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Home of the Quantum Ogre, Agency, Theory, and Fun-Chttp://www.blogger.com/profile/02331863932906631618noreply@blogger.comBlogger1138125
Updated: 1 week 3 days ago

On the Birthday Surprise, a Dread Eyrie!

Mon, 03/04/2019 - 17:31
Well, I turn older in a few days, but THIS year, I've accomplished a life long goal.

Finally, someone else has published something I've written!

This is amazing. I can't believe it.

So, if you think I'm full of crap-here's an example of how I'd write a good module. I've been talking shit providing insight into adventure design for so long, why not check it out and see how I do when put up to the test?


Eyrie of the Dread Eye!

It's 56 (!) pages, an homage to the Forbidden City. It's available from Drive Thru RPG in .pdf and Print (coming soon!). There's a plan in place to get .pdf price is deducted if you decide to get the print on demand in two weeks!
I've been writing about the classic style gaming for over a decade now. What do I do when I have the reigns for designing a high or mid-level module? Here's an adventure for high level characters that doesn't involve a stupid corridor of unavoidable fights or complete nullification of the players powers.  Oh! Bullet points!
  • A quest beyond the Dark Wall!
  • An adventure with an assumption of dynamic encounters?
  • Climbing AND Wyverns. Together! It's like peanut butter and jelly!
  • An ancient 400' tall statue, guarding a hidden eyrie. How will the players activate or bypass the mysterious mechanism?
  • A city filled with factions, each ripe for exploitation.
  • Opportunities for players to get unique and powerful treasures!
  • It's written for Adventurer Conqueror King, so it's completely off-the-shelf compatible with not only the one of the best clones ever written, but also seemlessly used with any Basic/Expert Dungeons and Dragons compatible system.
It's 4.99! This is a discount on when the Print on Demand comes out in a week! 5e version and Print on demand coming soon!
My first book published guys. I've got more coming out soon, but this one is first. I poured myself into it. 
Am I full of crap, or is this a good mid-high level adventure? Only one way to find out, and it's pretty cheap. Eyrie of the Dread Eye, available for the pittance of 4.99! Bonus materials coming to Patreon!
Happy Birthday to me!
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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On the Sunless Citadel Stroll

Fri, 03/01/2019 - 14:00

I've played a lot of adventures. I've never been able to easily find out what happens in an adventure without playing it. I've always wished someone talked about the adventures that they've been through, not so much a review, but a commentary. This. . . is that.

The Sunless CitadelI had just moved to this city for the first time, and was back in college. I was working a terrible phone support job for an internet service provider, with weird and shady people. That redhead was named Scarlett, and that story is one for another time.

I spent all my free time at work getting little dribs and drabs of information about the new third edition of Dungeons and Dragons on Enworld. It was going back to the dungeon. Any race could be any class. Dungeons & Dragons things were miraculously still being published.

It was a heady time.

I ran this module for a group of friends, as my first experience running third edition. It was a well-designed linear adventure. The part nobody remembers is that there's an evil tree sprouted from a stake used to kill a vampire, protected by an evil druid, that blooms two evil fruits with seeds that create twig blights.

There's a couple of quick and minor encounters on your way into the valley, with enough distraction to lull the players into a sense of security. They checked for traps the first time, the second, and the third, but the fourth was a pit trap they walked into. Well done. The maps are pretty interesting and  although very linear, they at least nod to creativity, expansion, and multi-level adventure.

It's early in the life cycle, but the module clearly pushes a certain model of play, remember where the squares are, success is determined by checks (with a nod to some behaviors), and a strong board "game-like" feel and structure. It's easy to see how this eventually developed into the baroque Pathfinder, where the system itself handles all vagaries of play, being a precision model that answers all questions for the dungeon master. 

The Citadel ProperOnce entered, there's a magically locked door to the left, and the dungeon to the right.

The magically locked door is a sequence of chambers that only give the slightest nod to options. They can have the key, The knock spell (which requires a third level wizard in this first level adventure) or they can succeed at a DC 36 (!) Strength check. It's unlikely anyone would have a +16 bonus to their strength at first level. At the end you find a troll and some treasure.

Once you give up and go the way you are supposed to, you meet Meepo. Everyone remembers Meepo, he went on to some measure of fame. He only says two things:

"The clan's dragon. . .  we've lost our dragon. The wretched goblins stole Calcryx, our dragon!"
"Meepo don't know, but the leader does. Meepo take you to meet the leader, Yusdrayl, if you make nice. Grant you safe passage, if you promise not to hurt Meepo. May be if you promise to rescue dragon, leader make nice to you, answer your questions."
After this point, every adventuring group in the world pretty much teamed up with Meepo. He walks you through the Kobold sector. You can kill everything in these ten or so rooms, or follow meepo to the boss.

You could free some goblin prisoners on the way, but the adventure says you probably shouldn't. The goblins will lie and flee and double-cross players. See, the kobolds are the good guys and the goblins are the bad guys, and just go along with it.

The kobold territory consists of "Down the 60' hallway". Once that immense distance is traversed, they meat the Kobold leader, Yusdrayl. She gives a quest, retrieve the white dragon and offers the key to the earlier area, and she lets you know about the evil guy downstairs. She is standing in front of an altar with some minor magic items on it, and I've seen more than one party turn on the Kobolds at this point. Many don't, which means Meepo accompanies them on the rest of the adventure.

Even though there's a door that leads straight through to the goblin main encounter, they encourage you to go the back way, so you can adventure through the entire goblin section of the dungeon. The only way the shortcut is taken, is if the Kobolds are all killed.

You have several fights against rats and detritus. To get into the goblin area proper, you have to assault a small wall down a caltrop filled hallway. Once you get past that, you find some prisoners, including a 2nd level Gnome Fighter/Cleric named Erky Timbers who's super eager to join the party.

In a room adjacent to the main path, you can find the little tiny mini white dragon who likes it here. You'll have to fight him without killing him to bring him back to the kobolds.

Did you know they intentionally understate the difficulty of dragons in 3.x so that fighting them would always seem tougher than equivalently difficult monsters? Think about that. Monte Cook designed the rules so that players AND the people running the game would be surprised when the monsters were way more powerful than they said they were supposed to be, because they are dragons. Why not list them at their actual difficulty level? The answer to that is so that the difficulty would be a surprise to anyone who relied on those levels.

Then there are two large rooms that have lots of goblins in them (A 'main' encounter) with a shaft leading to Part II of the dungeon.

All this is fun and fine for an introductory module. People like to succeed and feel useful. There are optional side areas, but the adventure leads you by the nose. On the plus side, the fight with the hobgoblin boss takes place with a giant eighty-foot deep shaft in the middle of the room. 

There's a lot of text, too much, about attacks of opportunity. Don't forget attacks of opportunity! Nobody wants attacks of opportunity. Certainly not these goblins. No sir! They'll flank, but not if they have to take those attacks of opportunity. Memento Aoo.

Down a Shaft to Part II of the dungeonThe grove level is also basically a straight line. You can go north and head into the—undescribed in this module—'underdark'. You can go east and north, or you can head south which loops around to east and north. You follow the module from there straight to the end.

You fight some goblins, worms, one shadow, and skeletons; each area, another few opponents rush to kill you as you attempt to reach the 'boss chamber' at the end of the dungeon. After killing goblins guarding a gate, you stride forward into the penultimate encounter, and slay ten of the evil twig blights all at once, introduced two at a time.

The evil druid boss has some conversation options, mainly explaining everything going on. When the conversation options are exhausted, he exhorts you to surrender. When you predictable refuse you fight the boss, the tree, some more twig blights, and a few adventurers who came here earlier and failed, becoming slaves to the evil tree. Maybe the players can figure out destroying the tree will free the captured adventurers by killing them, allowing you to defeat them without chewing through their hit points?

It was fun, the fights in 3.0 were fun. It very much instilled the idea that dungeons are limited spaces and should be 'cleared' completely, extracting all the treasure and experience. I find that the games I play in are both more difficult and challenging in the sense that it's a lot less likely you'll survive a straight combat, and have enough and large enough spaces that exhaustively exploring dungeons doesn't occur.

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On the Longevity of Dungeons and Dragons

Mon, 02/25/2019 - 13:00
Why is it always Dungeons and Dragons?

Why hasn't some 'better' game come along and replaced it? Why is it always some version or variant of Dungeons & Dragons that people play?

Surely some better game that is in some way different would be the top game, only if. . .

Well, something, right? Longevity of not just game, but campaign. People talk of Dungeons and Dragons games in years—many tables into their first, second, or even third decade of the same campaign.

When you go to a convention, what game fills the room, what game tops the sales, what game draws the young man's eye, and sets the savvy girl's heart aflutter.

Dungeons and Dragons,

But why?

WhyIt's not that it's first. Dungeons and Dragons always had lots of competition, and fell out of the public eye periodically. If its popularity was solely due to it being first, it surely would have fallen to a competitor by now. It has in the past, but only to something more Dungeons and Dragons-like then Dungeons and Dragons itself; when Pathfinder outsold Fourth Edition Dungeons and Dragons.

It might be tempting to make it seem like something complicated, drawing out the tension, but the reasons are straightforward and simple—it's the interactions between these simple reasons that  Dungeons and Dragons lands atop the heap.

  • You keep score in Dungeons and Dragons.
  • A role-playing game has a natural social resonance effect.
  • The game is fundamentally about enforcing order over chaos, erasing the fog of war, and reclaiming that which is lost.

These three factors intersect again and again. Early Dungeons and Dragons games were run with dozens, sometimes hundreds of players, making them addictive like the first massively multiplayer online games—except they weren't online.

If all our physical needs are met, what needs do we have then? Psychologists call it  "self-actualization" and it's a fancy word for 'not being a complete piece of shit'. You want to be helpful, and have your contributions be meaningful. How do we go about doing that?

We go out, into the unknown, and find/discover/do something involving risk, which we bring back to make life better for our people. This entire process is modeled at the table, in front of a group of your peers making it meaningful. It's not just you doing it, but you all imagining it together that makes it count.

But Dungeons and Dragons presents the process in a particularly attractive way.

