Sunday, August 25, 2019

2019 RPGaDay 21: Vast


The potential experiences available to RPG-players is vast. When one considers the number of genres, sub-genres, character-types, races, classes, genders, experience levels, power levels...a gamer could play a different combination of all of this each day, and never play the same kind of character twice for years, maybe decades, or even the rest of their lives.

Even if one to limit themselves to a specific kind of character, there's still room for differences and nuances. For instance, as I've mentioned before, I tend to play some variation of the hulking brute, no matter what game I play. In fantasy, I'm the huge barbarian, in sci-fi I'm the strong warrior-type, in Supers, I'm the Tank. All variations of the same theme.

When I played in an L5R campaign years ago, my character was Hida Gotetsu, Samurai of the Crab Clan. Those familiar with that game are most likely nodding their heads knowingly. In fact, it became a running joke that all of my characters were the same character reborn into different universes. The Eternal Gotetsu.

The point is, though your choices are vast, you shouldn't feel the need to try everything. Because not only are the choices vast, so are the number of players. And that number is growing everyday. So, don't be afraid to stake your claim on a niche. Chances are, someone else at the table will make something to compliment you.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

2019 RPGaDay 18/19/20: Plenty/Scary/Noble


Plenty is a word that gets used a lot by gamers in denial. "I have plenty of games" or "I have plenty of dice" or "I have plenty of time to prepare." In truth, there is not such thing as "plenty" when it comes to gaming.

According to the Miriam-Webster dictionary, plenty is defined as "a large or sufficient amount or quantity; more than enough."

See? Not relevant to games and gamers. Most gamers I know are constantly buying new games. Granted, these days that's become a lot more doable, due in equal parts to the proliferation of indie games, and the availability of games in less expensive PDF format. As a self-publisher, I would say at least half of my profits got back to DriveThru in the form of purchasing new games and gaming materials.

And dice? I have a small collection. Scattered over several dice-bags and a jar that was a gift years ago. I would seem to have plenty of dice, but I always crave more. New colors and patterns, new functions and numbers, new sizes and denominations; dice are like crack to most gamers. We all have more than we probably need, and likewise we all simply want more. It's a fact.

Prep-time for games is hit-or-miss. Sometimes you do have plenty of time. But that's always just for the pre-planned stuff. There is NEVER enough time to prepare for every eventuality. Especially not in the face of a group of children. It's like herding cats. And there's never enough time to prepare for that either.

The bottom line is, there is no "plenty" in our lexicon. Not in a literal sense. Not unless you add "for now" to the end of every "plenty" statement.


The first time you play with a group of strangers can be scary. Not always with home groups, since you usually know at least one other person beforehand. But when you game in public, like at a game store or at a convention, it can be a little nerve-wracking.

What if you look stupid? What if you don't know the system and the ones who do laugh at you? What if you fart and it smells horrible? Embarrassment can be just as scary to most of us a 7-foot tall, mask-wearing psycho with a machete.

But, like most things we are scared of (except sharks), our fears are largely unfounded. Gaming in public with strangers has become one of my favorite pastimes. If I could go to a gaming convention every weekend, I probably would. Meeting new people and realizing that we are all basically the same, and we are all there for the same thing, to have fun, is liberating.

So, no matter how scary it may seem, I highly recommend you game in public with strangers at least once. You'll probably find it somewhat addictive, and will soon be back for more. And soon, those strangers will just be friends, and all the scary disappears..


When most people think of "noble" an image of a king or princess comes to mind. As in "nobility." Gamers will often take that a step further and think knights and paladins. And still others will think of those bastions of good in a superhero world, like Captain America or Superman.

My personal definition of a "noble" character is one who is honest, forthright, and stands up for his beliefs. And in fantasy worlds, that's not limited to knights and paladins. Anyone can be noble. Even that thief who robs from the rich or the oppressive. There's a nobility in such pursuits.

Then there's idea of the "noble savage." Seemingly the opposite of the chivalrous knight, this person follows their own code. They are strong in their convictions, respect their peers, and generally want what's best in life for those they deem worthy. Durotan from Warcraft and Conan the Barbarian are archetypal noble savages, IMHO.

