One Year!!! #blog #StarTrek #MCU #DnD #RPG #TTRPG #ADnD

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With this post, I’ve posted every day for an entire year. That’s right. The last day that I didn’t post was May 1, 2021. Before that, I was last discussing Key Lime Kit Kat bars.

No wonder I stopped.

This blows away my current record streak.

Nice.

But wait a second. Is this even real? Can the post announcing that I’ve posted every day for a year be the anniversary post itself?

I say yes, and if you disagree, just keep in mind that I posted a bonus post on April 9, April 13, April 19, and April 25, so there have already been over 365 posts in this time without this one. There may have even been a couple more bonus posts, but I’m too lazy to look.

But okay. Let’s give this post some substance.

  1. Star Trek: The Original Series is my favorite Star Trek series, Star Trek: Enterprise is the most underrated Star Trek series, but Anson Mount has overtaken William Shatner as my favorite starship captain.
  2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is my favorite MCU film.
  3. 4th Edition D&D is my favorite edition of D&D.

On another note, today is the first day of May. May is hockey playoffs, college lacrosse playoffs, preparations for the summer, and — most importantly — the month when all the cool people are born. Plus, I was born in May.

So, in 11 days, the streak will die. I want to focus on other things, and consistency hasn’t led to a large number of non-spam followers. Rarely does anyone retweet the tweets linking to these posts (likes merely gauge your footprint, not increase it), and almost all comments occur on other social media platforms, so my streak hasn’t done anything to improve my online footprint (except for a brief moment). Besides, many of my recent posts have been rather lame. If I didn’t have something to say, I’d write anyway, and it shows. I have a few more posts scheduled for this week, some others in my head that will come soon, and a handful scheduled to publish as far out as December. However, going forward, if I don’t have something to say, I won’t say anything. I’ll never feel rushed, and anything goofy will have to be funny enough to be worth sharing.

So, this post counts.

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The Pufferfish Lich #science #biology #gaming #DnD #ADnD #RPG #TTRPG #pufferfish

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Sundays now are lazy days for me. I either post something silly or other people’s work. Usually both. Today, it’s (loosely) using science to imagine a D&D creature. I did that with the Ixitxachitl and now do it with the pufferfish. Behold the pufferfish lich!

I don’t care what spells it casts. I’m not afraid.

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My favorite D&D Mods @ChrisPerkinsDnD @LawrenceSchick @JeffLeason1 @monkeyhousejeff #ADnD #DnD #RPG #TTRPG #1e #3e

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I’ve done a lot of lists on this blog. A lot of people have done lists of the greatest D&D mods*** ever. So, I’m going to do a list of my favorite D&D mods. One comes from 3rdEdition D&D (“3e”), but the rest come from 1st Edition D&D (“1e”). However, unlike most people, I’m not going to attempt to give you an objective analysis as to why these are the best mods. This is a purely subjective topic, and I’m not one to deny my lizard brain nature. I fully admit that the reason a mod is going to appear on this list is emotional in nature. Still, you should consider running them in whatever system you’re using. If for no other reason, you’ll witness the inspiration for your favorite adventures. In terms of the 1st Edition D&D (“1e”) mods on this list, these were the pioneers.

*** I once used the word, “mod,” for what others call adventure or module and received an odd amount of pushback. One person even accused me of lying that it’s what I called them growing up, as if there could possibly be a motivation for something like that. I grew up in Montgomery County, MD, and every single person I gamed with called it mod. We also occasionally used the terms adventure and module, but the point is that “mod” was the standard term. Your regional dialect, or even your specific gaming group, may have a different experience. I don’t care. I shouldn’t have had to write this aside, but if I didn’t, I might receive the same pushback over something that shouldn’t matter at all.

Sons of Gruumsh, by Christopher Perkins, 3(.5)e

I left RPGs in 1982 due to the Satanic Panic. I returned in 2005 during the days of 3e. The first homebrew campaign I ran started with an adaptation of this mod. For what it’s worth, several of the players told me they enjoyed it quite a bit. It was nothing groundbreaking, so my sentimental attachment can get it only so high on this list, but it was very good, and it was written by one of the best DMs in the business.