There is an unknown place underground, across the threshold. We, as humans, know when we step into it. If you've ever been in a situation where you realize it is not safe, then you know how you know you've crossed the threshold into the dark. We explore those spaces in dungeons, lairs, and ruins while in the game.

That sense of risk, danger, agency, and meaning: it's good stuff. It keeps people playing and coming back.

But how does it last so long?

Why it lasts so long
  • There is no core mechanic.
  • The gameplay fundamentally changes as the level increases.

Dungeons and Dragons, particularly campaigns that run in excess of three years, have lots of fiddly bits. And as you gain in power, more and more bits become available. If you simply everything down to a few mechanics, further development once those are mastered or stabilized requires the referee to somehow mechanize magical tea party gameplay. Magical Tea Party is a term for when the activity during play becomes completely dissociated from the rules, procedures, and mechanics of the game.

In traditional games of dungeons and dragons, you progress to owning land, then investing time and resources into shaping and clearing that land, and then meeting your responsibilities for the people on that land. Though a lot of the focus has shifted in more modern versions to a more 'super-hero' version of dungeons and dragons, with a few house rules or deft changes, you can easily play in the old way way.

Because when you don't, you end up meeting the 'expected campaign' determined by research done by Wizards of the Coast. Campaigns run from levels 1-10 and last six to nine months. (Sorry for the video link, but what are you gonna do?)

So yeah. It's always going to be popular, because it's about doing the most meaningful thing we can in the presence of our peers with complete freedom in how we do it.

The Peanut Gallery I know there's someone out there who's really sure if everyone just hears about their favorite game (FATE) everyone will play their favorite game (FATE).

But people have tried those other games.

Of course you could set up a game in another system to run for years, but at some point you realize that there are rules and you are playing a game. And that game has to be about something, some objective, some goal. And that goal needs to be compelling, in the same way a game like Tetris, Dominion, Stardew Valley, or Factorio is compelling. Go into the dangerous area, overcome challenges, recover treasure, gain more power, expand your influence—that's a powerful compelling game.

Obviously, it matters.

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Top Dungeons and Dragons News

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 16:30
We should remember the past, lest. . .

If it were a fad, you wouldn't be reading about it right now.
Dungeons & Dragons was always a fast starter. The first printing of 1,000 copies were gone in just a few months. That print run was doubled and sold out even faster the second time. The popularity was synergistic. Due to a mixup with rights involving The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings—Donald Wollheim of Ace Paperback was upset because Tolkien snubbed him when he asked to print Hobbit and Lord of the Rings in paperback. When their limited 5 year license to print them ran out, he just decided that it was public domain and began publishing it illegally. In order to stop this, in the late 60's they ran a huge publishing campaign to assert their rights in the united states, making the lord of the rings a very popular book in the early 70's. The themes in the book and the rising counterculture of the time made the seminal fantasy novel a nationwide phenomenon.
A lot of that popularity contributed to the fast success of Dungeons and Dragons, which in turn began to spawn more fantasy novels. With distribution channels in bookstores, gas stations, sears, and cheap child friendly books (Moldvay/Cook and Mentzer Basic) along with ads in boy's life and other teenage magazines, it sold millions of copies. 12.9$ million dollars worth in 1981—That's almost 50 million dollars in 2019 money.
It was the first D&D boom, and for many years, was the largest.

Money TroublesOne of the reasons Dungeons and Dragons was able to get into so many distribution channels is that they were sitting on a large pile of money, and therefore willing to take the risk of distributing to bookstores. If a book didn't sell, you could return the cover for your money back. Once control of the game was wrested away from the Gygax family, by the selfish and despicable Blume brothers, everything changed. No longer were they interested in employee feedback. Through a series of poor business decisions, and a rumor of a large stock of suddenly returned books (from Sears, iirc.) in the late 90's, Dungeons & Dragons found itself solidly in the red.
But like anything wonderful and good that asks nothing of the world, people remember and give back. Turns out, Dungeons and Dragons was a fan favorite, A long time player and creator of a cardboard based drug that prints money, Richard Garfield, decided Wizards of the Coast would purchase D&D. They did so, changed the corporate environment, immediately made a series of good business decisions and began to work on 3rd edition Dungeons and Dragons.

Third edition is coming. . . .In the late 90's Dungeons and Dragons was dead. In addition to releasing more and more tone-deaf supplements that sold worse and worse, modern gamers had made all their complaints about Dungeons and Dragons that weren't understood by the gaming public. They had grown up with Dungeons and Dragons, and everyone had moved to the more mature and adult role playing game "Vampire: The Masquerade". In addition to being a bizarre synthesis of of the most overbearing aspects of 'narrative second edition play' (i.e. illusionism, or railroading), it also had a cool cache, and it was a fair sight easier to hook up after a vampire game then the nerdy Dungeons and Dragons.
But in late 1998, rumors began—a new edition of Dungeons and Dragons? I perused the neophyte site EN world sometimes more than one time a day for details.
And it didn't disappoint. It was released, along with the D20 license allowing Dungeons and Dragons to flourish as content came out. But even from the release of the Sunless Citadel the path we are on began to form. Characters complained about the open dungeon, and the monsters that were stronger or weaker than what the low-level party could handle, leading to design that increasingly became more mechanical, linear, and focusing on the slaying of monsters. (Literally, "We couldn't kill the roper because it's too difficult for a low-level party", of course? That's the idea of risk versus reward and thinking creatively?)

Nothing lasts forever. . .Fourth edition was eventually announced. The game had become weighty and the people that played online spent their wrath in character optimization boards arguing endless spherical cows. Adikson had left, the D20 glut had gutted sales, and it was time to move forward. A new game was designed, creating lists of powers—with copyrightable names, of course—and planned integration with online tools. Unpopular races like gnomes were removed, and tieflings and dragonborn were made core (because people really like playing half-demons and dragon/lizard people. It's a fetish.) Since people were playing it like a tactics game, they designed it like one. Healing surges, powers with cooldowns, and more.
Many people would say that it was disconnected rules or that the change was too radical. I don't think that's true. I wasn't excited about 4th edition, but I played it, a lot. It was just really bad. Even when they tried to correct it later in official materials, it was too little, too late. Combats with creatures or opponents with hundreds of hit points, exhaust all your powers (which were printed on cards), and then left with each person doing their damage or missing to chip away at the ridiculous hit point totals. It was not a fast process, and in fact during one combat, I just went ahead and calculated our average damage per round and figured out, on average, how many rounds it would take to deplete the boss's hit points. The Dungeon Master, campaign setting, and all the rest was fine. I was playing with reasonable people, we just kept having. . . problems. I had a lazer that blew things up because that's something paladins could do in fourth edition. But you couldn't shoot anything that wasn't an enemy in combat There were issues with skill challenges (understatement) and thinking through the effects on the spell list created an untenable reality. In the first printing, speak with dead allowed the caster to communicate with anything that had died in the area, no matter how long ago. Basically there were a million undead in a sensor network that any mage could take ten minutes to ask a question. Strangeness abounded; poorly thought out design lead to the games eventual doom, but it wasn't the only nail in the coffin.

Murder and suicideThat wasn't the worst news to come out of the 4th edition debacle. Originally their marketing plan was to distribute "patches" to the ruleset and require a paid subscription to an online tool to create characters. The rules were designed to be integrated into a true virtual table top that would allow play in much the way modern virtual table tops such as Fantasy Grounds do. Sadly, the direct of the project suffered a breakdown when his wife filed for divorce, and he killed her, then himself.
I doubt it would have changed anything in regards to 4th edition but it never even had a chance after the virtual table top plan collapsed.

 Though the most famous Dungeons and Dragons news story of all time, has to be the Patricia Pulling story. Very simply put, she had a bright intelligent son, who suffered from a psychotic break. He began barking and acting like a wolf, killing animals in their backyard. He soon committed suicide. Ms. Pulling claimed that her son died because of a Dungeons and Dragons curse. She brought lawsuits against his school, TSR inc, and more. They were thrown out of court for being meritless. She then began a campaign of lies and disinformation that lasted years.
She was a confused angry lady. She once claimed that 8% of people were satan worshipers because she estimated 4% of kids were and 4% of adults were and if you add them together you get 8%. When it was pointed out to her that this isn't how math works—not even addressing her claim is a made up estimate—she said it didn't matter because 8% of everyone being a satan worshiper was a conservative estimate. Her organization, Bothered about Dungeons and Dragons, died out when she did, in 1997, but the world had moved on in 1990.

Today Dungeons and Dragons is riding the wave of popular culture, and hopefully will be producing rich fantasy worlds for generations to come.

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On the Top Ten Tactics for Hostile Dungeons

Fri, 02/08/2019 - 13:00
10. Lard/Grease: Whether a squeaky door, a greased staircase before a fight, or assisting with opening rusty and old latches, having some lard and grease is always useful.
9. Tiny birds: A lot of times, you'd like to see what would happen if someone went somewhere, only you don't trust it enough to go. With this small sack of birds, you can check for traps, trade to people for passage, notice if the air is toxic, or even distract unintelligent opponents. Taking them along extends your life, at the expense of theirs.
8. Paying attention: At its core, Dungeons & Dragons is about exploring a resonant fantasy realm filled with archetypal representations. This process is handled by conversation using the socratic method. You ask questions, the Dungeon Master gives answers, yeah? If you're not asking questions or listening, you're watching your friends play Dungeons and Dragons. When you all jump in and work together, it raises the experience for all involved.
7. Gloves & Helmet: If you don't have to touch something with your bare hands, don't. Don't press parts of your body (like ears or eyes) against things. You call people that don't wear covers corpses. Get a hat, preferably one made out of metal that lets you see in the dark, grants telepathy, or makes you smart or something. There very well might be treasure in the garbage or latrine, there almost certainly is, but you don't want to go in there yourself.
6. Equipment shenanigans. Casting a light spell on a shield lets you see opponents and plays havoc with enemy archers. Buy a metal sectioned pole, so you can attach a hook, vary length, and carry one in cramped quarters. Collect potions and scrolls and don't hesitate to use them, there's always more magic to find.
5. Hammer & Piton: It holds doors both closed AND open. It draws a lot of attention. It allows you to attach rope to things. They solve problems.
4. Torchbearers & Porters: Yes it's difficult to convince them to head into dangerous territories, but when there are a lot of things that need to be done, having a man or two around who can do them is helpful. Purchase them brightly colored festive outfits. Give them nets and poles to trip up enemies, ball bearings, oil, caltrops and other things they can throw. They can pull people to safety and best of all, they draw archer fire. People don't get into this vocation because they want a safe workplace.
3. Elves & Dwarves: Everyone loves their half-demon, half-cat, half-turtle, kenku-whatever sub race, but facts remain. You want an elf for secret door detection and a dwarf for detecting stonework traps and sliding doors. Often they can see in the dark. If you don't have one in your party, hire one in town as a buddy.
2. Oil: You don't want to need it and not have it. If you want to be sure something is dead, burn it to ash.
1. Ten-Foot Pole: You will want to touch things and not be near them. Trust me.

