Thursday, March 26, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Into the Caves

“Your character stands atop a grassy hill...the sun glints off your golden hair, rippling in the warm breeze...you absentmindedly rub the gem-studded hilt of your magic sword, and glance over at the dwarf and elf, bickering as usual about how to load the horses...the magic-user has memorized her spells, and says she’s ready to go...a dangerous dungeon entrance gapes at you from the mountain nearby, and inside, a fearsome dragon awaits. Time to get moving...

                                                    - Frank Mentzer, 1983
 
I absolutely loved the solo adventure in the 1983 Red Box Player’s Manual. As a tribute I thought it would be fun to convert it to a 5E mini dungeon that a 1st level party could explore. I tweaked the dungeon to make it group friendly but tried to stay pure in terms of the original encounters. Enjoy!

Background

This small dungeon crawl takes place inside the recently unearthed tomb of a Shar priestess.

Shar. Also known as Mistress of the Night, she presides over caverns, dark, dungeons, forgetfulness, loss, night, secrets, and the Underdark.

A group of enterprising goblin looters discovered the tomb after a season of torrential rain revealed its once hidden entrance. Not particularly smart the goblins became stumped by a large metal seal inside the tomb. Determined to get what treasures may be hidden beyond the door they hatched a plan. After some disastrous trial and error the goblins were able to lure a rust monster inside the tomb. As expected the creature gleefully consumed the metal seal. Unfortunately for the goblins they have been unable extract the treasure beyond because of the skeletal guardians that emerged.

Further complicating things is the rust monster which has stubbornly decided to stay in the tomb. Acting as a complete glutton it dissolved most of the goblin’s equipment this morning. The PC’s will learn of the tomb from some cave spelunkers and arrive late morning to investigate it. They warn that another adventurer went inside alone and is said to have run out terrified and has not been seen since.

 1. Entrance

The climb up the broken path takes some time as the mountain air thins. Wisps of breath emanate from you are your companions as you find the cave the hunters spoke of. The muddy earth around the entrance is churned and riddled with small booted footprints. There is a gaping hole which appears to be connected to an ancient stone stair case leading down.

Curious PC's will notice the small prints in the mud are roughly the size if a child's foot.

2. Statue Room

The room you have entered is around twenty five feet square, with exits in the middle of the north, east, and west walls. The ceiling of the room is approximately 15’ high but lost in the shadows. The walls and floor are crafted from cut rock riddled with small cracks. Standing in the center of the room is the stone statue of a woman holding a sword and shield. It appears the statue was once painted but it has mostly peeled and faded with time.

Any PC’s taking the time to stop and listen (Perception DC10) will notice squeaking sounds coming from the east.

If the PC’s investigate the statue they will determine it to be mundane. There is however a barely noticeable standard upon the shield of a black disk with a border of deep purple. DC15 Religion or History to recognize it as the symbol of Shar.  Scratched into back of the statue is the following message in common:

RATS EAST
GOBLINS NORTH
BEWARE WEST!

3. Annex

This small room appears to be a jumble of trash which contains broken objects such as oil decanters, wines bottles, pottery, dishes and baskets. The smell of offal is thick here as if something has been using the space as a lair. 

A group of giant rats has claimed this area as their own and will defend it if the PC’s start probing the broken items in the chamber.

Giant Rat: (4) Page 327 of the D&D Monster Manual.

Treasure: If searched thoroughly the PC’s will find some ancient coins inside two unbroken clay pottery pieces. 100cp and 100sp.

4. Riddle of Wealth

The room beyond is oddly empty and completely clean. The only feature is a strange orange mouth superimposed on the far wall, about 8’ long in size.

When the PC’s enter the chamber nothing happens. Only when they attempt to leave will the Magic Mouth animate. Read or paraphrase following:

Suddenly, as you are about to leave, the lips of the giant mouth move, and in a big booming voice it bellows, “Surprise! You are here for double-or-nothing! Ready or not, here we go. 0-T-T-F-F-S-S. What’s next in line? If you solve this riddle, your treasure will double. If you fail, it will all disappear. What is your answer?”