S2: White Plume Mountain, by Lawrence Schick, 1e

Starts with a puzzle, which we got right, and I’ve had to change ever since. Then you’re given three paths to take, each of which leads you to one of three magic weapons you’re tasked to retrieve. These three weapons have maintained their iconic status in every edition of D&D since. There are more puzzles, both direct and logical (easily modified for repeat players), and some iconic monsters. The mod was the first one I played or ran that made great use of hindering terrain. Acknowledging that aspect of the writing, I was particularly proud of my conversion of the kelpie encounter to 4th Edition D&D.

C1: The Hidden Shrine of Tomoachan, by Jeff R. Leason and Harold Goodman, 1e

D&D didn’t get me into mythology. Mythology got me into D&D. I wasn’t terribly familiar with Central American mythology, and even less familiar with other aspects of the culture. According to Jeff (who I spoke with through Facebook), Harold was the one that did research on the cultural aspects of the mod. He did a decent job, sprinkling in appropriate imagery and language. I used his work as a springboard to provide even more immersion. As I mentioned previously, I acquired sound files of Nahuatl phrases, both common and specifically used in the mod. I love this mod so much, I own two physical copies, one of each version. I’m always prepared to run it.

And the gas mask! Don’t forget the gas mask!

S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, by Lord Gary Gygax, 1e

I loved Star Trek. I loved D&D. If it weren’t for the next entry on my list, this would be my favorite adventure ever. It was hard for me to run as a kid because there are a lot of rooms to prepare, and it was essentially a hack-and-slash dungeon crawl, but what a “dungeon” it was. Malfunctioning androids and robots, strange natural creatures from other worlds, but also an intellect devourer, a mind flayer (with what effectively amounted to a phaser), and a bulette to keep it grounded in fantasy. Love it.

Not the real cover.

C2: The Ghost Tower of Inverness, by Allen Hammack, 1e

This is my favorite mod ever, in no small part because of the artwork of Jeff Dee, which always makes mods more memorable to me. However, the mod’s content stands on its own. As a competition mod, it was designed to kill off everyone to assure that there was a clear winner at the end of the adventure. Sure, there were hack-and-slash encounters amounting to nothing more than resource drains, but there were also puzzles, which I love. The tower itself had a clever theme, with each level (before the last) representing a different element: air, earth, fire, and water. The water level has a nice twist to it as well, and the earth level has one of my favorite monsters from mythology.

By the way, this arrived today.

It’s not in the best of shape, but you should expect that from something so old. Note, though that it was reasonably priced, and I haven’t found any coffee stains yet. Will this make it into the top 5? Probably not, but I hear it’s really good, and it’s next on my scheduled mods to run after Keep on the Borderlands.

There are a bunch of other mods I love, but I’m not going to make a top 50 list.

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An Answer to a Question: Ideal Playing Partners @AvalancheArtis1 #DnD #ADnD #1e #3e #5e #RPG

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Twitter asks some good questions. Here’s another one (again, from weeks ago).

This is a tough one, and I don’t want to admit the answer, but I will. Like everyone, I want my cake and to eat it too. I want my friends to share my play style, but I have tangible data suggesting that’s never going to happen (at least not long- or even mid-term). So, my answer is this: I’d rather play with strangers that share my play style.

Consider the following: I can’t stand 3rd Edition D&D (“3e“). When I returned to the game after 23 years away from it, I was so happy to be back that I ignored how frustrating the system was. Besides, ignorance is bliss, and for all practical purposes I had nothing to which to compare it. I hadn’t played any RPGs for decades. Nevertheless, within the past couple of years, I’ve played a little bit of 3e. I played a few sessions of Greyhawk Reborn, which is the revival of the Living Greyhawk living campaign. Why? Because some of my friends never moved on from it, and that meant I never saw them. It was a chance to reconnect, which is important to me, but it didn’t take long for 3e to drive me away again.

On the other hand, I like 5th Edition D&D, and even more of my friends play it. Nevertheless, differing play styles grated on me. My style appears to be very firmly in the minority, so I find the game more tedious than it should be, but certainly more tedious than anything designed to entertain should be.