I hope you explore some fun dungeons this weekend!

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On the Hexplore Adventure

Thu, 02/07/2019 - 14:00
Look at this crazy entertaining thing!

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On the Best Books Released for Dungeons & Dragons part II

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 13:00
Dungeons and Dragons has been around long enough for people to notice it taking a few aspirin every morning for its stiff fingers. This continues our look at the best things ever published for Dungeons and Dragons. Part I is here.

The Dungeon AlphabetBeyond the fact that this book combined with Stonehell gave us the gift of Michael Curtis writing full time; it's his way with words that makes this book so very, very good. In a time when third edition and Pathfinder had sapped the life from Dungeons and Dragons, reducing adventures to linear combats and leaving no room for old-school type play, this book stood out (and sold) like a beacon to all those who remembered the weird and exciting play of mysteries below the ground. A solid source of ideas on each page, all of which will make the game more exciting.

Book of WarThere have been many attempts at modeling mass battle for Dungeons & Dragons. This masterwork put together by Delta Collins is the best of them. It allows you to simply resolve mass combat that the players are involved in, and is designed to match the statistical outcomes of any monster as a unit in the game. It's fast, quite nice, and really makes running into 30-300 bandits a fun time for you as the Dungeon Master.
It's designed to take into account the percentages of actual game statistics, requires no conversion for pretty much any version of Dungeons and Dragons and smoothly scales for various sizes of armed conflicts. Additionally, the system encourages smart tactics, making large battles a strategic challenge for both the Dungeon Master and the players.
The ability to allow your players to command 100 footmen and 50 archers, fighting 300 orcs in a massive battle without slowing everything down to a crawl is worth the price of admission and something you should do at your table as soon as possible.

Tome of Adventure DesignGamers are a particular bunch, often concerned with minutia. At some point, everyone has thought, what if you just put all the ideas ever into one book.
This is that book.
It's top selling, because it's useful. It's an exhaustive collection of plots, ideas, schemes, structures, ideas, traps, substances, and more. It's intentionally designed so that random results work in tandem, providing the structure and inspiration to make creativity easy.
Finch outdid himself with this book, and it will far outlive our generation of resources. It sits next to me now.

Grimtooth's TrapsEarly traps are a strange thing. Often teens running games would submit breathless descriptions of traps that involved no agency of the players as well as a plethora of run on sentences.

This presented traps as they were in the original megadungeons. Not gotcha hit point taxes, but each a strange occurrence and presentation.  The traps become the encounter. How do you get that gem off that pedestal without getting slammed into the ceiling or smashed by an absurdly large hammer? They are presented tongue in cheek, but it doesn't matter how silly a trap is, when it's doing 57 points of damage to your fighter it's deadly serious.

It's lovingly illustrated by Steve Crompton and is full of ideas you'll find yourself struggling to figure out how to integrate them into your next dungeon for a fun puzzle.

Creature CatalogueThe Creature Catalogue was a british release, but it was a monster manual for Basic/Expert, forming a weird patchwork of monsters that were representative of Mystara, the crazy high-fantasy setting of basic expert.
At a certain point in your gamemaster career, you realize that monster books are worthless for the stats—monsters provide particular combat or encounter effects, the actual hit dice and armor class are not nearly as important as the idea.
And the thing about the creature catalog is that it is the best type of setting book, you can just through using the monsters in that book, immerse your players in a specific weird ecosystem.

The Wilderness AlphabetNot nearly as popular of the Dungeon Alphabet, but instead written by a blogger in the old school renaissance, this provides a wonderful character to the overworld, ladening hexes and areas with imaginative description and mystery. It's idiosyncratic, and yet, very universal. I use it for all my wilderness expeditions.

Rogues Gallery + GeomorphsThis combination of supplements at first seems as though it's nothing but meaningless lines and numbers. And it sort of literally is. And yet, you can use those arcane numbers and lines to create adventures remarkably similar to the ones that took place in Castle Greyhawk, by virtue of the fact that the gemorphs are from Castle Greyhawk, and the encounters matrix was the one in use for dungeon play. Sadly, I don't think they are available online, but any traditional geomorph will do.
The fact that the Rogue's gallery has write ups for a dozen classic non-player characters, along with a bunch of pre generated classes with relevant equipment made it useful in play.

MetamorphicaA lot of these products take it to the bone. This is one of them. This is bar-none the resource for mutations. Running a campaign with mutations, want to hand out random effects? Is somebody touching the altar of Jubilex? Boy do I have the solution for you. Never leave home without it.

On the Non-Player CharacterI know this is self-promotion, but I'm talking about all the books I use for a game, and I wrote this to be one of them. It's an objective answer for non-player character interactions. It uses player skill, not magical tea parties to determine the outcome of conversation and social conflict. The non-player character descriptors aren't a random list, they are specifically selected to be immediately accessible to the players in play. This may not belong on the list, but it's a book I'd never run a game without, the back page is always open during play for me as a reference.

That's the list. Find what you wanted?

If you like posts like these, then I'd really appreciate you taking a look at my Patreon or signing up for my newsletter. I'm at the threshold of being able to complete my quest of 'living indoors', and if you like what I'm doing, that might be in your heart as well! My daughter will love it!
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On The Best Books Released for Dungeons & Dragons Part I

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 13:00
Dungeons and Dragons has been around long enough to complain about back pain. A lot of things have been published in the last several decades, when it comes down to studded leather brass studs what are the best books ever published for fantasy role-playing games?

Midkemia Press CitiesThis one was out of my grasp until recently. Though out of print, they offer the .pdf from their website. Though requiring more rolls then more modern players might expect, it's an engine that allows you to customize encounters for different kinds of cities. As a resource for exploring large fantasy cities, it's a plethora of interesting encounters, plots and dangers, just from walking around your local burg. It makes exploring a large strange city into a series of small dramas and personalities, that both you and the players can discover through play. It's a way to make cities as interesting for the players as Dungeons.

It has extensive city creation tables that include chances for rare buildings. Although not necessary to build a city in the amount of detail it provides (down to individual storefronts) it does allow you to answer the question is there a jeweler/clockmaker/physician et. al.

The other fascinating part is the downtime system which takes characters that are staying back or not actively adventuring with various downtime events. There's an option for smarter or wiser characters to avoid or seek danger. Following is a comprehensive table of adventure and events, from being offered dangerous missions, to falling ill, to having your living quarters infested by pests.

It finishes off with a mission generator, a tavern/inn generator, rich occupational background tables, street traffic density,  a dice conversion table, and a stable generator.

Pretty good for a resource from 1981.

Aurora's Whole Realms CatalogueYeah, but what about knife boots!
Aurora's was ostensibly a shop in Faerun, but what this supplement was, was what a world filled with adventurers as a career would end up producing. If they were thieves that needed to infiltrate, wizards who needed to stock a lab, clerics on the lookout for new ways to serve, this little book had a bit of everything.
The entire book is devoted to equipment lists. This makes it about the best setting supplement ever produced for the Forgotten Realms. You could run a game with this book in play and it provides more direct setting information useful in play then any of the many books with dry histories and texts.
From ale to cheese, wine to jewels, diversions, storage, hardware and clothing; the book is filled with what you would expect a society would sell, if beset by monsters and filled with powerful gods, crafty wizards, stealthy thieves and brave fighters.
It contains dozens of useful and interesting items, infra-vision lanterns, special thieving helmets (with ears that are not at all ostentatious) that allow you listen, book safes and quick access scroll cases, among many others.

1st Edition Dungeon Master's GuideGygax in the prime of his life poured his soul into this book toiling away, and at the end he had crafted an artifact. I've been reading this book for over 30 years now and every time I open it, I still find something I've never seen before. I've also lost things in it, only to discover them much later, hidden in pages I flipped through dozens of times.
There is no other book like this in existence. It is unique, a vision of one man. The pattern of his thought and knowledge laid bare, every paragraph a facet of an endlessly complex gem. But this is no shaggy dog. Every time you return to it, it provides new insight, new revelations. Not because anything new is there, but because you have changed.
It's pretty brilliant. If you haven't ever really read it, what are you waiting for?

Encyclopedia MagicaSometimes there's too much and you want a pause button. This collection of leather-bound volumes contains every magical item created anywhere from Original D&D till the late 90's at the dusk of second edition. It has a huge random table in the back, so that when you roll up a magic item, there are tens of thousands of results.
What's really interesting about using it in play, is that so many of these items are strongly tied into whatever their history is. It makes the treasure interesting, unique, usually requiring some adjustment to use in play. But it also interjects unexpected problems and surprises. Once they found a spellbook linked to a dragon. A great treasure, but also great risk.
The fact that it also encapsulates twenty-five years of magic items gives a capsule into the design of magic items over time. Plus it's really fun to roll on the d10,000 table for magic items.

Wizard Spell CompendiumThis is similar to the last collection and indeed, collects every spell printed. What's interesting about this, is that it is Vances 1,000 lost spells. Assigning random spells, and only providing new spells randomly from this list, creates a different kind of magic system, one where spells are capricious, unknown, and of wildly varying power. Not allowing players to pick spells from the book, but instead seek them out, and carefully select those spells which they are able to learn (remember the limits of spells per level and chances to learn!) creates powerful, but unpredictable wizards.
In games not focused on combat, but instead adventure or survival, having dozens of variations and types of spells lead to an eclectic toolkit that becomes a signature for the wizard.
It also outlines the entirety of "Dungeons and Dragons" magic theory, with all the official schools of magic covered, from shadow magic to chronomagic for masters of time, elemental magic, all the way to the incantrix and more.