If the PC’s try to leave the way is blocked by an invisible force. “You must answer, y’know!” bellows the mouth. If they guess the answer correctly double the amount of coins each of them carries. If not, it all disappears, and the characters are left with none. The answer is “E.” The letters stand for One, Two, Three, four, Five, Six, and Seven. The “next in the series” is Eight!

Suddenly feeling more or less weighed down the mouth will laugh when done and say “Come back again sometime!” as the invisible barrier drops. If the PC’s do actually return the mouth roars, “YOU again?! Go away, pest!”

Note: Any treasure taken by this enchantment appears deeper in the tomb.

5. Funerary Room

This narrow chamber contains recessed stone shelves filled with rotted bolts of cloth, jars, vases and cutting tools. Standing in the center room are two goblins who look up, startled, as one growls something in its own language. The other smiles at you, and says in broken common “Why, hello there! What can we do for you?” The growling goblin starts heading north, apparently leaving the room. 

If any of the PC’s speak goblin they will understand the growling goblin to say, “Distract them”. It then will get its companions to help deal with the adventurers.

Goblin (4): Page 166 of the D&D Monster Manual. Exchange scimitars for wooden clubs.

Treasure: The goblins have 1d6 sp. One of them carries two potions of healing.

If the goblins start to lose the encounter badly they will run for the stone door in room 6 and slam it shut. If the PC’s try to engage them they will yell back “Go away! We don’t want any!”

6. Afterlife Chamber

This room contains rotted wooden couches gilded in black opal, small tables and stools. In the northwest corner is what remains of an ornate bed which lies splintered on the ground.

This chamber is decorated with some of the furniture which once belonged to the priestess interred here. If searched it looks as though the goblins destroyed the bed to fashion their clubs with. The couch contains 10 small black opals (10gp each) which can be carefully extracted. The PC’s will also find one small bag by the door, apparently dropped by one of the goblins. The bag contains 10 sp, 5 gp, and an stone key! Any attempts to open the stone door (even with they key) leading to areas 9 & 10 will fail.

7. Chamber of Deeds

This room was once painted with murals depicting the accomplishments of a priestess. Most are faded now and very hard to follow. The strangest feature however is the large piles of reddish dust everywhere. Suddenly you hear a snort and see an alien looking creature emerge from one of the piles. It looks like a giant armadillo with a long tail, and has 2 feathery feelers on the front.

Rust Monster (1): Page 262 of the D&D Monster Manual. If the party of adventurers is large make the encounter more difficult by giving the rust monster maximum hit points. The creature will stop attacking and ignore the PC’s once there is no additional metal to consume. 

Treasure: There is 30 more black opals (10gp each) strewn about the chamber under rust piles.

8. False Treasury

As you peer into the room, you see four skeletons with rusty swords standing about 10’ from you, around the corner. Then without warning some force awakens them, infusing their bones with a dark vitality. They let out an unearthly howl and charge you!

Skeleton (4): Page 272 of the D&D Monster Manual.

This chamber is stocked with many items of false value which have been previously rummaged through by the goblin looters. The northeast corner contains a large pile of rust similar to the ones in area 7. It looks as though there was once some sort of metal seal in place. A wooden door rests beyond the rust pile which is cracked open. The skeletons came from the small treasury beyond.

9. Dowry of the Dead

The room is empty except for one large stone box and four guardian niches. Murals on the wall suggest this may have been a wedding dowry which was never used and left here for the afterlife. 

The stone lid is approximately 15lbs and covered in etched runes. A successful DC 20 Intelligence (Arcana) check recognizes they are a warning to tomb robbers to leave. Any character actively searching for traps may make a DC15 perception check to notice odd slits in the stone floor. Those aware of a potential trap may make a DC11 Dexterity check to avoid it when activated.  Otherwise unaware PC’s who remove the lid will fall victim to a blade trap and take 1d10 points of damage.

Treasure: The stone box contains 500 cp, 200 sp, 100 gp and a Haunted Sword +1.

Any PC with a Passive Perception of 12 or higher will notice a lever inside one of the wall niches the skeletons came from. If pulled the secret door leading to area 10 will groan in protest as it opens.