Playing a noble character can seem difficult. Especially in a game like D&D, where the characters are basically murder-hobos. But in reality, it isn't. In fact, most players play their characters with a certain sense of nobility anyways. When you support your party-members, cooperate to get the job done, and split the spoils, there is nobility in that. However, when you backstab your buddies, or steal from allies, that becomes problematic. And honestly, what gaming group doesn't deal with that sort of behavior decisively? So, again, noble.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

RPGaDay 15/16/17: Door/Dream/One


Always check the door for traps. Always. And if you don't find any, get confirmation from another character. Preferably a Rogue/Thief/whatever sneaky bastard is handy. Trust me on this.

While playing The World's Largest Dungeon (AEG) many years ago, I had to miss a session relatively early on. So, I had a friend play my character. I mean, how hard could it be to play a dwarf barbarian, right?

Well, if anyone knows anything about TWLD, you kind of have to stick to certain areas until you are high enough level to move on (the premise is that the Dungeon contains every monster in the Monster Manual). Well, I'm not 100% clear on how it happened, exactly, as the story is second-hand.

But apparently my dwarf, Brak, tried to "unlock" a door with his maul. Normally, probably not a big deal. Except this one had a Fireball trap. Word has it all that was left was his smoking boots. And a giggling gnome necromancer who hated Brak.

So, yeah, two lessons here. Never let someone else play your character if you can help it. And always check for traps.
Expensive but fun. We went in on it as a group.


I have always had a dream of being a professional writer. And let's be honest, how many D&D players haven't at least entertained that idea? I have played at it for years. In 1998 I had an article in Dragon Magazine (#243, In a Class by Themselves). I thought it would be my ticket into the field of writing for D&D, leading to tie-in novels, and then into my own original stuff. Funny how life has a way of laughing at your dreams sometimes.

Suffice it to say, many obstacles presented themselves (not the least of which was my then-wife, who did not share my passions), and eventually the Dream was laid aside in favor of a "more stable" kind of career path. Hypothetically. In reality, the last 20+ years has been anything but stable.

But the dream never died. It just lay dormant for long periods, occasionally peaking out from beneath the covers. To date, I have nothing more to claim as a "professional" publication. Though I have self-published several stories, and several game-products. Still, the Dream persists. And I am now in a position where I have a shot at actually doing something about it.

So, if you need writing for your RPG, hit me up!

My article shares Mag Space with
 fiction from Margaret Weis!


Warning: Character bragging ahead. Proceed with eyes rolled.

Many of us have played countless characters since first being introduced to RPG's. Some of us probably number in the hundreds. But, if you had to pick one character from your past to play as your "ultimate" character, who would it be?

Tomos Elvenblood. Despite his none-too-original name, Tomos will always hold a special place in my heart. Born in the Metzner Basic D&D rules, and modeled after the X-Men character, Longshot, Tomos was a half-elf fighter with some (naturally-rolled) extraordinary stats. The kind of stats that make you reconsider ever making another character again, because you just know they won't be that good.

My dice were on fire that day. In order I rolled 18, 13, 13, 18, 16, 18 (think back to pre-3e to put them where they fell). Weird how I still remember them. Though probably not so weird, as Tomos saw upgrades into AD&D, 2e, and 3e. Skipped 4e for him, but have considered a 5e upgrade for shits and giggles.

About the time I was able to upgrade him to AD&D, I was big into the Conan stories. When my new DM had me roll his percentage for Strength, I rolled a 94. He had me cap it at 90, because that was the limit for male half-elves. So, that, combined with his 18 Charisma (and a 19 Comeliness when we broke out Unearthed Arcana), and he suddenly materialized in my mind as a cross between Conan and D'Artagnan.

Other excessively geeky details were also involved, but I've already wasted enough of your time doing that thing we all hate when other gamers do. Suffice it to say, though I have loved many, many of my characters, Tomos will always be my One.

Tomos Elvenblood
Drawn by me sometime in the late 90's.

Friday, August 16, 2019

2019 RPGaDay 13: Mystery

I'm not a detective. I don't even play one on TV. So, mysteries are...well, a mystery to me. Seriously, I'm not very good at solving riddles, or putting clues together, or reading between the lines. Plot holes fly right over my head, and I almost never know whodunnit until the end.

That's probably why I almost always play the hulking brute. Other people figure stuff out, and then they tell me who to hit.

That's not to say that mysteries aren't cool. And I do enjoy those rare moments when I figure something out before everyone else does. But, over all, I get stymied very easily. And a stymied Tom is a bored Tom. And bored Tom is likely to do some stupid shit.