Judge's Guild Ready Reference PapersThe Judges Guild was playing a lot of Dungeons & Dragons back in the day. This is a giant reference hodgepodge, used in play for their settings. It's a lot like a selection of house rules, but functions more as an expansion, providing more, well, everything.
It covers everything from social levels, decade appropriate sexist tables of women, proclamations, boons, wills, crime and punishment, poisons, justifications for uncalled for aggression, wizards guide to enchantment, movement obstacles, hirelings, encounter tables, flora, construction costs, and more.
That's a lot of stuff for 1978. It's dense, arcane, interesting and eclectic. If you're running a campaign, you won't make it through the whole 60 pages without coming up with one change you'll want to add into your campaign.

Forgotten Realms Boxed Set 1st EditionSince the Forgotten Realms has been taken from Greenwood, set on fire, and then handed back, laden with weight of ages, mary and marty sues teleporting around and impregnating gods who are hiding as bears, eye rolling in its baroque ridiculousness, it's hard to remember it's so popular, based on the strength of this particular supplement.
This works as a useful tool for a dungeon master to run a campaign. It has two books. The first covers the calendar, language, names, currency, religion, and maps and short descriptions of settings.
The second book is full of nothing but rumors, ideas, and other inspiration for belabored Dungeon Masters. This book can provide years and years of play with this straightforward setting, filled with a selection of colorful personalities, and most notably, a long section on events and rumors occuring every month over the course of two years. There's even a little mark for which ideas Ed Greenwood had marked for further expansion. A fun game is looking back and seeing where each of those ideas finally ended up.

Come back tomorrow and check out the second part of our "Best Books Released for Dungeons & Dragons." None of these links are monetized.  
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On Early Tropes, Eggs and Raising Young Monsters

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 13:00
From the very beginning of Dungeons and Dragons, Pokemon was a thing. Not only was Charm Person and Monster often used to fill out ranks for henchmen, many beasts were found and raised. You can see early thoughts on this from Gygax, on Page 50 of the Dungeon Masters Guide.

"Griffons are often nasty and bad-tempered. If captured when very young and trained, however, they can become fiercely loyal mounts. Their loyalty is non-transferable once fixed, so they must be disciplined and trained solely by the intended rider. The griffon must be trained and exercised by its owner on a fairly regular basis while it is a fledgling (up to age six months) in order to accustom it to his or her presence and the bridle, blanket, saddle, etc. When the griffon is half-grown a period of intensive training must begin, which will last at least four months. The daily routine must never be broken for more than two days, or the griffon's wild nature will assert itself and all progress will be lost. After two months of this intensive training, it will be possible to begin to fly the griffon. This will be a period of training for mount and owner alike, as the rider must learn how to deal with a new dimension, And he will probably have no teacher but himself. Imagine the confusing tumult of giant wings, the rush of air, the sudden changes in altitude, and you will realize why an inexperienced rider absolutely cannot handle a flying mount.
Griffons, like all large flying creatures, eat enormous amounts of food, especially after prolonged aviation. Moreover, they are carnivores, and thus very expensive to feed. Care and keeping of a griffon will be a constant strain on the largest treasure hoard. Costs will probably run in the area of 300-600 g.p. per month. It will require special quarters, at least three grooms and keepers, and occasionally an entire horse for dinner (diet will differ, but similar arrangements must be made for all flying mounts).
Hippogriffs are not so difficult to train os griffons, but neither are they as dependable in a pinch. A  training process basically similar to that previously described will be necessary, though occasionally an animal trainer con substitute for the master for short periods if he or she is tied up elsewhere. Once broken, hippogriffs may possibly serve more than one master. They are omnivores, and thus somewhat less expensive to
feed thon griffons.
Pegasi are greatly valued for their speed, which makes them virtually the fastest things in the air. Their training is o long process similar in many respects to thot of griffons." -Gary Gygax, Dungeon Masters Guide
Obviously this was an issue that came up repeatedly, and Gygax developed the following procedures to train animals.

One of the formative experiences of Dungeons and Dragons are the challenges with taking a monster, enemy or opponent, and turning them to your ends. As with most challenges to get creatures to change their inner nature, it is astoundingly difficult, and requires a bond on top of the serious commitment maintained above. The animal must be socialized till adolescence, and then intensively trained for months.

The general consensus about Animal Friendship and the limits of animal training are subjective and should be worked out between the Dungeon Master and the player, keeping in mind the animals intelligence and alignment. And it will come up, with unicorns, flying creatures as above, or even minanimals from the Monster Manual II.
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On Brothers of Battle

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 13:00
It's so good, it's like a snow globe made of murder hobos and horrific violence. It's an abstract tactical puzzle, where if you are smart, tactics will beat numbers and arms.

After a short tutorial battle, you are set loose upon a randomly generated world and can do what you want. Ally with a noble house, rob caravans, explore the unknown.

Your troops gain levels, and you improve them selectively. After the first hours of play you start to realize you can build them for specific roles—dagger assassin stabbing men to death in their heavy armor, nimble duelists moving first and darting between targets taking out back rank archers, bowmen raining down arrows, arbalisters knocking people off hills, heavy tanks taunting and drawing attention. From the palette of abilities they give you, you can make countless roles.

Let's talk about Battle Brothers!

The BasicsYou manage a mercenary company. You must have gold and food for daily wages. You can visit different cities, recruit and train new men, slay brigands, orcs, the dead in the wilds, and horrors even worse.

Here I have taken the high groundCombat is turn based on a hex map with height levels, obstacles and terrain. The graphics are of your men and monsters as game pieces—they are busts that display all necessary information visibility, the condition of your helmet, armor, weapon, and man.

You must manage your funds, via victories and trade, to bring in enough income to cover medical supplies, ammunition, tools to repair armor and weapons, food and wages.

Over time your brothers grow increasing both 3 of their 8 stats and picking a new 'perk' which changes certain aspects of how they interact on the field. One might allow you to step away from an engagement, another might increase damage after you get a kill, a third by increase one of your stats by a %. Each different brother develops like a plant, where you guide their organic growth.

Death comes quickly, along with permanent injuries, failure, and loss. But each choice, from where you move your piece on the battlefield, to what rolls you select when your brother levels, has ramifications that change the course of your game.

I don't know the devs. No one is paying me. But when you find yourself staring into the facets of a diamond for untold hours (301 hours as of this post. Well, I guess it's told now.), you kind of want to share. Why is it so engaging?

The FacetsBecause the differences are significant, and create different kinds of emergent play. When the world
is generated, cities have attached sites that determine their character, the spawns and arrangement of towns is always different, along with the distribution of lairs and dens of evil. The way the game works changes dramatically from these differing starting states. There are really strong parallels to sandboxes in Dungeons & Dragons here.

I was very far into the game before I realized that each of those buildings adjacent to the city, changed not only the characteristics of that city, but how it interacts with the rest of the map. Those goat farms mean affordable goat cheese for your men. These building and even cities can be destroyed and rebuilt over the course of the campaign.  Because this town has both an ore smelter and blast furnace, it produces high quality armor and weapons in the stores. But the regiments it produces are also extremely well armored and it has vision to the sea, meaning that it's hard for lairs to fester.

Which, they do you know. Nits make lice. A goblin city will produce goblin patrols. As it grows, it will eventually send out a patrol that sets up a camp. Go in and clear out all the greenskins and it will take them a long time to repopulate. So each map is strongly different based on its random starting arrangement. Sometimes there's a forest town in the frontier assaulted constantly by enemies. Get dogs and birds from cities with kennels, and use them to hunt down nightmares and archers.

It's often unclear how things affect other things, and I'm still discovering new nuances. Each nobel house has a personality, and I'm not certain, but it seems to affect which quests you get from it. Is this true? Only a lot more testing and play will tell. But everytime I reroll I find or see something new.

The MenYour first games end in brutal destruction, without even understanding why. But as you play you begin to understand, these aren't individual men, they are part of a squad that works together.

Each man has a head and body. Those who don't wear a cover are corpses, yeah? Each is covered in armor. Better armor is not always 'better', some men go heavy armor and some go light, depending on their role. You take wounds in combat (which always heal, depending on severity in 1-6 days) based on the % of your hit points taken, meaning tougher brothers take fewer wounds. If killed, there's even a chance they survive with a permanent wound. And while some are. . .untenable, some people consider a boost (it's harder for witches to charm or giests to scare a brain damaged brother).

Each man has eight statistics, and they increase by a random roll at every level. So you want to increase what he needs when the roll is high, and skip low rolls, but it's important to know what role they have so you can assign the stats correctly. The statistics are Hit points, Fatigue, Resolve, Initative, Melee Attack, Ranged Attack, Melee Defense, and Ranged Defense.

When you hire a brother they may have traits, like iron lungs, or athletic, which positively or negative affect their stats. The following brother is Huge (+10% damage -5 Ranged Defense, -5 Melee Defense) and Paranoid (-40% initiative,  +5 Ranged Defense, +5 Melee Defense) meaning he does +10% damage in exchange for going later in the round. So I gave him a cleaver, and made it reduce the damage he needs to do to wound, and gave him duelist so that more damage penetrates armor. So he cripples and bleeds anyone he strikes. This causes morale checks, which reduce the combat ability of your opponents.

If you're reading this, you probably like the same things I like, and this sounds awesome, right? It is. You can name and go to the barber to change the look of your brothers. It's like controlling a team of bonsai trees that you have very carefully cultivated to mercilessly slaughter any who stand against you!

The difficulty curve is very clear, with several different stages. When you start out, you aren't prepared for this. You generally end up destroying equipment you must salvage from your opponents. Striking someone in the head will leave their fancy armor untouched, or you can surround or dagger opponents to death.

Every 100 in game days, a crisis occurs, either greenskins invade, the undead, rise, or there is a war among the noble houses. There are certain thresholds where the base difficulty increases. You have a range of danger options on the contracts you can take, as well as creatures in the wild getting more dangerous as you venture away from civilization.