10. Hallway of the Dead

A narrow corridor of stone leads away from this area into palpable darkness. In the distance you see a flickering light which is suddenly extinguished followed by the shriek of a goblin. What horrors await deeper in the tomb only time and the brave can tell!

If you enjoyed this little conversion and would like to potentially see it expanded please let me know. Or perhaps you have been inspired to add more chambers and rooms yourself. That stone key the players found unlocks something! Rumor has it the priestess is not very happy about all these interlopers in her domain.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Belt Pouch Table

This morning on the way into work I was thinking how much I enjoy random RPG tables. But let me qualify that statement with its usually the content within the tables that I enjoy so much. Often when I find a good list I read all the entries and sometimes just pick one I like for the night’s game session. Other times when a player asks a question about something I like to just randomly roll and see where it takes us.

Below I decided to create a random table of belt pouches with interesting contents. While coins and gems are great they can seem lackluster after a while. So next time one of your players reaches inside a pouch or empties one consider using this table. I promise they will be as surprised as you are!

Belt Pouch Table (d8)

1.    Stained leather pouch which has a strange floral aroma. When examined it seems pliable and makes squishing sounds if poked or prodded. Inside will be found a shrunken head fetish of what appears to be a goblin. The mouth of the goblin is filled with 1d6+1 flower petals. If a petal is removed the head will animate and answer questions as if an augury spell was cast. When the petals are all depleted the head will crumble to dust.

2.    Rusted chainmail pouch which appears to have some sort of magical darkness inside it. All attempts to peer through the links fail unless a light spell is cast and directed at the pouch. Only then will the eyeball encased in resin within be visible. The eyeball belongs to a necromancer in some faraway place.  If removed from the pouch the necromancer can see through the eye again. What horrors now await the PCs is up to the Dungeon Master.

3.    Common cloth pouch with small nibble marks. It appears at one time the pouch was repaired because newer stitching is visible. The pouch feels cold to touch regardless of the temperature outside. Something appears to be moving inside the pouch at odd intervals. Inside will be found a skeletal mouse covered in arcane ice. All attempts to melt the ice will fail and the undead yet benign mouse will follow whoever the owner of the pouch is.

4.    Gold plated dragon leather pouch with dwarven runes that suggest it once belonged to some great slayer. The gold plating has seen better days and is missing in some places. Inside will be found a series of artistic stones crafted from gold. It is obvious that the entire collection is not present. When assembled together the stones actually create a rough map which ultimately shows the location of a dwarven tomb. The missing stones will need to be found to complete the map.

5.    A long pouch crafted from strips of beautiful tree leaves and bark. When examined it appears that small fruits are growing both on the outside and inside of the pouch. If watered the growth will be completed in 1d4 days otherwise the fruits grow at the DM’s discretion. Every growth cycle the pouch produces two types of goodberry. This will yield 1d6 inner and outer berries. Outer berries heal 1 point of damage when consumed. Those which grow inside the pouch are larger and heal 2 points of damage when consumed.

6.    A black silk pouch which appears completely bloated and filled with something. Upon examination whatever is inside the pouch feels solid and round. If the pouch is poked with a sharp object it is forever destroyed. It cannot be emptied of its contents unless someone reaches inside to pull out what is within. Anyone doing the former will feel something spongy and sticky. Chunks of this object can be removed revealing globs of spider web. If thrown these globs count as a web that affects only half the area of the normal spell. There is 2d6 globs of web available before the pouch is depleted.

7.    A regal pouch crafted from deep purple cloth with golden accents. It feels like there may be six small but solid objects resting at the bottom of the pouch. If emptied several strange stones with straight edges and sharp vertices fall out. Upon examination it appears each of the stones has a series of numbers etched upon them. Once per day the owner may roll these royal dice (pick your favorite real set) for a chance of luck being bestowed upon them. If the combined result is greater than 25 the owner gains +1 to all saving throws for the day.

