Friday, September 16, 2016

Dungeons & Dragons Has Always Been Cool

This morning I read this article and immediately wanted to follow-up. Dungeons and Dragons has always been cool. Sure there was a time when it was not socially accepted by the mainstream. But that was also during an age when information was shared by only the press and various networks. Today social media has opened the eyes of many people regarding a plethora of subjects. Role-playing games have certainly gained traction because of this phenomenon.

The difference between the gross misinformation of the 70s and 80s, and watching people having fun playing D&D on YouTube is like night and day. Now even the remotely curious can investigate any tabletop game before purchasing it. Since 1974 players have been sitting around a table with friends playing Dungeons & Dragons. I would argue that other forms of entertainment will never be as compelling. Why? Because whether playing a video game, watching a movie, or reading a book, you are using someone else’s imagination.

Figment is exhausted after batting around a D20.
When playing a game such as Dungeons & Dragons you are using your own imagination. In terms of a collaborative story-telling game, it’s just timeless. It does not matter what edition you play, or the genre, role-playing games are a wonderful hobby. If anything I think we are experiencing a renaissance of sorts right now with table-top games.

While social media is wonderful, we are really NOT connected by it. Nothing replaces gathering a few friends and socializing in real time. A role-playing game is often a great catalyst to make this happen. Even if your table-top is virtual, the end result is better than refreshing Twitter or Facebook relentlessly while bored out of your gourd.

So yes Dungeons & Dragons has ALWAYS been cool. For over thirty years dedicated and enthusiastic players have helped to make the pastime infectious. I’m glad some people are finally catching up! And more importantly that a new generation of players is growing into the hobby during this wonderful and open-minded time. So dig out those dice and take a romp through the dungeon this weekend. Who knows what adventures await!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Monster: Pumpkin (Spice) Pudding

As usual this time of year the pumpkin spice apocalypse has started early. Everywhere you look products that should not even have the flavor are jumping on the pumpkin cart. In response to this craze I decided to create a monster for use in during your Fall game sessions. In the very least this should cause a few chuckles around the table. Well at least until they realize this nasty ooze is more than tongue in cheek.

These custard horrors are formed from the innards of a rotted pumpkin. The latter cannot be any ordinary jack-o’-lantern however. Instead it must be from a pumpkin patch which has been enchanted with foul magic. The origin of the magic is often debated by scholars, but almost always involves malicious fey. Pumpkin delights are popular in the realm when the leaves begin to change color and fall. The fey decided to emulate these treats and punish the humans encroaching on their sacred forests.

A pumpkin pudding appears and smells much like its namesake. Unlike other oozes, a pumpkin pudding is intelligent and very patient. The creature wishes to be consumed so it may create more Pumpkin Zombies for the control of its fey masters. If discovered, the pumpkin pudding will fight to the death if escape is not an option. If the opportunity presents itself, the pudding will attempt to slither into the mouth of any unconscious or disabled foe. There are even tales of these puddings creeping into the mouth, nose, or ears of sleeping victims.

Pumpkin (Spice) Pudding
Small ooze, unaligned
Armor Class 8
Hit Points 22 (3d8 + 9)
Speed 10 ft., climb 10 ft.
STR 12 (+1) DEX 6 (-2) CON 16 (+3) INT 10 (+0) WIS 10 (+0) CHA 2 (-4)   
Skills Stealth +2
Damage Resistances acid, cold, fire, bludgeoning, piercing, slashing.
Condition Immunities blinded, charmed, deafened, exhaustion, frightened, prone
Senses blindsight 60 ft. (blind beyond this radius), passive Perception 8
Languages —
Challenge 2 (450 XP)

Amorphous: The ooze can move through a space as narrow as 1 inch wide without squeezing.
False Appearance: While the ooze remains motionless, it is indistinguishable from a delicious treat.
Pulpy Innards: If consumed, 9 (2d6 + 2) necrotic damage, and the target must succeed on a DC 13 Constitution saving throw or its hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the damage taken. This 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 by this attack rises 24 hours later as a Pumpkin Zombie under the control of dark fey. The caveat being the humanoid is restored to life or its body is destroyed.