The recent expansion turned it from a good game into a great one. There are a selection of new enemies, creating different and dangerous tactical challenges both apart and with other groups. The enemy variety is very high and differs significantly between campaigns. It's like a good movie. Every part of the journey is fun.

In the End
It's written by two brothers, not a big game studio. The soundtrack is amazing. There's a growing community of people who stream and play this game, that has significant overlap with interests in Dungeons and Dragons sandbox play. The actual game design is rock solid. It's amazing how neatly the different parts of the game interact with each other. You only have 9 action points a turn, but depending on the weapon, traits, and skills, you can turn that into two or three attacks each round. Once you see how the pieces fit together, you spend a lot of time thinking about how to turn that to your advantage, often only coming to the correct conclusion after a lot of testing or tries.

It's good and I needed to tell people about it. Don't complain to me about missed sleep.
Battle Brothers is $30 on Steam.
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On Gygax Design IV

Tue, 01/15/2019 - 13:00
My thesis here is that something was misunderstood. The question I'm left with is how did that happen?

Let's take a look.

Cave IntroductionThe first page of the caves proper contains the flavor text we discussed in the last post. It's lurid, and therefore interesting.

If you're going to ask someone to listen to something, it better get a reaction.

Immediately Gygax takes one column line to outline all his overview notes for the adventure: 600 words. He describes how to read the cave contour map on the outside, describes the woods, underground, and interiors.
He then covers prisoner ransom ("Set the sums low — 10 to 100 gold pieces or a magic item. . . "), the specifics of the tribal relationships, how monsters should react and handle player actions, and what happens in empty areas.

It is a training module, but these sections only contain nine sentences containing specific  'newbie' or training advice. The rest of the information is all useful, reduces the need for repetitive text, and is easily found in the front of the appropriate section. This is the really interesting thing. Here's a room description
1. Guard Room: 6 kobold guards (AC 7, HD 1/2, hp 3 each, #AT 1, D 1-4, Save NM, ML 6). They will throw their spears the first round if they have initiative. Each carries d6 silver pieces. One will run to warn areas 4. and 6.. The guards will be altered by loud noises or lights.Is there a single unnecessary word in that description to craft an emergent encounter for the players?

What is an Adventure?All the rooms are like this.
"Number. Description: # creatures (one line stat block), Rules and tactical information, treasure."

Is there any boxed text? No. Each room only tells you what you need to know what's in it, and more importantly how they act. The text is there to create emergent play. Here are quotes.
"This huge kobold is so powerful that he fights with a battle axe. . . and a large gem on a great golden chain around his neck."
"Six goblin guards are alterly watching both passages for intruders of any sort"
"If there is a cry of "BREE-YARK" similar to "hey rube!" (ed: noted in the rumor section as goblin for "We Surrender"), 2 of these guards will rush to the secret door, toss a sack with 250 gold coins to the ogre and ask him to help him"

This is over and over again in the room encounters. Set-ups from earlier pay off. Encounters are dramatic scenes. We know from his own play descriptions that he used random encounters and avoiding keying many areas in Greyhawk for these reasons. Each one uses as few descriptive words as possible to give the Dungeon Master a hook to hang his hat (the encounter) on.
There's no ancient history text, no unknowable background information.

Mostly. I lied a little bit. Everyone had to get the wrong idea from somewhere, right? Even when there is some unknown history, it is referenced and due to non-player character actions is discoverable by players. e.g.
13. Forgotten Room. Only the two orc leaders (from this area and from B.) Know of this place. They secretly meet here on occasion to plan co-operative ventures or discuss tribal problems, for although separate tribes are not exactly friendly, both leaders are aware of the fact that there is strength in numbers. . . . Looking at this alone, it certainly looks like the usual dump of information to the Dungeon Master that is completely inaccessible to the players. Except, note the following sentences:
From 12. Orc Leader's Room: . . . If hard pressed, the leader will wiggle behind the tapestries on the south wall and attempt to work the catch on the secret door to the south and go to the rival tribe for help. . . 
From Dungeon Master notes: If the leader is slain, the survivors will seek safety in area B/C, taking everything of value (and even of no value with them)

So you know, it's part of a dynamic encounter.

Encounter DesignI've talked before about how room environments should consist of clearly interactable objects in Red Herring Agency. That article uses the example of play from the Dungeon Master's Guide, and it's pretty clear the same design aesthetic is in use here. In the forgotten room, it describes "A small table and two chairs", "a wooden chest", "Two shields hanging on the wall", and "Two pouches behind an old bucket." The chairs are normal, as are the shields. The chest is unlocked and contains some weapons. The pouches have treasure, but cover 2 centipedes.

It's explicit, direct. Here are the interactable objects. Each one has a different effect and clues are available in the environment.

There is a specific structure to the different pillars of play. This is what the exploration pillar means. It means there are specific presentable things—clickable objects— within play. It's these objects, their integration into the environment, their creativity, and the tactical infinity options they offer that is the gameplay of exploration.

Walls the players can knock over, doors that open into space, a ring that shrinks objects, a chained megatherium. Give the players simple things that allow interaction. Create a world where non-player characters take action in response to the players. The complexity and gameplay is emergent.

Every single piece of information is either immediately accessible to the players, or is necessary for the Dungeon Master to run the encounter.

Each room is an encounter designed, and it should be like a good scene in a movie. Interesting, helping create tension and set the pace. It shouldn't be simple, boring, dull, and buried in a thousand words of useless text. It requires both active actors and things to act upon, and it must be designed and not just generated. This doesn't require verbiage, it requires thought. You want my examples of this in use, check out Megadungeon (or any of the modules I have coming out soon!)

From RPG CartographyI'm not saying it's perfect. It's certainly raw—for example many rooms have information on how people act if they hear someone nearby. This could be on the map, along with other modern improvements due to better tools. Which way the doors open, what the light levels are. . .

When the goblins rush the players and yell BREE-YARK, if the players got the rumor that it means "We surrender", shenanigans ensue. This isn't the only setup. More than one character is lost when the chaotic evil priest that offers to come with them from the keep casts 'inflict wounds' on characters instead of cure wounds.

The prisoners have a variety of races and genders, as well as each providing some non-standard reward, trick, or trap. You may notice a theme. There are also slaves that can be freed and armed. Each of these things creates a specific experience for the players. He isn't just writing descriptions of rooms! He's creating a scene flowchart just like the one in the start of Deep Carbon Observatory, but using the dungeon as his flowchart paths.

I did find a sentence of flavor text, "The owl bear. . . sleeps in the most southerly part of its den, digesting a meal of gnoll it just caught at dawn." That's some information that's not accessible to the players. It's on page 19.

There's also quite a lot of humor within the module. Signs posted on doors say things like "You are
invited for dinner!" and "Safety, security and repose for all humanoids that enter — WELCOME! (Come in and report to the first guard on the left for a hot meal and bed assignment.)" The thing is, it's not just a joke for the reader. The players will also find this joke amusing, and although it's funny, like all Dungeons & Dragons, it's deadly serious. I ran Hackmaster for years, and a gummi bear golem seems really funny, until it crits your fighter in the head for 38 points and kills him in a shower of sticky blood.

All of the rooms contain setpieces—interesting reactions and organic events, but this is one of the best.
"[Bugbears] lounge on stools near a smoking brazier which has skewers of meat toasting over the coals. Each will ignore his great mace when intruders enter, reaching instead for the food. Through they do not speak common, they will grab and eat a chunk, then offer the skewers to the adventurers — and suddenly use them as swords to strike first blow (at +2 bonus to hit due to surprise!) unless the victims are very alert. . . I mean, that exclamation point though.

If you aren't creating scenes and experiences through activities for players (and not excess verbiage) please start, and point people to this series to get them to change.

You don't have to write a bunch of words about how encounters react to every last thing, you just have to write something interesting well, and from that the Dungeon Master will be able to know how it reacts.

Enter the Present.This is INFURIATING.

Why? I just downloaded the most recent Dungeons & Dragons pay what you want adventure to find a room description to compare. Each room description is literally a full page. In lieu of typing the whole page, I'm just going to quote some random sentences from this full page of text for a single room. A whole page. It's not even an A5 page! It's a full letter page.

"The bed is perfectly normal and has a warm, soft blanket stretched over it."
"The party is in the right place, but this isn't the chamber in which the wardrobe is kept."
"Unbeknownst to the players, a hidden passage lies beyond the bookcase"
The box text says "the chamber. . . is not quite what you imagined"

I will summarize the entire room description, as I think Gygax would have laid it out.
3. Wizard Bedroom. Locked Chest (Disable Device DC 15, Strength DC 20) contains pouch 32 gold, 13 silver pieces, 21 copper. Secret door behind bookcase filled with bird books. Note in book about secret door. Corridor beyond trapped, must flap like bird or say "[REDACTED]" 50 XP for door, 50 XP for ladder.You do not need 1,200 words! I am a Dungeon Master looking for useful tools!

The early examples were great and maintain their popularity and utility decades later, look at the sales of the poorly-reviewed Keep on the Borderlands 5e reprint. They had to hold a second pre-order since pre-orders exceeded their first print run.

This endless glut of poor adventure writing is someone emptying their uninteresting brain noise right in the middle of what I need as a person that runs a lot of Dungeons & Dragons. Is there a market for people who want to read an adventure and have no use for it during play?

Yeah. there is, and it's pretty big. That's the problem.

People keep trying to characterize "What the old school renaissance" is. This has never been a mystery.

It's just people trying to find something they can use in play!

People were playing Dungeons and Dragons until people who did not play, and instead just read and admired ran it into the ground and nearly caused it to cease to exist. You can clearly publish a game with no firm rules and just allow everyone to do what they want, but they aren't very successful are they?

I would think everything in this post is obvious, but due to my inability to use 90% of everything ever published it apparently is not. If you feel the same way, link it the next time someone doesn't know how to write a module. Or, if you're feeling generous, you can join our hierarchy over here, and support more posts like this on Patreon, where you can get special access to my discord

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On the Top Ten Sandbox Locations.