8.    This pouch appears to be a miniaturized replica of an adventurer’s backpack. All the buttons work, compartments open and it even has small straps. If the owner attempts to place anything inside the pouch it magically shrinks to one quarter its original size and weight to accommodate. The object can then be retrieved and takes 1 round to return to its normal size. The maximum capacity of the pouch is 7.5lbs of reduced weight.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Vamprechaun

Back in the early 90s when the summers were endless it seemed like I played RPGs to my heart’s content. When the regular group was not assembled I ran a series of solo D&D sessions for my friend Tom. He wanted to explore the story of his wizard named Cord who was a dark and brooding character. Since Cord would be solo his powers were outside the four corners of a normal character sheet. One of the ways I justified this was by placing a rather nasty curse upon him.

The curse provided great benefit but also forced Cord to unravel its mystery. But unfortunately for Cord there were others so cursed as well who would prove to be a great hindrance. In the style of Highlander there could only be one and Cord would spar with these other cursed individuals often. But perhaps his greatest cursed rival was something I dreamed up literally on the spot. Roderick the Rabid was an incredibly malicious and evil leprechaun with vampirism.

Cord himself was a vampire as well so the battles between the two of them were the stuff of legend. Entire buildings demolished, statues smashed and stone walls broken. The combats had a very superhero vibe to them and were quite entertaining. And with Roderick often appearing at the most inopportune times Cord usually had his hands full.

With St. Patrick’s Day being celebrated tomorrow I thought it would be fun revisit Roderick a tad by creating a new 5E mash-up. In Irish folklore the leprechaun (leipreach├ín) is a diminutive sprite or fairy which is known to be quite mischievous. Because of their love of dancing leprechauns constantly need new shoes. Many were said to be cobblers and covet gold which they hid or buried under rocks. The most popular legends hold that if captured a leprechaun had the ability to grant three wishes. Often humans would track them by listening for the distinct tapping of the tiny cobbler’s hammer. William Allingham’s 18th-century poem titled "The Lepracaun; Or, Fairy Shoemaker" speaks of the unique sound:
 
"Lay your ear close to the hill 
Do you not catch the tiny clamour,
Busy click of an elfin hammer,
Voice of the Lepracaun singing shrill
As he merrily plies his trade?"


So what would happen if this little trickster fey was captured by a vampire? After granting its three wishes it was then bitten and discarded. The creature awakens and its darkest desires are now an utter obsession. Music, gold and shoes it craves with a healthy hunger for a stomach full of blood. 

Imagine a full moon casting light down upon a hill in the middle of a village. There dancing with a fiddle or harp is the small silhouette of a figure. A villager is awakened by the melodic sounds and sees what they believe to be a leprechaun. Three wishes may be for the taking so they grab their fishing net and sneak outside. Unbeknownst to the villager they are about to become the Vamprechaun's  next meal!

Vamprechaun (5th edition)
Small fey undead (shapechanger), chaotic evil
Armor Class 19 (natural armor)
Hit Points 144 (17d8 + 68)
Speed 40ft.
STR 18 (+4)
DEX 18 (+4)
CON 18 (+4)
INT 17 (+3)
WIS 12 (+1)
CHA 18 (+4)
Saving Throws Dex +9, Wis +6, Cha +9
Skills Perception +7, Stealth +9
Damage Resistances necrotic; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical weapons
Senses darkvision 120 ft. , passive Perception 16
Languages Fey and common
Challenge 14 (11,400 XP)

ABILITIES
 
Shapechanger. If the vamprechaun isn't in sun light or running water, it can use its action to polymorph into a tiny woodland creature, invisible, or back into its true form.  While in animal form, the vamprechaun can't speak, its walking speed is 5 feet, and it has a flying speed of 30 feet. Its statistics, other than its size and speed, are unchanged. Anything it is wearing transforms with it, but nothing it is carrying does. It reverts to its true form if it dies.

Invisible Passage. The vamprechaun magically turns invisible until it attacks. While invisible, it leaves no physical evidence of passage, so it can be tracked only by magic. Any equipment the vamprechaun wears or carries is invisible as well.

Legendary Resistance (3/Day). If the vamprechaun fails a saving throw, it can choose to succeed instead.

