Archive for August, 2011

My personal calendar of in-game effects

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on August 31, 2011 by reignofjotuns

Whenever my group plays a game, I like to see if anything happened on that date that I can reference in the game session.

Most of these are nodded at by simply referencing the event that happened on that date in game.
Whenever I didn’t know the actual date something was published, I would get it by averaging the year it was published in.
I also shifted ‘the empire strikes back’ and ‘return of the jedi’ days a month ahead and to the beginning of the correct month, to avoid overlap.
The thirteenth day of each month is also associated with a specific in-game tragedy, which is used as much as sensible in games held on the thirteenth.
On Birthdays, everyone gets in-game presents! each month also has a day for one of the od&d classes, and one for a d&d monster. Personally I choose to honor those days at least once, even if we don’t  actually play on them.

1  ADOM 1.1.1 day
2  Fighting Man day (Fighting classes gain in-game rewards, usually inconsequential or strictly novel, e.g. romance, novelty magic items, a bardic poem dedicated to them)
3  J.R.R. Tolkien’s Birthday (presents can include: mithril mail, magic black arrow, rings, broken magic sword, treasure map (with moon runes)
13 Trap day (traps!)
22 Robert E Howard’s Birthday (treasure, weapons, treasure. elephant idol with a jewel for a heart. magicians get half treasure.)
31 Displacer beast day

1  ‘Call of Cthulhu’ day
2  ‘Call of Cthulhu’ (RPG) day (call of cthulhu tribute, plus sanity mechanic)
3  Magic User day (fighting man day for Arcane magician classes)
13 Item Destruction day (monsters use a lot of sunder attempts. spellcasters really like shatter. throw in some item-destroying traps. don’t overdo it, though.)
28 Bugbear day

1  Cleric day (see previous class days)
4  Gary Gygax deathday (exactly one character must die horribly during this session. don’t let players know who has been chosen, just let their doom hang over their heads)
9  my group’s anniversary! ‘Henry V’ day
13 Curse day (curses!)
14 Temple of Elemental Evil day (play ToEEesque adventure if at all possible)
15 H.P. Lovecraft’s deathday (use sanity for this session. do your best to drive characters insane. at least one character must die VERY horribly.)
31 beholder day

1  ‘Nodwick’ day
2  Dwarf day (meaning the class, but the race also gets rewards if you aren’t using race-as-class)
7  Dave Arneson’s deathday (at least one player should be killed by monks and/or assassins.)
9  ‘Macbeth’ day
13 Disease day (DISEASE)
16 Ravenloft day (play Ravenloft tribute adventure)
23 William Shakespeare’s deathday (flip a coin. if heads, tragedy. do your best. may take multiple sessions to complete. if tails, comedy. everyone gets a romantic interest.)
26 William Shakespeare’s baptism date (his actual birthday is unknown. presents include daggers, crowns, etc. try to fit in either a ghost or a doppelganger.)
28 Terry Pratchett’s birthday (presents include invisible hats, pearwood objects, large gold coins, animated books, lilacs.)
30 Mimic day

1  ‘Return of the Jedi’ day
2  Elf day (see Dwarf day.)
4  ‘Rogue’ day (the computer game, not the class. the thief class is later on.)
13 Deadly Poison day (con damage, gotta love it.)
14 ‘Conan the Barbarian’ released in the US (NPCs suddenly think the characters are totally cheesy for a session.)
16 ‘Attack of the Clones’ released (if any of your characters has a backstory with any room to fit crap in, do so. have them come face to face with an annoying friend from their new craptacular backstory. remove this embarassing past after the session, to be merciful.)
19 ‘The Phantom Menace’ released (see the 16th.)
20 ‘Revenge of the Sith’ day (see the 16th.)
25 ‘Star Wars’ day
31 Owlbear day

1  ADOM 1.0.0 day
2  ‘Hamlet’ day
3  Halfling day (see Elf day and Dwarf day)
4  ‘Star Trek: Wrath of Khan’ day
6  D&D 4e day (try to kill off any characters that wouldn’t fit in with the new edition (gnomes, half-orcs, improperly aligned, spellcasters who know ‘wish’,))
11 Robert E Howard’s suicide (1 character must die. spellcasters exempt.)
13 Permanent Ability Score Damage day (you choose which die size to use)
21 ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ day
30 Blink dog day

1  Thief day
3  ‘T2’ day
13 Negative Level day (achieve using level-draining monsters)
27 Gary Gygax’s Birthday (gifts include spellbooks, maps to gygaxian dungeons, guns)
29 ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ day
31 Couerl day

1  Solomon Kane day
2  Monk day
13 Highly Malevolent Magic item day (bags of devouring, swords of berserking, you name it.)
15 ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ day (see the prequels)
20 H.P. Lovecraft’s birthday (gifts include small figurines of monstrous figures)
22 Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser day
31 Gelatinous cube day