Fri, 01/11/2019 - 13:00
You're in a D&D sandbox, you look around and find:

10. A giant rock carved like a skull. Cultists are rumored to lair there, and at night, sometimes the eyes glow as if it is possessed (or more likely that torchlight is reflected). Perhaps there are many levels of this dark place below.
9. A wizard's tower where strange lights and sounds emanate from realms beyond. Not many people would risk their souls in a wizards tower.
8. Rumors of great treasure and a hidden artifact are said to lie under caverns in the nearby hills. None who have survived the search have been successful.
7. A chateau is the home of a quite dysfunctional royal family with such wealth and power!
6. An old house, upon a hill. It's said to be haunted, those are just childrens tales. Yet people have gone missing and there are sometimes mysterious comings and goings.
5. A castle, ran by a reclusive old man. Rumors swirl about demons and blood magic being performed, but who can tell these days?
4. The ancient and hidden tomb of a malign creature. Those who have found it and returned, speak of death and horrible traps and mysteries.
3. In the nearby foothills are large buildings, several of them, of primitive make. Sometimes, if you watch, you can see a large shadow of some creature. Trolls or giants perhaps, surely. You've heard of the raids nearby.
2. A ruined moathouse, falling apart. Be careful of the large toads and collapsed roofs.
1. A small keep, with good folk, an amusing village idiot, and a respectable brick wall. It's also possible their ale is both well-brewed and affordable. They also are rather fond of folks, who happen to be of a certain sort of miscreant or wanderer. There's surely a cleric around, but I wouldn't trust him.

This list, along with any of these three hexes from ChicagoWiz, and you got yourself a game, ready to run.

If you think I'm a good writer, reward me yeah? You get rewarded yourself! You don't only get the feeling of doing something nice, you get some neat stuff, like discord roles and high def art.

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On The Thursday Trick: Underground Hazards

Thu, 01/10/2019 - 13:00
Underground Hazards (Category: Restraints/Hazards)

Trigger: Mechanical: Proximity
Mechanical: Light Detection
Mechanical: Interaction

Effects: Multiple Targets

Save: VariesDuration:Varies

Resets: AutomaticBypass: None (Avoid)
Description: The Sub-world is not like the world above!

Dungeons aren't supermarkets and there are dangers that exist only beneath the world. What features can be used to create interesting organic underground spaces?

Accidents and falling. This is interesting, because this hazard must be applied and telegraphed before used. Environments underground are not always smooth and level. This is naturally taken into account in every version of Dungeons and Dragons by the movement rate. It is bad form to punish your players beyond that for the underground and cramped movement space.

But that doesn't mean you can't use uneven ground. You just have to clearly communicate to the players where it is and under what conditions it applies. You can say "This ground is uneven enough that if you wanted to cross it at full speed, you have to make a dexterity check." You can inform the players of unstable ledges that could cause them to fall if they walk along them unless a check is succeeded. It's not that the basic level of these checks should be difficult, but that emergent events in the hazardous environment creates tension, tactical puzzles, and entertainment.

Note how I'm just assuming you would never present any sort of space without a vertical element, right? We're in the future of Star Trek II, where three-dimensional thinking rules.

Another thing that must be considered underground is light. Without a light source, movement becomes more hazardous. Stating that any movement out of bright light requires a balance or dexterity check can create an environment that feels hostile, held back by the characters light. This is extremely compelling, because it psychologically mirrors the activities during the game. They are exploring the literal unknown dark, and straying from their light is dangerous.

Again, not in every environment, and not by surprise. Variety is the spice of life.

Rockfall. Man, rocks fall from space under the open sky. You can sure bet they fall underground. Have a talk with your miners and dwarves about the stability of the underground areas. Some might be very stable. Some might cause rockfall due to the use of some sonic or thunder damage. Some might be so unstable simply passing through the room is dangerous. This should be another factor in underground environments that reward characters for playing dwarves or taking the appropriate skills.

Dehydration and Exhaustion. When Dungeons and Dragons was a more focused game about exploring dungeons, there were explicit rules to handle these.
RESTING: After moving for 5 turns, the party must rest for 1 turn. One turn in 6 (one each hour of the adventure) must be spent resting. If the characters do not rest, they have a penalty of -1 on all "to hit" and damage rolls until they do rest. Pretty straightforward. Adventures are heady stuff.

Flooding. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single cave, in possession of adventures and near a large body of water, must be in want of a flood. They know it's coming before it happens. Water dripping from the ceiling, deep roaring noises, slick walls covered in algae. Often the best way for flooding to work, is to have it be a triggable factor in the environment. You're underground. The cave is multi level. Popping the pimple of the water will change that environment, depending on the situation, to the monsters advantage or yours.

Becoming lost is too large a topic to cover here. Disease is also a serious hazard, but is its own topic.

Detection/Disarming: Falling and balance hazards just must be full stop presented to the players. They literally function as hazardous zones. By their nature and how humans deal with movement, we can easily tell the stability of an area and our capacity to cross it. (As you would well know if you ever walked through the woods and crossed a stream). The thing is, even if we don't know how dangerous it is, we can almost always tell that it is some degree of dangerous. Of course you can make an argument that there might be some hidden danger, but we are playing a game and designing an encounter. Putting in a "F&%k you, you're prone/take x damage" isn't fun, or particularly game like. It's not a choice, it's a tax.

Rockfall. Anyone with the appropriate skill or background should absolutely be able to tell what's going on mechanically here. If they ask. When presenting rooms with rockfall, make sure you note what's on the floor. Dust, small stones, loose rocks, a boulder, spiderweb divots and cracks in the ground. If it is a rock fall area, then rocks fall. Before entering any area where it's stable unless shatters or fireballs start going off, dwarves and characters should have a  handwaved check to determine if that is the case. It's more interesting for the game if the know the consequences of using loud, damaging, area of effect spells.

Flooding. Players are going to shrug their shoulders and move ahead when you give them clues that the cavern will flood. They will say, "Well, I've got to go on the adventure!" They will often feel that they have no control over when you will flood the cave. So it's important to present it clearly to the player so they understand the dynamic. Is it a dangerous area with the risk of instant death, not only from crushing damage, but needing a way to breath water? Will it wash the characters away? Will it destroy the temple? If you're using as part of a load-bearing boss, then it really doesn't matter, right? To make it interesting in the game, the players have to understand the threat, and you should be able to communicate it to them, so they can make meaningful decisions.

This post might be more useful than the entire Dungeoneers Survival Guide. If you liked it, and you'd like to see more monthly posts, please consider joining our hierarchy on Patreon for special Discord roles!

The Tricks and Traps series examines original and classic traps discussing how to present the traps while maintaining the agency of the players. A complete list of sources and inspiration may be found here. The Tricks and Traps Index page contains a complete listing of all the tricks and traps on this site, or you may browse by tags.
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The Top 10 Types of Parlor Games useable in Dungeons and Dragons

Fri, 01/04/2019 - 13:00
You know, for kids!

Sometimes, it will be necessary to have a small diversion during play. Perhaps a character is gambling, or they have an opportunity to avoid combat. You can even use some of these to resolve appropriate situations. Let's look at some popular and easy parlor games that can be integrated into Dungeons & Dragons. These are not full time replacements for mechanics, but something you can drop into a game. As always, it's never recommended to put one of these in the way of the game progressing. Non-traditional tasks should be optional.

10. Two lies and a truth. The rules to this game are simple. Make three statements, one of which is a lie and the other person must guess one. This is particularly useful for Dungeons & Dragons because you are playing characters, adding a second layer upon the game. The statements are made in character, and the interplay between the characters over the players provides interesting situations, while also empowering players to expand on their backstory!

9. Piggy. This is good for a game in a maze or darkness. Have the character seeking a way out close their eyes. Then have a person in the group squeal like a hog. If the blind player can determine who is the person that made the noise, they have succeeded in their sightless navigation (or made their listen roll, etc.)

8. Codes, puzzles and riddles. I've talked about using these before. But it's possible to do so without any preparation. Simply search for word puzzles and riddles will give you more than you need for years of play, but it's a good idea to have a couple famous ones in mind. Much like jeopardy questions, people like knowing trivia. "No hinges, latches or lid, inside a golden treasure is hid!"

7. Don't Laugh! This is great for a test of will or constitution. The game is simple. The player must not crack a smile for 60 seconds while the rest of the group attempt to make them laugh. If you have to be told not to infringe on personal space inappropriately during this game, you probably shouldn't be playing Dungeons & Dragons.

6. Slaps. Did you like bullies in high school? Relive the memory awkwardly with your friends by playing slaps! The Dungeon Master puts out his hands palm up. Someone places their hands a few centimeters above the Dungeon Master's hands. The Dungeon Master tries to slap the players hands. If they fail, the player succeeds. If they hit the player, that probably sucks for the player, because getting slapped on the hand hurts. If the player flinches or pulls their hands away before the Dungeon Master starts moving, they also fail.
Somebody who likes you but is also insecure usually bullies someone by punching someone in the shoulder is what generally happened next. This doesn't have to happen in your game of course.

5. High Card or War. Pick a card, reveal your card. The higher card wins! This is a classic game. War is played to win the deck. The number of cards gathered or lost can be used to determine outcomes of actual battles, where you get cards equal to your troop count. Ties have a runoff, where three cards are burned (Each player turns 3 cards face up to add to the weight of the conflict), and the fourth duels, high card winning. Ties cascade of course.

4. Game of Phones! I saw bumblebee the other day with my daughter. It takes place in 1987. I told my daughter that 1987 was when daddy and momma were kids and there was no internet or cell phones. She said, "You didn't have TV?"
So yeah, I am old and we are in the future. Name a word or theme, and give everyone in the room 60 seconds (90 seconds if the phone is more than a few years old) to come up with the best image or video from the internet related to the word or theme. Players vote for their favorite.

3. Never have I ever played in character can be entertaining. The game is played by a person saying "Never have I ever. . . " and then states an embarrassing occurrence, such as having sex in an uncomfortable place (like the back seat of a volkswagen). It doesn't have to be sexual. "Never have I ever been robbed while drunk!"

2. Race the dice. A simple game is everyone rolls 2d6 and the low roll loses a 'life'. You can set a number of losses. This is an interesting way to handle a race. Different factors can change the die sizes. Bonuses are very powerful since you are averaging two dice, so probably you shouldn't use them!