Anyways, that's why most of the adventures I run don't have very complex mysteries. If I can't solve them myself, then creating and writing them is right out. That's also why I like action movies. Sure, a lot of them involve mysteries. But the audience usually knows whodunnit from the getgo, so the fun comes from following the hero as he figures it out.

So there you go. My thoughts on mysteries.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

2019 RPGaDay 12: Friendship

Yeah, yeah. We've all had friendships that started with RPG's. We get it. But what about our characters? Don't they make friends?

A lot of D&D parties will start out with the characters knowing each other. Or maybe just a couple of them do. But what I like is when my character strikes up a friendship with an NPC. Especially if it's a throw-away NPC that the DM created to fill a small role like giving information.

Admittedly, it doesn't seem to happen too often. DM's have enough to worry about without having to detail Sam the Street Urchin who has taken a shine to Brokass the Half-Orc Barbarian, and wants to follow in his footsteps. But, when they have the time, and it works out, it can be pretty cool.

Personally, I recommend all DM's and GM's consider having an NPC (or five) follow the party. They can be a good mouthpiece for the DM when he needs to give the party a hint, or steer them towards something that they may not necessarily notice they need to go to.

These NPC's can also be a boon to players who want to flesh out their characters. What if they want to explore their character's romantic side, but the player doesn't feel comfortable role-playing that out with another player (especially if their real-life SO is at the table)? Maybe the player wants to explore their character's (invariably) tragic backstory by taking a troubled NPC under their wing, and guiding them around the pitfalls that they couldn't avoid themselves.

Really, the possibilities are pretty endless. Characters need friends outside their party. Just like we do.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

2019 RPGaDay 11: Examine

Having a difficult time with this one, I asked my wife, "In the context of RPG's, when you hear the word "examine" what's the first thing you think of?" After taking a moment to wrap her head around the idea of that specific context, she answered "Character sheet?" Sounds good to me!

Character sheets are such a universal element to RPG's. I can't think of a single game that I've ever heard of that doesn't use one in one form or another. In fact, when I pick up a new game, the character sheet (usually in the back of the book) is the first thing I look at.

The character sheet is like a quick preview of the game. There you can see how complex, crunchy, detailed, simplistic, and comprehensive a game will likely be. Is it a stylized sheet, with genre-specific artwork on the fringes? Does the font evoke the typical setting? How many "stats" does the character have? How are skills or talents listed? Is there room for a character illustration? Personally, I love character sheets, and will sometimes be more interested in a game if it has an attractive one.

But, I never seem to be happy with the standard one in the back of the book. I tend to like specialized sheets. Especially for D&D. Here are the things I look for in a good sheet:

  • Artwork - I like little bits of artwork. A fancy border, images of weapons, even something like a small creature somewhere.
  • Character Sketch - I am a chronic doodler, and I almost always draw a picture of my character (even for a 1-session Con game). So, if the sheet gives me a spot to do that, bonus!
  • Stylized Font - I like the font to be legible, but also reflective of the genre.
  • Pertinent Information - I like all of the general information right in front of me. If it's D&D, or another game with "classes" I prefer the class-specific stuff to be on the bottom, if there's room, or on page 2.
  • Short and Concise - Speaking of pages, I prefer sheets that have as few pages as possible. One sheet is perfect, two is pretty acceptable, depending on the game. But three or more and I start looking for a shorter version.

Since D&D is my favorite game, below is a link to some of Dyson's custom sheets. I use his 5E sheet almost exclusively.

As an aside, Dyson also does a LOT of other cool stuff, including maps and other illustrations.

Dyson's Various Character Sheets

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

2019 RPGaDay 10: Focus

I tried writing this post last night, but I couldn't...focus.

Ok, I guess could just end it there and be done. But, nah. Let's talk about character focus.

In my experience, a lot of players see all of the options available to characters in an RPG and they want to do all the things. And most RPGs are very accommodating of that. I've done it myself. It can be fun to have a character who is kind of jack-of-all-trades, or has combined the abilities of multiple classes. But, sometimes, that can be too much.

These days I prefer to focus my characters down a single path. I want them to be the best there is at what they do. And there are both advantages and disadvantages to doing this. The advantage is, when your character is in his or her element, they shine. Need to take that monster quickly, the barbarian with great weapon fighting is your man. Need to convince that merchant to help your party out, the stunning bard with the 19 Charisma is your woman.

The downside is that, when out of their element, these characters can feel useless. Imagine the two examples above reversed. That Bard isn't going to charm her way past that mindless monster, and the merchant isn't likely to be swayed by the brutish demeanor of the barbarian.

