Finding the answer in the skies #RPG #DND #Pathfinder

Viper was face to face with the dreadful creature. An undead apparition in black metal armor covered in dreadful runes, wielding a shield and a mace covered in black fire. He felt a surge of freedom in his body and did what he had to do, swinging with his own mace. Only to be blocked by the creatures shield, which then lashed back in response, smashing into Viper, and then all was blackness.

As he became aware of himself in the formless void he looked around. Wondering if this was death. And then he saw it, the Great Serpent. Only instead of crawling towards him he saw that the Serpent now had wings, and was flying in the void. The Serpent swung towards him.

‘Now is not your time Viper. You will soon return to your world. Know that you are still needed there. Your time is not done. But your vision is clouded, you wonder if the forces of Death can be met with trickery and guile. You can defeat them if you continue to aid your mighty friends. But you must free yourself from the earth in order to do so. Look to the skies, for there is your answer.’

‘But serpents do not fly, Oh Great One’

‘That is where you are wrong, your answer can be found in the skies’

And then the Serpent flew forward, lunging to bite Viper, sinking its fangs into his neck.

‘Serpiente del vuelo, that is your true spirit name. Using your fangs to strike from the air and from afar.’

With that Viper fell back into the Black, waking up on the chariot, watching Thorvald throw his mighty hammer once more, striking the terrible foe down.

Continue reading “Finding the answer in the skies #RPG #DND #Pathfinder”


Mission accomplished #DnD #RPG

Zethoriel read through his notes again on the failed mission to the northern wilderness. Two promising young rangers lost. And he had no one else available to send on another attempted journey. The Ranger who had returned from the north was now on another mission to the east. His Ranger Corps was simply stretched to the breaking point. His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door.


“Ah Zethoriel, glad you are available, I need your assistance.”

“What can I do for you Vizier?”

“I have been reviewing the stories from your young Rangers visit to the Aguja de Plata, as well as the story given by my young apprentice Svaragg, who was held prisoner there. And I confess to being very concerned about the Skaven creatures. Everything that I have heard indicates that they are using a form of Dark Magic. I hope to nip this in the bud, before they spread and become a danger to the realm.”

“I have had my men do a thorough search of the ruins, and given you everything we have found. I am not certain what else I can do.”

“It happens that I have two visitors, Apprentices from the inner country, arrive here in town. 2 more of the Tinker gnomes, both well versed in magic. I would like to send them to follow up in the ruins, but they will need an escort. Do you have anyone who could help with this?”

“I am afraid that the Ranger Corps is stretched too thin at the moment. And from what I recall you would need some small ones who are comfortable with the dark to explore that tunnel… Wait, I think I have an idea for you.”

Continue reading “Mission accomplished #DnD #RPG”

Trying to get this imagination thing going #DnD #RPG @TheAngryGM

I have learned a lot in the last year and a half running a D&D game for the boys. If I had to pick the hardest thing though, I would pick the issue of imagination. It really is the biggest leap that anyone has to make when getting into Role playing games. And why role playing is not for everyone.

Today I was reading The Angry GM’s latest article. Which was a good analysis of the problems with using traps in modern D&D. His article goes into why traps, while seemingly cool and a good idea, are really just not all that great. And the following point brings me to my issue:

You want several layers of detail is the point. There should be a detail that warns that there COULD be a trap if they pay attention to the flavor text. And then you want another layer of detail that gives a more specific answer and makes it really easy to guess where the traps are. That layer of detail is the one the players have to ask about. They have to stop and purposely examine things. – See more at:

First, I have to work really hard to just come up with encounters and a logical thread to use when connecting those encounters. Lately I have been working on improving my description of where the players are. And using more visual cues with miniatures etc. And trying to insert some descriptive cues into the combats so the players have a little more buy in and interest. The point is though, none of this comes naturally to me. I have to work on it, and what success I have here is hard earned. Which means that coming up with all the layers of detail that he describes is almost beyond my reach.

Second, I am running a game for 4 teenage boys. That means restlessness and a lack of attention are just natural things I have to cope with. And even with the aid of movies and television I am still missing a crucial element: a common imagination. The boys do not all have the same background as far as what pictures they might have in their imagination when I describe things or they encounter something new.

