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”

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)”

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”

A GM’s Guide to Practical Looting

Let’s face it: your players are thieves. Sure, they may wait until after they murder someone to take their shit, but take their shit they will, and afterwards they’ll complain that the shit they took was barely worth the effort to commit those murders. Worse yet, players have a tendency to view any loot they acquire like prepaid debit cards. Each with it’s own gp value and easily stored in a backpack or bag of holding Continue reading “A GM’s Guide to Practical Looting”

The Bargain Box (Of Magic Rings)

Years ago I had the good fortune to meet an incredible young DM. And as social rejects often do, we swapped war stories. Of course, I suck, so for the life of me I can not remember his name. But I do remember his excellent summary of one of his campaigns.

Near the beginning of his campaign the low-level PCs paid a visit to a small magic store where they happened to notice a small box of silver rings “on sale”. When one of the party asked the shopkeeper about it he informed them that these were practice pieces made by the local elvish wizard apprentices. Enchanted, but flawed– Continue reading “The Bargain Box (Of Magic Rings)”