Fortunately, most games these days seem to be designed to keep this kind of focus in check. So, while you can still follow a pretty narrow path, the mechanics in 5e, for instance, allow anyone to attempt anything, with a reasonable margin of success. Which makes the game more fun, IMHO.

Monday, August 12, 2019

2019 RPGaDay 9: Critical

Everyone is talking about Critical Hits, and that's a no-brainer. I mean, the idea of a Critical Hit has been around since at least 1e AD&D, if not earlier. So, let's talk about that.

Note: This post refers mainly to D&D in all its editions. But the idea can be, and is used in many other games as well.

What is the purpose of a Critical Hit? Well, aside from doing double (or more) damage with standard hit that just happened to be well-placed, it's also a way to add a bit of extra lethality to an otherwise pretty lethal game.

The standard D&D Critical Hit is "A natural '20' on your to-hit roll does double damage." There are variations, such as the threshold for what constitutes a "natural" 20, the multiplier of the damage, whether other bonuses are also multiplied, etc. But that core mechanic forms the basis. In short, a "critical" hit could just be considered a "lucky" hit. You have a 1 in 20 chance of getting it.

However, in some schools of thought, a Critical Hit should be the result of a combination of luck and skill. This is kind of reflected in the idea of the "Improved Critical" which expands the threshold from just a 20 to 19-20, 18-20, or even more. In my mind, the Critical Hit should be a bit broader in scope, though.

Now, another idea that is often similar to the idea of the Critical Hit is the Hit Location. Meaning that, after you determine you hit, you will often roll again to determine where you hit the target, and this will usually effect the damage.

So, what if we combined those two ideas? What if your final To Hit total determined if and where you hit your target, and if you hit, how much damage is done? That way, the higher your total, the more lethal the hit.

Below is the result of my efforts to do this. This was written for 3rd edition, so there may be some tweaking to make it compatible for other editions or games. But, I think it would wrok well (I never got the chance to use it in a game).

Saturday, August 10, 2019

2019 RPGaDay 8: Obscure

In the mid to late-90's I was introduced to the World of Darkness games. It didn't take long until I really go into it (Werewolf was my jam), even writing a supplement adding Gargoyles from the 90's cartoon in.

Around the same time, thanks in large part to this newfound internet thing (AOL FTW!!!), I also became obsessed with Street Fighter. So, imagine my joy when the two crossed paths.

Yep, I'm talking about White Wolf's Street Fighter The Storyteller Game.

I remember finding the main rulebook and two of the supplements on a used game shelf at a FLGS. I snatched all three right up, naturally. And then I set about making characters, debating the game online, and even downloading fan-made variations of it. But, you know what I didn't do? Play it. Ever.

I had a couple of friends who were mildly interested in the novelty of it. But no one showed much interest in actually playing it. I was a little bummed, but it was ok. It was still fun to read through and make characters. I even wrote some fan-fiction about one of them.

I still have all three books (pictured above). They're in pristine condition, and ready to play. Anyone interested?

Friday, August 9, 2019

2019 RPGaDay 7: Familiar

Nowadays, RPGs come in all shapes, sizes, and genres. There are even games that blend multiple genres, and fill niches in the industry. But, the majority of RPG's have always been Fantasy, it seems to me. And why is that?

Well, D&D is the daddy of them all, and everything that came came after suffered by comparison. But, more importantly, Gary and Dave struck on something that seems to speak to just about everyone with a penchant for make-believe. D&D tapped into our traditions of heroic epics, magical myths, and fairy tales.

In short, fantasy is familiar. It strikes all the right notes that the majority of us have enjoyed since we first discovered what imagination is. Most players can probably recall the one element that piqued their interest in trying D&D. Perhaps is was a book, or a movie, or a cartoon.

As I stated before, prior to hearing about D&D I was pretty familiar (for a 10-year old who hadn't embraced reading yet) with the tropes of fantasy through the animated movies based on Tolkien's work. When I asked Richard what D&D was, he probably invoked one or both of those (I can't recall exactly whether he did or not) in describing it.

I know when I answer that question, that's what I do. Only now we have a lot more to reference. Especially Peter Jackson's movies. I'd be willing to wager that the current surge in D&D popularity is largely due to those movies. EVERYONE knows what The Lord of the Rings is. So, who wouldn't be interested in at least trying a game that lets you pretend to live in that world?