Prismatic Escape. When it drops to 0 hit points outside its resting place, the vamprechaun transforms into a multi-colored mist (as in the Shapechanger trait) instead of falling unconscious, provided that it isn't in sun light or running water. If it can't transform, it is destroyed. While it has 0 hit points in prismatic mist form, it can't revert to its original form, and it must reach its hidden pot of gold within 2 hours or be destroyed. Once at its pot of gold, it reverts to its vamprechaun form. It is then paralyzed until it regains at least 1 hit point. After spending 1 hour next to its hidden pot of gold with 0 hit points, it regains 1 hit point.

Regeneration. The vamprechaun regains 20 hit points at the start of its turn if it has at least 1 hit point and isn't in sun light or running water. If vamprechaun takes radiant damage or damage from holy water, this trait doesn't function at the start of the vamprechaun's next turn.

Spider Climb. The vamprechaun can climb difficult surfaces, including upside down on ceilings, without needing to make an ability check.

WEAKNESSES
 
Cobbler’s Affection. The vamprechaun can be distracted by beautiful shoes and must make a DC15 Wisdom save at the beginning of every round it remains in the presence of fine shoes. If it fails the vamprechaun has disadvantage on all attacks for the round.

Forbiddance. The vamprechaun can't enter a residence without an invitation from one of the occupants.

Harmed by Running Water. The vamprechaun takes 20 acid damage if it ends its turn in running water.

Stake to the Heart. If a piercing weapon made of wood is driven into the vamprechaun's heart while the vamprechaun is incapacitated in its resting place, the vamprechaun is paralyzed until the stake is removed.

Sunlight Hypersensitivity. The vamprechaun takes 20 radiant damage when it starts its turn in sunlight. While in sun light, it has disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks.

 ACTIONS

Multiattack (Vamprechaun Form Only). The vamprechaun makes two attacks, only one of which can be a bite attack.

Unarmed Strike (Vamprechaun Form Only). Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 8 (1d8 + 4) bludgeoning damage.

Bite (Woodland animal or Vamprechaun Form Only). Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5 ft., one willing creature, or a creature that is incapacitated, or restrained. Hit: 7 (1d6 + 4) piercing damage plus 10 (3d6) necrotic damage. The target's hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the necrotic damage taken, and the vamprechaun regains hit points equal to that amount. The reduction lasts until the target finishes a long rest. The target dies if this effect reduces its hit point maximum to 0. A humanoid slain in this way and then buried in the ground rises the following night as a vampire spawn under the vamprechaun’s control.

Charm. The vamprechaun plays music with its fiddle or harp. Any target within 30’ that can hear the music must succeed on a DC 17 Wisdom saving throw against this magic or be charmed by the vamprechaun. The charmed target regards the vamprechaun as a trusted friend to be heeded and protected. Although the target isn't under the vamprechaun’s control, it takes the vamprechaun's requests or actions in the most favorable way it can, and it is a willing target for the vamprechaun’s bite attack.

Each time the vamprechaun or the vamprechaun's companions do anything harmful to the target, it can repeat the saving throw, ending the effect on itself on a success. Otherwise, the effect lasts 24 hours or until the vamprechaun is destroyed, is on a different plane of existence than the target, or takes a bonus action to end the effect.

Dark Ritual (1/Day). The vamprechaun magically  calls for 4d6 Twig Blights to appear. The called creatures arrive in 1d4 rounds, acting as allies of the vamprechaun and obeying its spoken commands. The creatures remain for 1 hour, until the vamprechaun dies, or until the vamprechaun dismisses them as a bonus action.

LEGENDARY ACTIONS

The vamprechaun can take 3 legendary actions, choosing from the options below. Only one legendary action option can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature's turn. The vamprechaun regains spent legendary actions at the start of its turn.

Move. The vamprechaun moves up to its speed without provoking opportunity attacks.
Vanishing Trick. The vamprechaun uses invisible passage.
Bite (Costs 2 Actions). The vamprechaun makes one bite attack .