1  Tomb of Horrors day (tomb of horrors style adventure. you can choose to give people temporary characters so that they don’t kill off their main ones.)
2  Assassin day
5  Fritz Lieber deathday (all swords owned by party members shatter at once)
13 Wish-Gone-Wrong day (give them a free wish, then mess it up)
21 ‘The Hobbit’ published
29 ‘Order of the Stick’ launchday
30 Flail snail day

1  Dave Arneson’s birthday (gifts include spellbooks, boardgames, figurines)
2  Antipaladin day (if you have any in your party. if not, just have them battle antipaladin NPC)
5  ‘The Colour of Magic’ day
13 Inappropriate Encounter Level day (my personal favorite)
20 ‘The Return of The King’ day
26 ‘Terminator’ day
30 Vargouille day

1  Paladin day
11 ‘The Two Towers’ day
13 Random Divine Smiting day (yes!)
30 Flumph day

1  Conan day
2  Druid day
5  Paranoia XP day (everyone gets six lives. player who dies least gets valuable magic item.)
13 Natural 1 day (each time someone rolls a die, flip a coin as well. if tails, discard the actual die roll and replace with a natural 1. flip once for groups of dice. [2d6 would have one coin flip, and would count as ‘2’ if tails])
24 Fritz Lieber’s birthday (swords. swords for everyone.)
31 Tarrasque day

I also enjoy Actual Holiday-based effects, like letting everyone play monstrous characters for one session on halloween, or merging with 1000 Blank White Cards for April fools.

What’s the deal with the Paladin hate?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on August 26, 2011 by reignofjotuns

I love the Paladin. It’s got good class abilities, good archetypes, and look at this:


That picture is called, ‘a paladin in hell’, by Dave Sutherland, and originally appeared in the AD&D players handbook. You may want to try zooming in and out to capture various perspectives of it. This one of the many pictures that demonstrate why paladins are cool.

This is one of the many pictures that demonstrate why people don’t play paladins.


You’ve seen charts like this before. The Muppets have one. Batman has one. Adventure Time has one. And they all have many things in common, not least of which is making Lawful good the ‘uncool alignment’. Even the Neutral Aliens are cooler than Superman these days.

And the Paladin, like Lawful Good, has the potential to be so much more. Not just Superman. Aragorn. Angel. The Dark Knight. Solomon Kane.

Slowly he rose, mechanically wiping his hands upon his cloak. A dark scowl had settled on his somber brow. Yet he made no wild, reckless vow, swore no oath by saints or devils.

‘Men shall die for this,’ he said coldly.”

“‘What I wish to know, Monsieur,’ said the bandit, ‘is why in the Devil’s name have you harassed my band as you have, and how did you destroy that last set of fools?’

‘Your last question is easily answered, sir,’ Kane replied. ‘I myself had the tale spread that the hermit possessed a store of gold, knowing that would draw your scum as carrion draws vultures. For days and nights I have watched the hut, and tonight, when I saw your villains coming, I warned the hermit, and together we went among the trees back of the hut. Then, when the rogues were inside, I struck flint and steel to the train I had laid, and flame ran through the trees like a red snake until it reached the powder I had placed beneath the hut floor. Then the hut and thirteen sinners went to Hell in a great roar of flame and smoke. True, one escaped, but him I had slain in the forest had not I stumbled and fallen upon a broken root, which gave him time to elude me.’

‘Monsieur,’ said Le Loup with another low bow, ‘I grant you the admiration I must needs bestow on a brave and shrewd foeman. Yet tell me this: Why have you followed me as a wolf follows deer?’

‘Some moons ago,’ said Kane, his frown becoming more menacing, ‘you and your fiends raided a small village down the valley. You know the details better than I. There was a girl there, a mere child, who, hoping to escape your lust, fled up the valley; but you, you jackal of Hell, you caught her and left her, violated and dying. I found her there, and above her dead form I made up my mind to hunt you down and kill you.’

‘H’m,’ mused the Wolf. ‘Yes, I remember the wench. Mon Dieu, so the softer sentiments enter into the affair! Monsieur, I had not thought you an amorous man; be not jealous, good fellow, there are many more wenches.’

‘Le Loup, take care!’ Kane exclaimed, a terrible menace in his voice, ‘I have never yet done a man to death by torture, but by God, sir, you tempt me!’

The tone, and more especially the unexpected oath, coming as it did from Kane, slightly sobered Le Loup; his eyes narrowed and his hand moved toward his rapier. The air was tense for an instant; then the Wolf relaxed elaborately.

‘Who was the girl?’ he asked idly. ‘Your wife?’

‘I never saw her before,’ answered Kane.

‘Nom d’un nom!’ swore the bandit. ‘What sort of a man are you, Monsieur, who takes up a feud of this sort merely to avenge a wench unknown to you?’

‘That, sir, is my own affair; it is sufficient that I do so.'”