So, there you go. Fantasy is familiar. And therefore it's comfortable, and easy to get into. At least, that's how I see it.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

2019 RPGaDay 6: Ancient

In most RPGs, especially fantasy, the idea of ancient things affecting the current time of play is pretty common. Ancient civilizations, cultures, myths, legends, artifacts...these all can create a central focus to any fantasy (sci-fi, horror, etc.) game. But there is one element about that that recently struck me as odd. And it's something I had never thought of before.

As a History major, I am well aware of two things. One, that history has a direct effect on today. There is a reason that the phrase "History repeats itself" is a common saying. The other thing I learned is that History is not always accurate. This is particularly true about ancient history.

In Ancient Greece for instance, historians performed a very different role than they do in the modern age. When we think of historians, we generally think of people who record and document facts, statistics, and biographies in order to preserve that knowledge for future generations. And for the most part, that's true. But, in ancient times, the people who documented events like wars and battles, and even political lives, were often motivated by more imperfect goals.

A good example of this is the Battle of Thermopylae. Most people today can give you the basic nuts and bolts of it: That 300 Spartans held a narrow pass against thousands of invading Persians for several days. That version is based mainly on the Spartan retelling of the events. But, as we have read by other, non-Spartan writers of the relative periods, there was MUCH more to it. The 300 Spartans were accompanied by a thousand or more helots (Spartan slaves) who most likely also took part in some degree. Plus there is evidence that there were Thespians (no, not the actors), Thebans, Arcadians, and members of several other Greek nations present as well.

So, why does the Spartan version concentrate so much on only the Spartans, to the point of baring falsehoods about the rest of 4000+ Greek army? Because they needed to. Sparta was a relatively small nation. They had good, fertile lands, and an enviable physical position. But they were surrounded by people who invaded them and raided their resources. So, the Spartans developed a very militaristic society in response. And part of that was fomenting their reputation as the ultimate warrior nation, to be feared and avoided.

Now, there are whole volumes of debate about the veracity of these Spartan claims to military superiority. But that's not the point here. The point is that whether factual or not, the reputation of Sparta has lasted for centuries, and crossed continents to influence cultures that have never encountered any element of them directly. How many US high schools have the Spartan as their mascot, for example?

Ok, so how does this relate to your fantasy RPG? Well, maybe that ancient myth that is the center of your latest quest revolves around an event that didn't happen the way the scholars say it did. Or maybe that legendary warrior wasn't actually a real person, but an amalgamation of warriors who each performed the heroic deeds attributed to the legend. Imagine how such a revelation would effect the player characters. Or how it would effect the politics of the nation whose power rests on the shoulders of a lie.

That sounds like it would make for some interesting gaming, IMHO.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

2019 RPGaDay 5: Space

Like many have noted, geeks hear that word and they almost always want to say "...the final frontier" immediately afterwards. However, unlike those who noted that during this challenge, I'm not going avoid that topic. I'm going to go with it.

Space is not only the final frontier, it's also a cool place to play D&D. Now, when I say that, most people think of Spelljammer. And that is 100% legit. But, aside from a con game or two, and a couple of aborted attempts back in the day, I never really got into that setting. No, my preferred "D&D in space" game was Dragon*Star.

For those who may not know (or remember), Dragon*Star was a setting published by Fantasy Flight Games. You can read all about the setting itself on the Wiki page, so I won't detail that. Suffice it to say, this setting blended the standard pseudo-medieval, magic-infused fantasy of classic D&D with the expansive, high-tech, galaxy-hopping space opera.

I ran a campaign in the setting for my group back in San Diego, and it was a hoot. In fact, to this day, echoes of that campaign still linger in my mind, and sometimes find their way into my fiction-writing attempts.

What made Dragon*Star cool was that it was based on 3rd Edition D&D. This made it compatible with all sorts of official and third-party products. You could easily pull in races, classes, spells, and equipment from dozens of supplements and setting books in order to make it the science-fantasy game you want.

I would love to see Fantasy Flight do a 5e update for it. But, I don't think that will happen, as they are focused more on non-RPG products right now, if I recall. Still, I'm sure if I looked I could find plenty of fan material to run it using 5e. If only I could convince others to play it with me...

2019 RPGaDay 4: Share

Taking a que from a friend who is also doing this challenge, today I will SHARE another of my creations.