1. Finally, Liar's dice. This classic game is played with 5d6. Each player rolls their dice and hides them behind a wall or cup. This is a pure test of player skill and the ability to bluff and lie, making it a possible tool for a tense social situation! Everyone rolls. The first player has to bid on how many dice of a certain number there are. The next player either has to raise the bid, either by increasing the number of dice or the number on the die or both, or they can challenge and call. If called, all dice are revealed. And if the dice are there, the caller loses a die. If not, the liar loses a die. The game continues until only one player has dice, them being the winner. Quicker games can be played with fewer dice and fewer players. A 1 on 1 game with the Dungeon Master could be used to resolve a deception or insight attempt. Variants include 1's being considered wild cards and representing whichever numbers are generated.

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On the Thursday Trick: Sand

Thu, 01/03/2019 - 13:00
Sand (Category: Terrain, Vents/Sprays, Restraints/Hazards)

Trigger: AnyEffects:
Multiple TargetsSave: Strength

None Duration: SpecialResets:VariesBypass: varies
Description: This is less "sand" or "quicksand" as a trap. Sand is often ill-considered during play, and yet. . .

Sand is more deadly than wild animals. Holes, unstable footings, and instability cause more deaths than wild animal attacks. From 1990 to 2016, there have been 16 deaths just from sand pits used for making sandcastles. Sharks only killed 12 people during that span. Source.

Culturally, if there is no lumber or tree industry nearby, non-industrial societies have 'sandmen' who Collect and 'clean' sand to bring into cities. It is used as a cleaning, degreasing, and abrasive agent. Once a lumber industry is running, sawdust is cheaper and more effective, causing this job to die off. But for non-industrial societies, collecting, moving, and cleaning sand is a necessary industry.

Green SandSand describes a wide range of particles, from the large (64mm) to silt (.0004 mm). This consistency affects its behavior. You aren't going to sink into large grained sand. For example: Sand between .1 and .5 mm in diameter at the right humidity level will emit noises like whistling and barking. Video example 1, video example 2, video example 3.This can be up to over 100 decibels in volume. If you have a sand trap, where it pours in from somewhere, it could cause a terrible cacophony. If it happened elsewhere it could project the semblance of a terrible beast.

Sand near volcanic beaches can be straight up green. Olivine from the volcanic residue will produce a green color in the sand. Furthermore, sand can be beige or yellow. but also black, white, pink, red, gold, or purple, naturally.

Wizards who predict the future with sand would be called arenomancers. Arenolugry or Thaumoarenoists are sand wizards.

Areas with a lot of sand where it can be disturbed, (due to fights or fireballs) can put enough particularite matter in the air to cause illness, and if severe enough, cancer or death. Unprotected exposure to sand particles in the air can irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin, or flu like symptoms like runny nose, lack of breath, a terrible cough.

This isn't particularly helpful, but did you know some desert animals (like sand cats) are just so damn efficient that they literally never drink? They get all the water they need from the bodies of their prey. Like all desert predators they are nocturnal.

Sand, of the correct type, will often be sought by glassmakers, wizards, and other people who need specific grades of sand for glassmaking.

For sand dominated areas, feel free to to remember that heat and water are scarce in deserts.

QuicksandQuicksand is not limited to any specific climate or region. It can be found anywhere you find sand. A necessary component of quicksand is nearness to some body of water, whether underground or nearby.

What actually happens with quicksand is that it's super saturated with water. It's basically a deep pool, filled with a great deal of sand. The water volume is so high, that there's no friction, the pool is in a "colloidal" state and can't support any weight, any more than a swimming pool could, but the sand prevents you from swimming effectively.

You don't actually sink in very far. But the mistake most people make is that they try to push themselves out. Any attempt to "lift" out of the quicksand will cause another body part to push. This pushing disturbs the support and people sink further in.

Since the sand is more than twice as dense than the human body, you will not sink if you don't struggle. Falling head first into the sand can be deadly, being that you cannot remove your head, nor hold your breath long enough for your buoyancy to bring you to the surface.

FantasySail over the sand sea.
Giant worms snake through the sand.
Armies of the dead rest beneath the sands.
Burrowing predators harass characters in packs that swim through the sand.
Towers and whole cities rest buried beneath the dunes, the only entrance a single window at the top of a tower.
Balloons and parachutes allow sailing, held up by head coming off the dunes.
Mirages and illusions mess with dehydrated minds.
Wizards hide their towers among the dunes.
Sarlacc's and their cousins, giant dire antilions can be found among the sands.
Sandstorms ripe with magic bring thunder, lightning, and astral disruptions to the desert.
Sphinxes that live in the desert may take a dim view of you arriving to remove their valuable sand. Giant city like barges drift across the sands.
Silt striders, or other giant water bug like insects cross the sands, only their legs visible to players, their bodies far above the clouds.
In the wastes lie beasts like basilisks, sphinxes, and amphisbaena.
Victims of a sand necktie may be human or something else, often long dead, sometimes alive.
Creatures made from sand, or controlled sand shapes from sorcery nearby. (Video, nudity)

Detection/Disarming: Whenever using sand as an environmental variable, it's suggested that you explain to the players what's occurring and allow them to respond. Don't just immediately penalize them for sand exposure, mention that it's clouding the air and burning their lungs and eyes. If they don't take action to fix or correct the problem (Cloth over mouth, holding breath/closing eyes) then the penalties can apply.

The players need to be told about the hazard, before they get the chance to interact with it. Having quicksand or difficult terrain or pits on the battlefield, all should be described (if examined) before a player interacts with it.

Players should be told that sand is difficult terrain (double movement cost), but for sand that is actually hazardous (say full of pits), let people know that they will need to make a check to keep their footing. Quicksand is actually pretty difficult to spot, but allow players to take an action to try to identify which areas are unstable.

This post about sand may or may not have anything to do with my research for my Sandbox project. Get excited. If you think this post is good, and want to help make sure I can keep doing it throughout 2019, consider patreon!

The Tricks and Traps series examines original and classic traps discussing how to present the traps while maintaining the agency of the players. A complete list of sources and inspiration may be found here. The Tricks and Traps Index page contains a complete listing of all the tricks and traps on this site, or you may browse by tags.

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On the Hexporation

Wed, 01/02/2019 - 13:00

I've recently finished and published Hexplore: Borderlands, Raven Tower, Mill, and Abandoned Outpost!

You can get it here from DriveThruRPG.

It's the second borderland hex I've drawn, and it's a six-mile hex  with a raven tower in a mysterious forest, a bottomless pit, a haunted abandoned military outpost, a garden tended by spiders, a tomb for a powerful evil book, and the lair of an arrogant druid and his strange retinue. The document contains maps and encounters with space for your settings name and statistics. Four landmarks, three lairs, and four adventure sites, all for just a few dollars! This helps you make your game exciting in a new way!

 You can check out all the illustrations inside, in the free preview, but it's only $4.99 and you're ready with weeks worth of content when your players wander off in a random direction.

Here's a small .jpg of the hex covered in this Hexplore. The other image is an example of the illustrations contained within.

The other fun thing about this, is that I actually get to make the hex. You can see it right on the cover. See? It's the actual hex! Compare it to the map above!

I really like doing these and I hope you like them too! If you'd like to get them for free, along with 600 .dpi files for use with virtual table tops like roll20, they are all on my Patreon!

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On the Top 10 Crypts

Fri, 12/28/2018 - 20:31
The top ten styles of crypts for your adventurer to rob. Make it like a Turduken, and put different crypt types within each other like Matrioskha dolls.

A corpse is totes inconvenient. I mean, it's not a person, it has no use, and yet it is pretty important right? What do you do with all those corpses?

10 Cairn. Well, I guess if we drag it over there and cover it with rocks that will be good. Plus when you carry the rocks, you can get rid of all the feelings, because you're carrying heavy rocks. But you know, you deserve to be exhausted. After all, you're still alive.

9. Chamber Cairn. After a while you are probably preeety good at moving rocks. The next step is to cover the room the dead person is in with rocks. You can still visit this way. And yet. . .

8. Dolems, because even the dead don't like the rain. It's a separate chamber, kind-of. Merges right with the entrances, usually through a slight change or alteration of elevation.

7. Cist, A hole with stone walls, or a stone coffin set in the ground. Bones lie exposed to the weather or covered in the cist.

6. Tumulus, earth covers the dead in this burial mound, piled high over wherever the dead are stored. Frequently, large areas may be covered in some number of these, creating hills of the dead.

5. Olerdolana, when the grave is carved from stone, covered, holy resting places of the dead. Easily and frequently looted.

4. Sepulchres, cut deep into the mountain, forming rooms and chambers, where christians have lain their dead in ancient times, such chambers may run quite deep.

3. Catacombs, tunnels and chambers running for miles, where the dead are stored. Subterranean, an urban solution for an urban problem. What mysteries or secrets do these chambers of the deads hold? Tombs, Sarcophagi, and more can be found within their twisting passageways.

2. Crypts, a stone chamber that lies beneath the ground, where the dead are interned, vaulted for strength, and frequently near churches, though the church claims it doesn't use such work for necromancy, still the dead rise, no?

1. The Mausoleum, a building, a home for the dead above the earth, secrets of lost lineages can lie within.

Now that you've seen each of these types of tomb, it should help you be able to describe and reference your knowledge during play.

This post is Patreon supported! Come join our community and check out all the cool stuff we having going on, and be one of the great people who's making sure more stuff like this is coming your way in the future. You'll get free stuff, High Definition images for your VTT games and more!

All of the above are drawn by me. I'm also open for commissions at very reasonable rates.

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On a Thursday Trick: Mirrors

Thu, 12/27/2018 - 14:00
Mirror Trick (Category: Special, Restraints/Hazards)

Trigger: Mechanical: Light Detection
Mechanical: Interaction
Magical: Proximity
Magical: Touch

Multiple TargetsSave: Petrification/Polymorph
None Duration: Varies

Resets: AutomaticBypass: Special

Description: Mirrors are a powerful tool, frequently overlooked and forgotten by dungeon designers. Consider mirrored walls, at a distance, strange figures that are difficult to make out. In a room with mirrors, distances can be confusing and surprising. It can be difficult to locate a target.
A mirror trap can be simulated by simply having each appropriate mirror face present another location for monsters the players can see.