For an example I go back to when I was first playing Shadowrun. This was during the Second edition of the game. And pretty much everyone who was playing was sharing around the same books, game materials and novels. So everyone who was playing had a shared world to work with, when someone talked about an Ares Predator, or Aztechnology or Tir Taingire we all knew what they were talking about.

But except for certain cultural touch stones the boys boys do not have that. Jimmy might understand what I mean when I mention Bruenor Battlehammer, but the rest of the boys would just give me blank stares. Or if I even mention the geography in a different part of the country, I cannot talk about the swamps of Louisiana, or a midwest snow storm, because they just haven’t experienced those things.

All of that makes the job of description that much harder. It would be much easier if I was running a game for my adult friends. But that’s okay. Because I know that I am becoming a much better GM for all of this. It is like the story of the boy who gets stronger by lifting the calf every day until it becomes a full blown adult cow. When and if the time comes and I am running for a group with a more common active imagination all of these muscles I am developing with description will be like an Olympic weight lifters muscles.

Passing it along, getting him ready #DnD #RPG

The time and moment I was waiting for has finally arrived. Jimmy is talking about running a game for his buddies. That truly is a big moment in a Geek Dad’s life, when you know that all the work, all the time spent playing, the talks in the car, and the teaching, are really worth it.

Obviously this is not something that I could have shared with my parents, they didn’t play D&D, or have any desire or interest in it. I think I tried to run a game once for my Mom and my older brother, which did not go well. But that’s okay, the important thing is that I get to pass it along.

I have passed along the joy of the game. He has really absorbed that, and wants to play more than we already do. I cannot ask for more than that.

But this is a crucial moment. I could just hand him the dice, show him the rule book, and walk away like a dealer leaving the table at a casino. But I choose not to do it that way. I will be there each step of the way. I’m not going to play, because I think that would be too much pressure for him. But I will help him with all the prep work.

I have read all the articles. Listened to the advice of those I respect. And here are the big things I will pass along. First, he will make mistakes, he doesn’t know his own style yet, it will take some time to absorb and figure that out. Second, he is starting with a tough group: his buddies, who may not show him as much respect as a more formal group, but he needs to know that going in and not rage quit. And last, start with a module, not try and make it all up on his own.

Because a role playing game is like most things, the devil is truly in the details. And balance is really hard. There is a lot of work behind the scenes to make a good balanced game. And by starting with a module first he won’t have to worry about that balance in advance. Instead he can focus on learning the skills involved in managing the session without thinking through the balance part first.

After a couple of modules he can then start to develop things on his own. Because if he pays attention to how the modules run he will realize how that balance works.

I am excited for him though. This is a big step. To try to take charge of the table is not easy, and not for everyone. I think I would have a hard time working with adults at this point, with my peers. So more power to Jimmy on making this step.

And on that note I have resolved that over the holiday I will create a one or 2 shot adventure for Danny and Jimmy, to teach Danny the ins and outs of the game. Because it is time to start on the next child! I think Danny would really enjoy the game if we can get him started. I just need to create that first session in a way that will be focused on the simple fun, nothing complex. And once I get him started I might gradually work Danny into the boys game as an occasional player, until we have enough time for him to develop his own group.

In the end, I am doing what I hoped. And following the age old advice of teach your kids to play and you will always have someone to play with. That might have applied to sports with some families, and applies to mine as well, but I choose to stretch it to include my games too. And yes, that means Emily will get her turn too, because role playing should be gender neutral like everything else.

Another day, another pair of characters #RPG #Pathfinder

Merakeen, the terror of the Wastelands, Protector of Wadeen city of Bronze, preened in her place of honor. The people of Wadeen had created this fine Temple just for her. Their leaders and priests were assembled below her perch at the top of the dais. They arranged themselves down the steps leading up to her in some order they determined themselves. And order that she cared little about. All that she cared about were the hosannas being sung in her name, and the chests and casks of offerings being made to her.

For this was the Day of the Dragon, or so these mortals called it. It was the day of the year when she came to the city to collect her tribute. And they would sing her praises, thanking her for her protection over the years. As if killing and taking the gold from those who came in her territory was something she did out of the goodness of her own heart. But she was never one to turn down an offer of tribute and offers of praise, after all it was only fitting and deserving.