Would you rather this or Game of Thrones?

While I’m planning to return to D&D after deciding not to play anymore, I’m doing so on my own terms, or at least I’m trying to. I’m going to run some 1st Edition D&D sessions because I suspect that system will nudge players towards the way I want to play. Even if that’s true, it may not be to their liking, so this could be a short-lived experiment. In any event, the only hope for me playing regularly would be if the style shifted to my liking. You can’t force that on people, but if some strangers came along and had a similar approach, I wouldn’t have to.

Of course, if there were personality clashes with the strangers, then I’d leave the game again, but I fear that my best chance for a long-term return to D&D is through strangers, not my existing friends. This isn’t the end of the world. I’m at least in contact with my friends via social media, we’ll probably resume seeing movies and doing trivia night when the pandemic passes, and there’s always Winter Fantasy. Also, there’s no reason to assume there’d be personality clashes with strangers. Meeting strangers should be seen as an opportunity to make even more friends. We should all try that out from time to time anyway. That may be difficult without giving in to the online gaming fad.

So, I’d have to say that I’d rather play the game I want to play with strangers than to play the one I don’t with existing friends, but only because my friends aren’t going away.

I do love my friends.

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Wandering Monsters #ADnD #DnD #RPG #1e #3e #4e #5e

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They have more claim to being here than your PCs do.

I left D&D in 1982 due to the Satanic Panic and didn’t return until 2005, so my recollection of 1st Edition D&D (“1e”) isn’t precise. When I returned during the days of 3rd Edition D&D (“3e”), rolling for wandering monsters wasn’t a common mechanic (though I occasionally saw it in published mods). Without appreciating why it was used in 1e, I simply thought that the use of wandering monsters was stupid. If you have a cool monster on hand, use it. Otherwise, it’s a waste of a perfectly good encounter. On the other hand, if your wandering monster is the same creature that the PCs are facing from time to time in the planned encounters, then they add nothing to the game, so don’t waste time on them. That could make the game tedious. Now that I’ve reacquainted myself with 1e, I realize their point: They’re designed to discourage dawdling.

Hurry Up!

Searching for secret doors, examining magic items, counting your loot, and sleeping are time-consuming activities. DMs are expected to keep track of time so that, when a given interval of time has passed, they know to roll for wandering monsters. These random encounters often didn’t result in any treasure and drained valuable resources from the party, so they weren’t something that the PCs wanted. However, they didn’t make the game tedious because 1e combats were quick. So, the concern I mentioned above that they may not add anything to the game isn’t a serious one. Their primary effect was to drain resources, which, as I’ll discuss in the next section, serves a couple of connected purposes.

This isn’t something that goes over well with modern gamers. Modern gamers (and legacy gamers that have moved on) tend to explore every single room and grab every single piece of treasure they can. Anything less than complete is seen as a failure. I’ll give you a specific example. When discussing playing experiences with Lost Mines of Phandelver, the adventure from the Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set for 5th Edition D&D (“5e”), players that failed to obtain the Staff of Defense would always be frustrated when others discussed it. Several of them that I knew would play the mod again with a character specifically designed to make use of that staff. Players would also take note in that adventure (and others) of forks in the road (so to speak), always promising to double back so that they covered the entire complex. Because of this mentality (I’ve been guilty of it myself), the D&D Adventurers League living campaign changed its rules such that every player could take a magic item found in the game even if there was only one. Everyone wants everything, so that’s what’s given despite how little sense it makes.

But Why Shouldn’t You Dawdle?

If this is what makes you happy, that’s fine, but my problem with this approach to the game is that it discourages immersion in the game world and can’t possibly work unless the risk of character death drops so low as to be negligible. As to the first point (which is a tangent from my main thesis), the logic of the game world becomes inconsistent. I can suspend my disbelief and accept a dragon that breathes a cone of cold, but I can’t accept the notion of a Rod of Cancellation spontaneously generating multiple copies of itself because multiple characters want it. The latter just doesn’t make sense, and no attempt is made to make sense of it. There’s no drain of resources to make it happen. There’s no need to visit the local archmage to make copies of it. It just happens.