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Throwback Thursday: The 10' Pole

The idiom “I wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole” is something we all have heard countless times. There are many anecdotal suggestions of where the popular phrase originated. The earliest reference I could find was recorded inside an 1843 U.S. Masonic community magazine, edited by James L Ridgely:

But that mushroom aristocracy of our country... who would not condescend to touch a poor man with a ten foot pole, were their extraction traced, in nine cases out of ten they were nurtured in the squalid huts of poverty.


I have to believe the popular idiom influenced Gygax & Arneson when they developed the equipment list for Men & Magic. One of the most poked fun of mundane items from old school D&D is the 10’ pole. I can recall as a young player wondering how I would get one down into a dungeon let alone negotiate those nasty 90 degree turns. But playing D&D as a kid was not an endless exercise in logic and trying to make sense of everything. Very often something as outlandish as a 10’ pole would just vanish when not being used but was always there when needed again. 

Old school D&D was also much more narrative and descriptive as players used creativity to get around traps and obstacles. Something such as a wooden pole was a useful tool for springing a trap, testing for an illusion or pushing open doors. Then as the gaming community aged so did the way we played. Shifts in design philosophy with later editions of D&D minimized player ingenuity by determining success and failure with a simple roll of the d20. Sure I could get up and change the channels manually but why bother when I have this handy remote control? 


One of the things I was thrilled to see with the release of the 5E D&D Basic set was the return of the 10’ pole on the equipment list. And even though there is still mechanics in place for searching and ultimately disarming traps the 10’ pole can still be useful. As part of movement or action in 5E you can do one minor thing to interact with your environment for free. One of the suggestions on the example list is tap the floor with a 10’ pole.

This is an important take away for any players reading this. Not only does this example harken back to the days of yore but you are being encouraged to think outside the box. Don’t be a slave to the d20 and live with the results. What if the trap before you on the tiled floor is sprung with a minor amount of pressure and your roll did not reveal it? Tapping the floor as part of your movement or action is almost like having a second bite at the apple. But really the former is the first thing you should have done before reaching for that d20!

I believe the 10’ pole really is just a metaphor of early Dungeons & Dragons when descriptive play was the thing. Visualize your environment, ask questions and make good use of mundane tools to help you explore it. In my 5E games I have blended back in much of that old school philosophy or as I prefer to call it O5R. The 10’ pole does not need to be something buried in the tomes of dungeon crawl nostalgia. Rather it is an invitation for you to be a better player, a better DM and ultimately a more imaginative gamer.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Unappreciated Game Master

Being a game master is a thankless job? During GM’s Day I read that somewhere recently on a forum. While I don’t agree with that statement entirely I can empathize with the emotion behind it. Over the past thirty years I have occasionally felt unappreciated by certain players. You know the type. They arrive late, are not prepared, forgot their character, or are completely distracted. You put up with it for a while because they are your friends or family.

That being said, I learned long ago not to let a group disintegrate because of this. Instead after some diplomacy if the problem is not resolved that player is no longer invited back. If you spend hours as I do preparing your campaign world and adventures everyone should be at the table to play. A normal session in the Game Tavern always includes some social catch up time before the game commences or during breaks. But at the end of the day there is a group of middle aged adults that set aside time to game together. For many this involves arranging baby sitters, travel or even squeezing the session into a busy schedule. No game master or group should ever suffer in silence because of a disruptive player. 


So what are other reasons you feel unappreciated as the game master? Perhaps your players are just not as involved in the story to the extent you would like? I have heard this as a common complaint over the years. The important thing to remember is players come in all different flavors but have one unifying focus which is fun. Everyone wants to have a good time, get together with friends, roll some dice and escape for a few hours.


I think the old adage of know your audience really holds true when it comes to game mastering. If you current group is composed of heavy role players then story may be more important. On the flip side if your group has more war gamers then story may be secondary to them. Game mastering is really a balance in trying to understand what motivates your players to be seated at the table. Is it the politics of the realm, battling monsters, exploring fantastic locations or just finding treasure?