“And last we have the opportunity to present our latest two Disciples for your examination. These two were accepted into training after your last visit and have progressed far in their training. They are both promising Disciples.

“First, the dwarf Svaragg, former Monk of Torag, who felt the stirrings of your blood last year. He chose to not continue as a Sorcerous Adept, and instead took the trials of the Dragon.”

A younger dwarf in loose fitting clothing stepped up to the lowest step of the dais. Wearing green clothes, with a small amount of bronze jewelry the dwarf looked very imposing, strong, and yet seemingly very agile. He moved with a grace and polite presence, bowing to her with the correct amount of obeisance.

“Second, the elf Shaidar Suroth, a Sorcerous Adept who clearly felt more comfortable fighting. He chose to take up the studies of the Disciples after a year of training in the Royal Dragon Corps.”

This should be interesting, thought Merakeen. And was not disappointed at the sight of an Elf leaping over the first rank of those present, immediately going through a series fast and impressive maneuvers with the elven long spear. He then strode up next to the dwarf, clearly very impressed with himself. He did look good in his red and green clothing, with a beautiful engraved breast plate. 

“These are the only new inductees this year in the corps of your Disciples oh gracious one.”

“These will do nicely Lord Fezibar, they both look quite promising, send them to my keep where they will join the others.”

Continue reading “Another day, another pair of characters #RPG #Pathfinder”

The perils of the support character #DnD #RPG

Viper was looking forward to the journey to the new lands. A chance to free new areas. To continue the hunt for this vile scum Armando. It would also be interesting to travel over the sea instead of trekking overland, even though the snake is not by nature a sea creature.

It was also pleasing to have the chance to do some good, to free the merchants of whatever perils were endangering the shipping lanes. And continue to prove the might of the Heroes of Clermont, if for no other reason than it helped to pay for the drinks and lodging wherever they went. Although celebrity was not exactly a thing sought by the Great Serpent,  the chance to do good will on behalf of the Great Serpent was welcome.

Fang was not pleased to be on the ship, finding a place to curl up and sleep the entire voyage if possible. Viper enjoyed the warmth of the sun after the treacherous journey down from the snowy mountains.  So he was on the deck when a great creature surged forth from the sea, grabbing the ship with 2 great tentacles. While it’s other arms sought to sweep the deck clear of any who dared attack the tentacles.

Viper tried to help cover Braveheart as he hacked at the tentacles. But the swaying of the deck caused his arrows to go awry, and then he was busy staving off the attacks of one of the vile sea creatures that had landed on the deck to prevent the heroes from attacking the large tentacles. He did what he did to counter the creature, and then stepped behind Elly when she came to fight as well.

He was buffeted repeatedly by the vast arms of the Kraken, but he stayed erect, trying to find a place to make himself helpful to those doing the hard work on the huge creature. He saw his chance when the sea creatures leader made himself visible, he cast a spell to make it impossible for it to hide behind it’s invisibility spells again. And then called upon the power of his quiver to send a deadly arrow into that leader.

In the end the attacks of Thorvald, Braveheart, Qualiki and Elly were enough to slay the giant creature and send it back to the ocean depths whence it came. Viper made certain that Fang was well and then did his best to care for the party members and the few sailors that the creature had not killed. He knew that this was not his best fight, his contributions were minimal, and realized that the open sea was not the place for a snake.

Continue reading “The perils of the support character #DnD #RPG”

Sometimes you just want to make a character #DnD #RPG

His name is Svarrag, he is a Dragonborn, born the child of one of the soldiers in the Company of the Red River. He is strong, and hardy, and was raised in the company of soldiers. His mother was one of the company healers, but he spent just as much time with the regular soldiers as with the priests.

He was always a leader, and strong of mind. Unafraid of any of the other children who might bully him. But he was not a fighter, instead he learned to talk himself out confrontations.

He was picked out by the Vizier at an early age for his spark. Receiving training as a wizard. Being a member of the company of soldiers he chose to specialize in the spells that could be used in combat. He was a stubborn student, bright and competent, but hard to train.