As to the second point (now we’re back on track), a game where I know the DM will never kill me bores me. A game where I’ll get killed if I don’t think things through logically is far more fun. Sure enough, I’ve rarely seen character death in 5e. In fact, I saw far more character death in 4th Edition D&D (“4e“), and 1st-level 4e characters are intentionally durable. The more gamers become unwilling to suffer even the smallest of setbacks, the less we see them, which is why I stopped playing. There’s none of that in 1e. Can your characters survive? Sure, especially if you send the henchmen and hirelings in first. As I’ve been told, PCs can survive an entire campaign even despite the save or die mechanic (which I still don’t like). However, if you truly immerse yourself in the game, you’ll see that some actions are downright stupid and should get your characters killed. Game mechanics like wandering monsters discourage such stupidity, and as a consequence reward true immersion in the game world.

Your mission is to save the noble, not to grab an extra 5 copper pieces. Once you’ve got the noble, get the hell out of there. If this were a scenario in the real world, and you went for the coppers, your friends at your funeral would be discussing whether to submit your story to the Darwin Awards committee.

Be smart. Get in; get out.

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An Answer to a Question: LUC and PSI @ZachBurrell10 #DnD #RPG #FASA #StarTrek

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I’m waaaaay ahead on my blog writing, so this post, written on 2/18/2022, relates to a tweet from 2/11/2022, and is being published (assuming I don’t move my schedule around) on 3/3/2022.

The FASA Star Trek RPG (“STRPG“) is one of my two favorite RPG systems, so of course I had that one on the brain. STRPG was a d100, skill-based system, where players collected skill points based on their Star Fleet Academy (or other) training, and placed them into various skills. Their ability scores were also based on d100, so ability and skill checks were treated the same way.

The ability scores in STRPG had a one-to-one relationship with those of D&D, but STRPG added two extra skills: PSI (psionics) and LUC (luck). As you know, D&D has had different ways of dealing with psionics, none of which involved a separate ability score. In 1st Edition, a minimum Intelligence of X gave you a 1% chance of having psionic talents, opening up a new system of mechanics. I never played 2nd Edition, but from 3rd Edition forward, psionics became a class feature. If you took a psionic class, you had psionics. Otherwise, you didn’t (though some magic did psychic damage). Ergo, I didn’t respond with PSI. D&D couldn’t really use it.

LUC is a different story. There’s room for it in D&D. In a reasonably balanced system, LUC was a way of giving the PCs an advantage over the NPCs. There are other ways to do that (e.g., 3rd Edition action points, inherent mechanics), but a LUC score wasn’t a bad choice. If all roleplaying and dice rolls failed the PC, they could request one more shot at success with a LUC roll. If they rolled less than their LUC score, they succeeded despite those failures. Of course, it was up to the gamemaster to define what that success was, which could be partial rather than total. Considering how focused modern gamers are on player agency, I suspect that a LUC ability score should appeal to many of them.

BTW, if you’ve never read my blog before this post, I’ve probably left you in suspense.

For the record, my other favorite RPG system is 4th Edition D&D.

If I fail my LUC check, my love of 4th Edition could start a nuclear war.

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Edition Wars! @ansonmount @WilliamShatner #DnD #RPG #4e #5e #Pathfinder #Shadowrun #TTRPG #StarTrek

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Going forward, Sundays are lazy for me. I either post something silly or other people’s work. Usually both. Today, it’s explaining myself, then picking a fight.

I’ll start. From left to right:

1st Edition AD&D and 4th Edition D&D
Anson Mount’s Christopher Pike and William Shatner’s James Tiberius Kirk

You give it a shot. In the meantime….

I never said I wasn’t a dick.