I hope that I have, against all probability, said something original about the paladin, and I hope I have given you a good idea of my idea of what the paladin should be.

I wish I were a Grognard

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 11, 2011 by reignofjotuns

The first RPG I can remember playing was the Rogue-like game ADOM. I fell in love with the randomly generated dungeons and monsters, the variety of classes, the sheer bulk of the mechanics I was too young and lazy to learn. I didn’t even understand dice notation at the time. I just picked up whichever weapon I found that seemed cool. ADOM is a relatively recent game, but certain elements of it seemed to reflect old D&D editions, such as the single-axis alignment system and the games general indifferance to which side you chose. The sandbox style of it- just a big map, where you could go to the small cave or the gremlin cave of the infinite dungeon, you could save the puppy first thing, do it later and be too late to save it, or not even try, you could accept the invitation to the pyramid or not. I know most RPGs in 1974 weren’t sandboxes any more than today (probably), but it’s still that attitude that attracts me.

The black background and white floor spaces of ADOM seemed to set the mood for the whole game, and I see the same style in the old black and white illustrations, in the cover of AD&D 1st. There were only four towns, TWO of which had the possibility of affordable magic items, and one of those was deep in the caverns of chaos, and the other was hidden in impassible mountains.

It is probably because of all this that I find myself inexorably drawn towards older, and seemingly older, systems-

yet never have I played one. I have never even tried to play a game even as early as 2e. I started gaming late, and its too late to change, because I’m simply too lazy to spend time learning a new system with weapons doing different different damage than I remember,  and costing different amounts than I’m used to, and having different magic abilities than I’m used to, etc., ad nauseum, so that I can frustrate my players by spending time and energy switching to an older, non-compatible, unbalanced (you can protest, but you know it’s true and they’re going to care at least enough to use it as an argument not to change) system just so I can gain some ‘Tabletop Cred’.

besides, even if you like the old systems (and I definitely don’t blame you) you must agree that the newer systems have valuable perspective in them too- all classes advance at the same rate, that chart that gives estimated treasure total by level is extremely useful when someone needs to bring in a higher-than-first level character, the magic item rules have been ruthlessly balanced.

Myself, I am doomed to perhaps lose some gamer respect from those whose opinions I may value most, and for now I will stick with my Microlite20 game (using my Pathfinder RPG book’s lists of feats and magic item rules for help balancing new creations), and maybe modifying the rules to be more old-school (I personally like race-class restrictions). Maybe I’ll even persuade my players to do a one-shot Labyrinth Lord dungeoncrawl.

I still hope to find some 1st Ed or B/X group in my area that will take me on as a player, but I wouldn’t want to DM one.]


And maybe someday,

if the pastime hasn’t been criminalized by

the oppressive fascist giraffe-programmed all-knowing civil service AI,

I can grow a beard, gain weight, and be there tomorrow

to high-five you yesterday and tell those kids

to get their damn holographic miniatures off my lawn.


Isaac Murphy

On the nature of Dragons

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on August 9, 2011 by reignofjotuns

When you think ‘vampyre’, do you think of the old English terror in the night,
The shrouded blood-drinking ghost, or do you think of Edward Cullen and Angel?
Right now there are hundreds of people on the net mocking and defaming Twilight,
and trying to bring the vampire back to its roots. Fine.

But the Dragon has undergone a much more widespread, and less protested,
Gimpification- google image search ‘dragon’ and you will no longer find primal terror-
Instead, the dragon is now an almost noble looking creature, and bland, too- they are no longer monsters.
The so-called, ‘Honky Dragon’, as I so call it, no longer looks fearful even when portrayed
with proper respect in such bastions as Heavy Metal cover art. It’s just weak.

Forget the ridiculousness of color-coding dragons according to alignment,
I don’t feel they should be even possibly good.
The best Dragon I’ve seen recently is the one on page 21 of the childrens’
book ‘curse of the ring’, illustrated by Tudor Humphries. Unfortunately, I
was unable to find a copy online, so here are some pictures that seem to me to be helpful
in explaining what I mean.

mainly for the claws. look at those things!

several core principles, repeated many times over.

A Dragon is not noble. A Dragon is scaly, evil, a writhing Wyrm,
A wracked and ruinous form of life!

When I see a dragon like this:

It just twists my heart with the thought of what we’ve lost.

Our culture is so oversaturated with this kind of dragon
that it isn’t even cool anymore; when you see a guy with a silver dragon ring, which is closer to your first impression: “bitchin’!”, “how long since HE dated”?

How am I supposed to scare my players with this?
In earlier editions (or so I have heard; I don’t have enough personal experience to be OFFICIALLY a Grognard) dragons were treated to fear and awe- but perhaps it’s more of a cultural paradigm shift than it is the fault of the RPG industry.

Clearly, though, this is one of those times when Tolkien’s “childrens'” book The Hobbit seems closer to the ideal RPG mindset than any D&D book published later than 2e.