragons…in space. Just let that sink in. Illiterate barbarians operating complex space-faring machinery. Sorcerers throwing fireballs into the dark depths of the cosmos. Bards no longer limited to creepily hitting on wenches from their home planet. It was beautiful, and it was ridiculous. Continue reading “Miniature Spelljammer – WIP”

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Cheap Insect Miniatures (Update)

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A few years ago I posted a quick and dirty tutorial on how to transform malformed, cheap, Dollar-Store packs of insect toys into table-worthy miniatures. Since then I have refined my process, as well as found even cheaper materials to use for greater effect. Here is the update, in case you’re gaming on the kind of budget that makes a street hobo look like a sultan. Continue reading “Cheap Insect Miniatures (Update)”

5 Diseases That Sound Goddamn Magical (To Use In Your Game)

The moment you start to describe the monster in your game I snap my fingers, shout ‘Ah-hah!’ and locate it in Monster’s Manual. Now everyone at the table knows everything about your creature. Now we can math it out, by the numbers, and plan how to defeat it.

You begin describing a magical effect–I already know what spell it is, what it’s maximum range is, and how far I need to sprint away.

You introduce a new town, but I’ve already read the companion modules and I know all of Duskvale’s secrets.

You tell us a riddle, I look it up online.

You give us a puzzle, I break it.

You place a ward, I dispell it.

Hello, my name is Joe, and I’m that know-it-all asshat who ruins your game Continue reading “5 Diseases That Sound Goddamn Magical (To Use In Your Game)”

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)”

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.”

Or,

“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)

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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”