He read about the Aguja de Plata in his teacher’s notes. And the thought that there might be magical items there, items of power, or at the least items that could be used to create and cast spells. So he ventured forth on his own soon after he passed his apprentice tests. And went forth to the ruins. Not realizing that soon after the Count would be dispatching another group to explore the same ruins.

Intelligent and curious, unafraid for his life to the point of foolishness Svaragg explored the ruins. Until one evening when he was deep in the ruins, still looking for any signs of magic. When skeletons began emerging from a hole in the ground in the ruins he was standing in. He had not prepared his combat spells that day, so he laid about him with his staff, damaging some of the skeletons but not enough to send them away. The last thing he remembered was trying to fight one skeleton when he was hit in the head from behind and knocked unconscious.

The next he knew he lay in a dark room, bound hand and foot, and the solid door to the room was closed tight. He was a prisoner, and had no access to any of his materials and only his wits and breath to try to escape. Neither of which was enough at this point. Continue reading “Sometimes you just want to make a character #DnD #RPG”

The concept of symbolism is important in #DnD & #RPG

With the boys game returning to 5E I moved to just using an open table, with some war game terrain and miniatures for combats. This weekend the boys had a hard time with that , because they were expecting the distances to be exact, and I got responses like:

‘How come it takes me a full round to move here, but the monster got there in less?’


‘How come it takes me a whole turn to climb up a cliff that is only twice as tall as my figure?’

So I explained that the figures, terrain and distances were really only symbolic. They are not meant to be exact distances or sizes. Which is not the easiest concept for teenagers to get, but I am trying.

But it is an idea. concept and skill to master. To recognize that something is symbolic. That it is taking the place of the real thing. And that’s a big deal in D&D.

What is the most important stat in the game? Your Hit Points, right? Well Hit points don’t really measure how many sword blows you can take for example. Hit points are symbolic of things like endurance, fatigue, and yes some measure of wounds. But a 10th level fighter is not somehow so much bigger than a 1st level one that he can take being hit by 9 more sword hits. Your hit points are a symbol of your increased ability to endure punishment, ignore pain, ignore fatigue. They are the ultimate symbol for your character. Otherwise at the end of every combat every character would look like the Black Knight in Holy Grail.

That’s a big reason to play role playing games in the first place. Allowing things like the numbers on a piece of paper, and the results of a dice roll, to represent a living person or creature and their luck. And really it is not much different than playing a first person shooter video game.  As a player you are accepting that your ‘character’ is defined by certain arbitrary numbers. And I think that the whole thing is a good exercise.

I realize that not everyone finds this easy. They want to treat everything as tangibly real. And find their entertainment in that fashion. And that is fine. But I do think it is important to give it a shot, to let your imagination go for a while.

I think the boys are getting a good taste of that in the game. It helps expand their mental and emotional horizons. To be forced to think about

‘Why would my character care that her father is disappointed?’

Because thinking in those symbolic terms also helps subconsciously develop a little empathy.

To bring it back to the games. I like using props, miniatures and terrain. But I use them as symbols, not exact representations. Like I wrote about last week, I want to give the game 3 dimensions. Encourage the players to think beyond the board. And so I use the board merely to symbolize what is happening, not give it an exact representation. If they want a more precise sense of representation, I can teach them to play wargames and they can play those. Role playing is about thinking beyond the board. I am not the best at flowery descriptions, although I am working on it. But if I can fill in some of the gaps with the figures and terrain then I can still get the job done of taking them into an alternate world.

Gary Gygax’s Dungeons & Dragons is a foundational influence on culture in the information age.

Excerpted from Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons by Michael Witwer. Out now from Bloomsbury. Dungeons & Dragons changed

Source: Gary Gygax’s Dungeons & Dragons is a foundational influence on culture in the information age.

Reality Refracted: As Game MASTER the Rules are Beholden to YOU #DnD #RPG

Source: Reality Refracted: As Game MASTER the Rules are Beholden to YOU

This follows along the lines I wrote about earlier. That is, as the GM it is your game. Make things work, and more importantly, make it fun. I will admit to failing this on more than a few occasions, I tend to let things bog down to rules questions. But I certainly aspire to this, a seamless session with no rules questions or issues.