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Even More Gems Dug up While Unpacking @Luddite_Vic @Erik_Nowak @atomicovermind @Digitalculture0 #DnD #RPG #4e #1e #ADnD #TTRPG #StarWars #Rokugan #FateRPG #LFR #DARPG #WotC

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A couple of days ago, I posted about some things I found while continuing to unpack. One thing I found deserves its own post: the program for our first synDCon gaming convention (2010). When we decided we were going to put on a convention, we had a meeting of at least 20 people at the Cracker Barrel in Chantilly, Virginia. This took place after one of our Living Forgotten Realms game days at the now defunct Game Parlor. Only seven people decided to come on board as owners, with two quickly moving to Arizona before we could even get started, and then two others flaking out. It was basically Vic, Cassandra, and I doing everything.

Front Cover

The cover art and Gamers’ Syndicate logo were both designed and illustrated by Erik_Nowak, and he also designed this program.

Welcome Statement

I remember a meeting when there were just five of us. We had to decide who would be the number one person: the Convention Coordinator. I didn’t volunteer because I didn’t want to be too pushy, but no one else wanted to do it. This was typically unnecessary nerd angst on all our parts, because in the end it didn’t matter. Everyone had to work hard (until they flaked out), and no one was really the boss among us.

Pages 2 and 3

I’m proud of two things. First, look at that first page, and continue to examine the ones that follow. Even when we had seven planned owners, everyone was almost exclusively a 4th Edition D&D player. Nevertheless, our relatively small convention had a ton of variety in what was run. There were card games, board games, RPGs, and miniature war games. Within the RPGs, we had a ton of variety as well, and there were games run specifically for beginners. We also had a “synDCon special,” which was written by Erik and D. Hunter Phillips.

Pages 4 and 5

The second thing of which I’m proud was my idea (<patting myself on the back>). We had staggered slots. Instead of the typical 8am-12pm, 1pm-5pm, 7pm-11pm schedule for RPG games, we added in slots at 10am-2pm and 3pm-7pm as well. Again, for a small con, the fact that this worked out so well was remarkable. Many people took advantage of the opportunity to sleep in, try our Dungeon Delves for a couple of hours, sit in on a seminar or author book reading, or try new systems at the beginners’ tables. Another great idea of mine was to allow only 5 seats per game in presale despite tables seating 6 players. This made it far easier to sit players that didn’t preregister or wanted to change tables. No one had a problem with it, but a lot of people appreciated the flexibility.

Venue Map

This was a nice hotel, and it was conveniently located near a Metro stop (our public rail transportation system). And being who I am, I especially wanted a site in Maryland so that we could register for a federal trademark if it ever came to that. 🙂

Pages 8 and 9

Okay, yes, we definitely emphasized Living Forgotten Realms, but I’m still happy with how much Heroes and Rokugan and Pathfinder Society we had (these are living campaigns for the RPGs Legend of the Five Rings and Pathfinder respectively).

Pages 10 and 11

Note well, though, that there was more going on than the program states. We had a board game room, and open play for both card games and miniature war games. Saturday night, my cousin and I, a.k.a., Wet Paint, performed for a crowd of beer-drinking gamers some hits of the 80s and 90s. That’s when we played together, so our song set came from those decades.

Only Mike and I are Wet Paint. Matt James was an interloper. He’s considered a member of “Trail Mix,” which is anyone that’s ever played with us.

Seriously, for a small, first-time convention, look at how much variety we had. I loved it, and I never saw it with conventions this small. We also had seminars featuring authors and game designers. Being in the DC area, we actually knew a lot of those people, so it was relatively easy to get them here. This, in turn, allowed us to do this . . . .

Pages 12 and 13

We received a small amount of support from most of these companies, and others were actually present. Our prize for the first person to buy a convention badge was a ticket to GenCon. GenCon gave those away to conventions all the time; no inside track was necessary. However, we also had, for example, a member of Green Ronin participate in a seminar and run the (then-new) Dragon Age RPG, and Rob Hobart (AEG), the head of Heroes of Rokugan, ran a seminar and (I think) a few games.

I touched up this image of the back cover to delete some handwriting. Pay no attention to the fields of ecru.

We chose a great venue, and synDCon 2010 was a four-day convention. Yep, four days. Just like the big guys. Monday was a holiday, and adding that day to the schedule didn’t increase our costs noticeably. Of course, by cost I mean financial cost. My feet were sore (which is why I was sitting for the Wet Paint performance), and I ran, at best, on four hours of sleep a night, with only two on performance night. I’d say it was a success considering that we got hit with a snowstorm right before the convention, scaring off a lot of people.