One of the few things I don't really like about 5e is the Find Familiar spell. I'm not a fan of it summoning a magical being that can be whatever you need it to be. For me, that takes the challenge out of having a familiar. I always liked the idea of having to figure out what your familiar should do based on what it can do.

But, since some players like it, I decided to make a simplified variation that can be inserted, and, in the spirit of older versions, brings in a real animal. I call it Animal Helper. As always, I'd be interested in your thoughts.

Animal Helper:
New Cantrip for 5e
By Tom Doolan

Quickview: Animal Helper is a cantrip that immediately attracts a random small animal to your service until the next sunset. Casting this cantrip using higher level spell slots will bind the helper for a longer period.

Animal Helper
Casting Time: 1 round
Range: 100 feet
Components: V S
Duration: Special
Classes: Wizard, Sorcerer

The cantrip Animal Helper was originally developed to teach young wizards how to use their power in harmony with nature. It has since gained popularity as a useful utility spell. When cast as a cantrip, this spell sends out a magical call into the immediate area. The following round, on your initiative, a Small or Tiny creature (cr 1/4 or less) will answer that call and be magically bound to you for the duration of the spell. To determine the type of animal that answers, roll on the table appropriate to the environs in which you cast the spell (forest, desert, urban, etc.). The animal will have the typical abilities found in the MM, with maximum hit points. Your helper is bound to you until the following sunset. If you wish to retain the same helper for a longer period, you can either recast the cantrip before sunset, which will extend the time until the next sunset, or you can cast the cantrip using a higher-level spell slot (see below). You can dismiss your helper at any time as an action. A dismissed helper will revert to its instincts and react accordingly (most often running away).

Your helper acts independently of you, but it always obeys your commands. In combat it acts on your turn. A helper can attack, using whatever natural weapons it has. Due to their size, helpers do negligible damage to a target. However, if they successfully hit, the target will have Disadvantage on any d20 roll for the next full round (attacks, saves, etc.).

While your helper is within 100 feet of you, you can communicate with it telepathically. Additionally, as an action, you can use any or all of your helper’s senses until the start of your next turn, gaining the benefits of any special senses that the helper has. During this time, your own senses are “blinded.”

When you cast a spell with a range of touch, your helper can deliver the spell as if it had cast the spell. Your helper must be within 100 feet of you, and it must use its reaction to deliver the spell when you cast it. If the spell requires an attack roll, you use your attack modifier for the roll.

Casting this cantrip using a higher-level spell slot will bind the animal to you for a longer period of time, as follows:
1st level: 10 Days, ending at sunset on the tenth day;
2nd Level: One month (or moon cycle), ending at sunset on the last day of the current cycle;
3rd Level: One year, ending at sunset on the same date of the following year;
4th Level: Permanent. The helper is bound to you until it dies, you die, you dismiss it, or you cast the spell (at any level) again. Casting the spell again will immediately dismiss the helper who will flee from you, making way for a new helper who arrives per the standard rules.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

2019 RPGaDay 3: Engage

A lot of people talk about "player engagement" as being very important. And while I agree with that, I'd like to point out that the other side of that coin is just as important. That is, DM/GM engagement.

As a DM/GM, I like to interpret this as catering to my players, and specifically their characters. This is why, when setting out the parameters for character generation, I usually ask the players to tell me what their character's goals and dreams are. Are they bent on vengeance? Atonement? Fulfilling a promise? Is their goal a secret, or do they share it with their companions? Does it cause them internal strife because it goes against their moral compass?

I then take those nuggets of player creativity, and try to work them into the narrative of the story. And I usually try to make it an integral part of the over all campaign, where they have to deal with that element directly, with their party's help.

In this way, each character gets their moment to shine. To be the center of the story. And I usually let the players know up front that each of them will have this kind of focus at some point. I like to think it adds to their investment in the game. The anticipation of seeing their creativity given a spotlight.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

2019 RPGaDay 2: Unique

Every character is unique. Even if it's only in a small way. Your fighter may have typical stats, use a longsword and shield, and come from a soldierly background. But, the fact that he has a penchant for rescuing small animals, and gets mad at senseless violence makes him somewhat unique.

Uniqueness is both overrated and easy to do in RPG's, in my opinion. All you have to do is put some thought into it. The great thing is that the thing that makes your character unique doesn't need to come into play in every scene. It may not even come into play every session. But, when it does, it can make for a memorable scene that will make an impression.