Mirrors at the end of hallways confuse mappers, and frequently draw aggressive reactions. Hide something deadly behind a mirror and wait for a panicky player with a crossbow to unleash it on a party.
Magical mirrors are always useful. A covered mirror could be a mirror of life trapping. Mirrors that travel to other mirrors, or hide reverse of rooms or dungeons, or act as scrying devices all have a precedent in fantasy.
Mirror opponents, duplicates but in reverse created by the mirror are a classic opponent. How does the character beat himself? There's even an old transcription of a game in the 70's where a journalist comments on encountering a mirror that made a fighter fight his reflection.
"Mirrors" can represental portals to a similar dimension, requiring you to take some action in this world to cause an event to occur in the other—pull a lever, push a pressure plate, smash an obstacle.

Detection/Disarming: The important thing with maintaining agency about mirrors is making sure that you describe to the player exactly what they see and how it responds to them. You should work this out ahead of time (as above). Intelligent characters will ask questions and draw the correct conclusions. Reducing solving a puzzle like this to a roll should only be used for people unwilling to engage in exploratory play due to insecurity.
Only use these tricks to protect optional treasure or areas. Don't ever require a trick or puzzle as described as above as necessary to advance play.

Consider also this trapped mirror from an earlier article, Tim Short's take on a mirror leading to a mirror universe, and this list of Mirror Effects from Aeons & Arguries.

The Tricks and Traps series examines original and classic traps discussing how to present the traps while maintaining the agency of the players. A complete list of sources and inspiration may be found here. The Tricks and Traps Index page contains a complete listing of all the tricks and traps on this site, or you may browse by tags.

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On The Corporation is Not Your Friend

Wed, 12/26/2018 - 13:00
Spider man, spider man, doing things a spider can,
spin that web, poison that man, oh no it's spiders-man

Spider-man, into the Spider-verse is the best movie I've seen since Lord of the Rings. It is an astounding tour-de-force. It's the first time I've seen something visually authentically new in cinema since the Return of the King. Also, it made me love Morales as spider-man.

I don't know that much about the Marvel universe. I'm a visual artist, I read comics, but mostly indy stuff? Lots of Dynamite comics, risque nudity, the type of thing that offends the weak minded.

When I was a kid I decided I was going to listen to whoever had the best arguments and think those things, the ones that were the best. But it turns out, there's actually a biological component to what I think. No matter how much a (for example) plutocrat explains their views to me, it turns out I'm not going to agree.

What's going to happen is that there will be a few more spider-verse movies and they will be good to ok, and then there will be a lot of them and they will be bad. I know this, because Sony owns Spiderman. And they are a corporation.

Let me explain: Let's talk about blizzard.

The Name is Blizzard. Activision-Blizzard.
In late 2007 Activision began the process of buying Blizzard. Bobby was put in charge.

I'll let him damn himself with his own words, yeah?

From the article titled "Activision: If we can't run a game into the ground, we don't want it." (This stuff writes itself, are you kidding me? That's a quote!?!):
"The games Activision Blizzard didn't pick up, he said, "don't have the potential to be exploited every year on every platform with clear sequel potential and have the potential to become $100 million franchises. … I think, generally, our strategy has been to focus… on the products that have those attributes and characteristics, the products that we know [that] if we release them today, we'll be working on them 10 years from now." - BobbyYeah.

So Activision eliminated the bonus program, dropping technicians to their below industry average rates, causing many developers to flee. Anyone who followed Blizzard's developers on twitter, would now be following people who no longer work at Blizzard. Personally, as a Hearthstone player, having Ben Brode steal some members of the team and leave to found his own company was where it impacted me.

Here is a list of major developers and programmers who have left just in the last few years, not even since the Activision takeover 10 years ago. Rob Pardo (creative director). Chris Metzen (Story Director), Nick Carpenter (VP Cinematics), Josh Mosqueira (Game Director Diablo III), James Waugh, Tyson Murphy, Craig Am, Ben Brode (Hearthstone lead), and hearthstone programmers, Jomaro Kindred, Yong Woo, Michael Schweitzer, and most recently, Mike Morhaime, the co-founder of Blizzard Entertainment.

Blizzard doesn't work at Blizzard any more.

Here are people describing work at Activision/Blizzard: "Siloed mentality. . . fear based culture", "Severe problems in management", "Lots of politics, pleasing egos on a constant basis." "Lots of pressure, way too much overtime."

Here's a story. There's a golden goose. Wait! There's a surprise.
Someday this goose is going to die.
A 'bidness man', not a bleeding heart artist like me, says something like this: "This goose is gonna die someday, so I better get as much gold out of it as I can." And they decide to dip into the nefarious world of microtransactions, loot boxes, in-game advertising and research on algorithms to prompt people to spend money by matching them with rich players to get stomped.

Because why build art? Don't you know that the goose is gonna die someday? Best to get as much out of it as you can.

The goalpost at blizzard has unquestionably shifted from, "Make and test games until they feel perfect." to "Let's exploit this for profit." and it shows. The last Hearthstone expansion has serious weird bugs that would be impossible to miss during playtesting—at least the way blizzard used to do it. The work is getting shoddy and it shows. Who is left to make sure it doesn't?

It seems stupid, yeah? Until, of course, it's pointed out that, even though it's a long shot, from their perspective it's better money-wise, to take the shot. Blizzard did it, right? It just made "Everquest but from Blizzard". That worked out real well.

The shot in question being a big f-u to everyone looking for a new diablo community on the internet with a new PC release, with the announcement of a skin of a chinese game written by a chinese software company to release a microtransaction-focused diablo-skinned arpg slot machine. You know the sort, 4$ to turn off ads, 6$ for the experience doubler, and then the gem packs.

Welcome to Diablo Eternal, written by the chinese market for the chinese.

So, in retrospective, much like the 19th century was about british imperialism, the 20th about the information age, the 21st will be about the rise of China. It's ok. They aren't going to go to war with anyone, except on the market.

So who knows? Maybe tapping the chinese market will make Activision a ton of money.

But what about Blizzard? What about what they stood for?

Me? I'd want to extend the life of the goose. Give it a little swimming pond, some free range spaces. I mean it's a goose, and geese are assholes. Seriously. Geese are dicks. I mean, I'm no speciest, but I don't want geese moving in next door, if you know what I mean. They will honk all night. Still, if it's laying golden eggs, who cares if it lives in a nice house with a swimming pool?

Henry Ford said "If the only reason to run a business is to make money, it's a bad business." So when activision takes over, policies change. The culture changes. People leave. The games do drop in quality. But Activision wants to acquire, and extract. After all, it's not like Blizzard was going to stay profitable indefinitely. Even if it did, it's just not enough money every month.

Not every corporation has the practices. Others love their game so much they enslave their workers like a medieval lord, forcing people to labor for over a hundred hours in a 168 hour week? Some companies like Steam are private, lean, and generate both revenues and power.  Others like Crate are made up of a group of people who love their jobs and lives, pouring their soul into the game.
Along Came A Spider To Sit Beside-herVenom, Black Cat, Silver Sable, Morbius the Living Vampire, Kraven the Hunter, Silk, Jackpot and Nightwatch. Those are all the movies Sony has planned for the Spider-verse in the next 24 months. I only know like 3 of those characters.

The animated movie was just a side project.

But already sequel plans are in place. A sequel with morales and gwen. That will serve as a "Launching Pad" for spinnoffs. Gwen/Spider Woman/Silk. Spider Ham.

They don't have an idea for a movie. They have an idea about how to produce a lot of content while people are excited. In their favor is that the people getting these projects care about the spider.

But here's the thing. As quality varies in the movies, shareholders will demand better returns, and that's when the rules come about what directors can and cannot do. With less freedom and more studio interference, director quality will decline, until they've squeezed every last penny from the spider-verse that they can.

And you know, good on them. But don't turn the corporation into your heroes. Maybe we shouldn't let corporations operate without concern for the well-being of people. It turns out the invisible hand will give people cancer if it makes 'em some money. This is why extremism is so bonkers. Of course you need both socialist and capitalist traits in a government for it to be successful. I don't care about someone making a few hundred million a year, but even libertarians—a political movement founded on the principle of freedom from government intervention, believe that the wealth concentration is an issue where injustice is being perpetrated and must be addressed.

Like the vast vast majority of humans are on board with this as a problem.

I mean, that's why the future of the Internet is in communities. They've become social entertainment, doors open in many houses at any given moment, time shared with people you care about who's jobs are communicating and building communities. Patron, Twitch, human organization is changing. That's why I'm following Overhype studios, developer of Battle Brothers. Because they are a pair of brothers, making a toy they love. They have money, but mostly they just want to make their little sandbox. I drift along with other fans who watch and stream the game, becoming a part of a tribe.

It turns out that people do things for reasons other than money. I'm not taking a choosing beggar stance, people should be compensated for their talents. But the fact is, if people have their needs met, they still will do things because they enjoy them. The fact that the very plutocratic policy these objectivist follow doesn't even heed the core maxim of the creator "Did you get your money by fraud? By pandering to men's vices or stupidity? By catering to fools, in the hopes of getting more than your ability deserves?. . . If so your money will not give you a moment's or penny's worth of joy."

We all know that isn't true. People making millions at activision or seeking to save and distribute twenty-five million dollars to executives, while stiffing floor people who are fired. They don't feel guilt about that. Just trying to get as much for them as they can.

But here's a crazy thing. Aggressive assholes? That's not something that's biologically selected for. It turns out, you are more reproductively successful if you have friends (said the uncountable bacteria encasing every human body.) So in the long run, we are seeing an evolution of humanity itself. It turns out, that evolution selects for community instead of aggression. What befalls the fox befalls us all.
While Belyayev and his team "didn't select for a smarter fox but for a nice fox", Hare said, "they ended up getting a smart fox."I'm sad about the future of Hearthstone, and glad we are going to get some good spider man films.
Have a great Christmas everyone!

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