The following year, we moved synDCon 2011 to mid-April to make sure we’d have better weather, but we had late snow that year. It wasn’t as bad as the previous year, but it still affected attendance. Infuriating. However, synDCon 2011 was an official convention within the circuit of competitive Munchkin published by Steve Jackson Games. In fact, we may have done that for synDCon 2010. I really don’t remember at this point. I just know we had a great time both years. Unfortunately, it’s too hard a thing to run with, for all practical purposes, two people running the entire show and Mother Nature chasing us around with snowstorms. This isn’t to say that there weren’t a lot of other people that did a lot of work. We had a lot of help, with a few people being organizers for Living Forgotten Realms, Pathfinder Society, and Heroes of Rokugan, and we still had decent numbers. However, in the end it falls on the organizers, and there were only two of us. Both Vic and I would rather not have a convention than do one half-assed, so we didn’t have a third one.

Would I like to bring it back? Yes. Do we have the financial means to do so? Probably. Do I see enough people getting on board to make the workload manageable? No. There are very few people I could trust to see it through, and I’m not getting any younger.

I’m proud of what we did.

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Deities & Demigods 3.5 Printing @SerpentineOwl #MythologyMonday #MythologyMonandæg #folklore #DnD #RPG

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Here’s something interesting I never knew. The 3rd Edition Deities & Demigods had a printing that included an appendix for adjustments to 3.5 Edition. As you may recall from my past writings, Deities & Demigods is one of the books I later regretted selling off, but I got lucky in that it was gifted to me by James. After reading the linked article, I thought, “Hey, maybe I actually have the 3.5 update printing.

Yep, I do.

In the ultra-rare instance that I’d ever play 3.5e again, I wouldn’t likely make use of it, so … how disappointing, eh?

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The Den . . . errrr, Mancave Is Coming Together #RPG #nerd #game #gaming #DnD #ADnD #FASA #StarTrekRPG

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I told my coworkers that I was using one of the bedrooms in my new home into a den. They started calling it a mancave. Well, if this is a mancave, it’s the nerdiest one ever. I also can’t see it as a “cave” considering it’s on the second floor. It seems more like a man loft.

That doesn’t make any sense, does it?

Last week, I bought a 6′ tall bookshelf that finally allowed me to unpack most of my gaming material. This weekend, I picked up a new desk, which again allows me to unpack office supplies and other things. The room is finally coming together, and I’m fairly well organized.

This den, mancave, or whatever you want to call it is oddly important to me. I’ve lived a rather simple lifestyle up to now. I’m used to a small place, and while this home isn’t what anyone would call large, it’s exceptionally large for me. In fact, it’s too large. It’s great that I have room for everything that I have and much of what I don’t have yet, but I spend 90% of my waking hours in this room. For lack of a better word, it feels cozy, and I’m jamming it with everything I want around me in my free time at home.

Do I have enough screens?

I have a lot of Jeff Dee originals to hang, but so far the only art on the walls is this guy over the desk.

Judging every one of my Google searches.

My cousin gave me a magazine rack. I asked, “What am I? 108 years old?” But I had just the use for it.

Though I may never read them again, I like having them.

Seriously. This is a mancave?

Almost one shelf per edition of D&D.

I have tons of other books not related to gaming, but the second bookshelf hasn’t even been put together. On the side of this bookshelf, I hung some memorabilia.

Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!

As far as conventions go, the badges are from All-Star Comic Con 2018, GenCon 2011, synDCon I and II, and Winter Fantasy 2020 & 2022. And then there’s something on top of that bookshelf.

Okay, maybe it’s a mancave after all, but just barely.

The one thing that won’t fit are my musical instruments. I’m keeping them downstairs. That’s probably for the best. It’s a townhome, and the neighbors probably wouldn’t appreciate any noise being upstairs near their bedrooms.

Make no mistake about it: My keyboard playing is properly defined as “noise.”

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