And sometimes, that unique trait shows itself to you when you least expect it. That one time you did something that didn't work out quite like you wanted, can lead you into something else that will work better than expected and suddenly define your character.

Case in point, a friend was using our group to playtest a couple of sessions he is running at Gamehole Con this year. As such, we were all playing pregens. I decided to go against type and not pick the half-orc barbarian, but instead play the tiefling warlock.

At one point we were in a fight, and I Eldritch Blasted a guy a few feet away. As you can imagine, this was probably a mistake, as that spell is rarely a "one-shot, one-kill" spell. So, when he turned around to confront my scrawny little butt, I panicked. I decided that I would try to convince him it wasn't me. "I didn't do it. Someone shot you then ran off out the front door!"

The DM made me roll, just to see how long he would hesitate before splitting my skull.  And what did I roll?

A natural 20.

The guy absolutely believed me, and ran off after someone that didn't exist (with a bit more egging on by me).

And that became my unique shtick. Making people believe something that contradicts what they see. It hasn't come up much since, but if I play that character again, I know how he's going to handle such a situation in the future.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

2019 RPGaDay 1: First

In an effort to get back into blogging (yet again), and to dust off my writing skills a bit, I’m going to attempt the 2019 RPGaDay challenge.

Doing the math, it had to have been 1981 when it started. It actually began that summer, when my stepdad had decided to go back into the Air Force, and he convinced my mom to join up too. We lived in Coffeeville, KS at the time, and I had just finished 5th grade. Since they were going to be in military training for many months, I was sent back to my hometown of Walnut Creek, CA to live with my mom’s parents. So, that fall I started 6th grade in California.

Soon after school started, I met Richard Schmidt. We became fast friends because we both liked baseball, and probably some other stuff that 10-year old boys liked at the time. Then one day he asked me that fateful question: “Do you play D&D?” My response was, of course, “What’s that?” And then my life changed permanently on some level.

I wish I had cool stories about those early sessions. But I don’t. I’m not even sure we actually ever played. But, I do remember making characters while we were at school, and after school at his house. At the time my only reference for that kind of fantasy was the 1977 Rankin/Bass The Hobbit, and Ralph Bakshi’s 1979 The Lord of the Rings.

By my birthday that December, I was hooked, and I convinced my grandma to buy me the Moldvay boxed set. My 11th birthday was spent at Chuck E. Cheese, followed by a sleepover with Richard and few other friends, including Jeff, who I knew from church. We played at playing D&D (I have a couple of pictures to prove we had the books out), but, again, I don’t think we actually played. In fact, my first recollection of actual play was a couple of months later when Jeff was over and he ran me solo through Slavepits of the Undercity, which his mom had bought for him to give me as a gift (I’m not sure any of us really understood the difference between Basic and Advanced D&D yet).

Anyways, that was my first taste of a larger world that would quickly encompass games from all sorts of genres, and would provide the foundation for my interests and tastes in entertainment for life.

Friday, February 22, 2019


Arise, oh blog of mine! Come forth from the depths of obscurity and become my geeky voice once more!

Ok, let’s see if it sticks this time. I’m hoping to make blogging a regular part of my activities again. And since RPGs and other geeky pursuits seem to be my forte, I figured I would start with this one.

So, to that end, I have a few ideas. I’d like to do some general RPG-related posts. Something along the lines of how I game, how I feel some rules can be interpreted and/or altered, and maybe reviews of products. I’ll probably also review movies and books that could be relevant to gaming. If they aren’t, they’ll probably show up over on my personal blog. There will probably even be a few creations that I just want to share for your amusement.

I’ll also use this space to talk about projects I have in the works. I recently came to the sudden realization that I’ve become so obsessed with re-inventing the wheel by creating new mechanics and systems, that I have neglected playable content. So, in an effort to switch gears, I’ve started a list of projects for content to be used with existing systems (mostly 5e and Savage Worlds at this point).

In other news Gary Con is just around the corner (March 7-10). As always, we are going all four days. This and Gamehole Con here in Madison are our annual vacation destinations. Anyone else planning on being there? If so, what are you playing?

I’m getting a good variety this year, with multiple genres of gaming. I usually pick a theme and try to follow that as much as possible. But, the pickings get slim relatively quickly, and since I couldn’t purchase my ticket until a couple of weeks after the event registration opened, I have to take what I can get. And that’s perfectly ok with me. Still a lot of good stuff there.

Anyways, let’s get this thing started with a standard question. What are you playing this week?