Often at the start of a fresh campaign I ask my players to write up a background for me. I usually offer a permanent 10% experience point bonus for the life of the character if completed. The information serves as a source for story hooks and gets the players invested in their characters. But most importantly it helps me gauge what is motivating those particular players to attend my game sessions. Even if you have played for years with someone this is a great exercise to partake in. People’s tastes change or they may just be looking for a new perspective with a particular character.

A perfect example is my wife’s current barbarian character. In the past she usually played some sort of shadowy rogue or archer that was careful and sneaky. This campaign she wanted to be a melee machine and see what it was like on the front line. Moreover her character has a split personality with the worse of the two always appearing when she rages.  As a game master there are some easy things to target in on here to make the game experience more enjoyable for the player. The barbarian needs plenty of combat challenges and exploration of the split personality when applicable in the story. This is not a character that will flourish in endless game sessions of political subterfuge or murder mysteries.


Again know your audience. As a game master there is something far worse than railroading your players and that is placing them inside the neat little box you have built and closing the lid. If you feel unappreciated it may just be that you need to find a more common ground for your game sessions. If players are not excited and interested then your own enthusiasm will start to dwindle as well. Finally you may just be suffering from game master burnout which is very common. Running a campaign or even just one game session is a daunting task. From the preparation involved to answering the barrage questions posed by a table of players being a game master is a lot of work.


My solution for game master burnout has been to take a break and just schedule a board game night. Or I just switch things up and run a one shot of a no crunch RPG to rekindle my own game master fire.  For some it may be as simple as handing over the reins to another game master for a while. The former is usually a limited option since good game masters are hard to find. And remember while everyone is a critic very few if any will put themselves out there. It takes a tremendous amount of courage in any medium to be the one running the show. 


So know that you are appreciated my fellow game masters because our hobby needs you! There are still many stories to tell, lost places to find and monsters to defeat. Keep scheduling those game sessions but if you need a break don’t be afraid to take it. Sometimes a little time reflecting on what has worked and what has not will lead you back on the path of adventure quicker than you think!




Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Remembering Gary Gygax

I would like the world to remember me as the guy who really enjoyed playing games and sharing his knowledge and his fun pastimes with everybody else.
                                                       - Gary Gygax

In memoriam, I thought it would be nice to talk some about Gary Gygax today. As some of you may be familiar Gary passed away on this day in 2008. I will not spend any time on the subject of loss since that voluminous task would be impossible to realize. Instead I wanted to take a look back to my earliest memories of Gary Gygax and how he was inspirational.

I remember 1983 very well since it was the year I started playing the Dungeons & Dragons game. In August of that year the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide was one of my birthday presents. There emblazoned on the cover was the name Gary Gygax. Well this was a strange and interesting surname for sure. For a bright eyed 11 year old it just added to the mystique of the game.

Who was this Gygax? Where did he come from? How did he make this incredible game that I cannot wait to play when I get home from school? The questions were endless for a bunch if young kids who had no contact with the outside gaming world beyond a Dragon Magazine.

I recall fondly arguing with my fellow players during those early years in regard to the correct pronunciation of the surname Gygax. Was it Ghe-gax, Gy-gaks or Gax? It was not until I was much older and the advent of the internet that I learned Gy-gaks was indeed correct. Apparently Gary held that the etymology of his Swedish surname means giant in some form. I find this little factoid most appropriate since Gary had such a giant influence on my imagination as a child.

I can honestly credit Gary Gygax with inspiring me and countless others to keep our imaginations alive well past childhood. Imagination is truly the workspace of our brains and role playing games help to keep the fire stoked and the engine pumping. So many people let the imaginations of others enthrall them with movies or a good novel. The former is fine but as most D&D players will tell you it’s much more fun to design and play in your own sandbox.

That is the beauty of the game which Gary Gygax helped to create. Here we are forty years later with a form of imaginative play that can be developed by friends seated around a table. I can think of no other activity so cerebral and entertaining even in this time of incredible media experiences.

So later today when you have a chance dig out your favorite d20 and give it a spin. Somewhere just maybe the first dungeon master may be smiling at you. Thanks Gary for all your contributions to the hobby that so many of us love and cherish!