Pseudopod: Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d6 + 1) bludgeoning damage plus 7 (2d6) necrotic damage.

DM Tips
Although it’s a very tough creature because of its resistances, combat is something the pudding prefers to avoid. Instead it will wait patiently to be consumed or for an opportunity to enter a helpless victim. As an agent of evil fey, the pudding is calculating and very careful.

For some added fun, when using this monster be sure to include some real pumpkin pudding to your game session. Although the players may be a tad reluctant to eat it after meeting these creamy nightmares!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Adventures in the Upside Down

*Warning Spoilers* After watching Stranger Things, I spent some time digging through old D&D books. Since I started playing D&D in 1983 the show really resonated with me. It was like Steven Spielberg and Stephen King sat around and created an old school D&D module. Like most viewers I became very interested in the Vale of Shadows as referenced by the kids:

“The Vale of Shadows is a dimension that is a dark reflection, or echo, of our world. It is a place of decay and death, a plane out of phase, a [place] with monsters. It is right next to you and you don’t even see it.”

There has been some postulation that the Vale of Shadows is just the Plane of Shadows or the Shadowfell from the Forgotten Realms. But in the spirit of D&D canon, and looking back to 1983, I found something more compelling to use. In Dragon 73 (May 1983) Gary Gygax explores quasi-elemental planes. One of these places which existed between the Positive and Negative elemental planes was the Plane of Ash.

It was not until 1987 that Jeff Grubb expanded the quasi-elemental Plane of Ash in the Manual of the Planes. As I read through some of the descriptive material in my copy it was hauntingly similar to the Upside Down. Here are a few potentially relevant excerpts:

The plane of Ash exists without light, heat, or flame in the same fashion as Vacuum exists without air. Breathing is difficult as there is no breathable air, similar to the plane of Vacuum. Unlike in Vacuum, the cool, charred remains of this plane can be transformed into a breathable element.

“The atmosphere is toxic” - Chapter Eight: The Upside Down

Art by Matt Ferguson
The plane of quasi-elemental Ash is the depletion of warmth and fire. The transition from the plane of Fire to that of Ash occurs in a region of cooling temperature and the dusty remains of burned materials hanging in the atmosphere. The plane is bone chillingly cold. Finally, the ash thickens to a grey, dusty wall, beyond which is the darkness of the Negative Material plane.

Vision in the plane of Ash is reduced to 30 yards because of the dust-like particles in the air.

Obviously I am not suggesting that the Upside Down is indeed the Plane of Ash. That said I think it would be good starting point to design your own version of the Upside Down. Ash by its very definition is the residue of something destroyed and descriptive of death. Perhaps in this alternate dimension or potential future reality as we understand it is destroyed, reduced to ashes. The membranous material seen in the Upside Down reminds me of something new growing from the decay.

That strange something may indeed also be the weird alien creature, or Demogorgon as referenced by the kids.  Whatever this tenebrous reality may be, it remains a very intriguing place for adventurers to explore in a table-top session. Perhaps the creatures inside the Upside Down are powerless to affect our world until a portal is mistakenly opened? This could be a great adventure hook because of some magical mishap, or ill-advised use of psionic powers.

At first the creature begins to hunt for food in the game world, which consists of hapless animals. Then it grows more daring and takes humanoid victims to incubate with parasitoids. These larvae will eventually consume their victims and grow into offspring. The adventurers are perhaps hired by some remote village to investigate the disappearances. For fans of Stranger Things a session like this could be a fun diversion from a regular slog through the dungeon. And with Halloween around the corner it contains enough mystery and horror elements for a scary evening of D&D.

If you are looking for an example Demogorgon to use for your own Upside Down, Newbie DM released one today.
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