Unfinished Business @Erik_Nowak #4e #3e #DnD #RPG

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

Yet again, my move has uncovered some things that I haven’t laid my eyes upon in years. This time, I found a bunch of 4th Edition D&D (“4e“) material that I never used, and some I didn’t really use.

I know that 4e wasn’t for everyone. If it wasn’t for you, and you’re just a hater, then this post isn’t for you. Stop reading and go do what makes you happy. No one will give you shit for it.

When 4e ended, I knew what was coming. Everyone with whom I played D&D — and I mean everyone — would be moving onto 5th Edition (“5e“). Why? Because we were all people that met, directly or indirectly, through organized play. Therefore, we were all people who’d just move on to next edition without questioning it. We’d always have to be playing the current edition, whatever it was.

At the time 5e was announced, my friend, Erik, and I had a conversation. We were both of the mindset that 4e was ending too soon. (Erik would eventually be happy because he prefers 5e to 4e.) There was far too much material that we hadn’t yet used. Well, I was reminded of this as I unpacked a ton of 4e adventures and source books that I never used. Sure, I had seen some Shadar-Kai in Living Forgotten Realms, but I never played a Shadowfell campaign. I really wanted to make use of The Shadowfell supplement, either as a player or DM. That’s just one example. There are more than I could list here, especially when you consider the multitude of adventures.

But it’s not just 4e. Once 4e came out, I was so happy with it that I completely abandoned 3rd Edition (“3.0e” and “3.5e“). (Having to confirm critical hits is the dumbest rule in RPG history, so I was happy to see it go away.) As I’ve mentioned, I sold off all my 3.5e material because, as above, I knew that everyone with whom I played would move to 4e. This was a lot of material. I owned literally every sourcebook WotC published for 3.5e, a couple for 3.0e that were never upgraded to 3.5e, as well a ton of adventures (though not all that WotC had published). I also sold off a few 3rd-party products. The only things I kept were the three core books, the Spell Compendium, and Mongoose Publishing’s Pocket Player’s Handbook. I came to regret selling Deities & Demigods, Hordes of the Abyss, and Tyrants of the Nine Hells. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking (pun absolutely intended). Fortunately, Deities & Demigods was gifted to me later, but that’s not great for campaigns. I would really have liked to used Hordes of the Abyss, and Tyrants of the Nine Hells, but I’m not going to pay a minimum of $75 for Hordes or a minimum of $150 for Tyrants.

Of course, I’m capable of reading the material and adapting it to whatever edition I want to DM. Many of the monsters already exist across editions (though not 4e‘s uber-cool Immolith, except unofficially), but the cosmology and character options are very different. Crossing those streams has two disadvantages: 1) it’s more work; and 2) it subverts my players’ expectations for how the cosmology is currently structured. I wouldn’t know how to convert the Hellbred race from Tyrants of the Nine Hells to 1st Edition (“1e“), which is my current focus. Also, I want to start with the classic adventures first. Adapting adventures from other editions will happen later rather than sooner.

I’m not sure it’s in the cards, but there’s a lot of great legacy material out there that I wish I had used.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow Erik @Erik_Nowak

Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)


Once More for Those in the Back . . . . @delverpg @InsideTheMagic #MCU #copyright

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

Blog posts cannot substitute for legal advice. If the topics discussed in this post are relevant to a real case you have, please consult an attorney.

Note: This post was written almost two weeks ago, but last Thursday night, this topic came up again with my friend, Stephen Radney-MacFarland. It’s an issue that just won’t die, especially in the gaming industry because of WotC’s ridiculous OGL claims.

I read two online posts in as many days making a persistent claim that continues to astound and annoy me. One article here.

Let me make this clear once again: You can’t copyright a single word.

Yeah, that even includes supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. The music can be copyrighted, and the lyrics as a whole can be copyrighted, but not that one word. You may trademark a single word, but the protection for trademarks is different. There’s a lot more flexibility when it comes to using a word that’s trademarked.

I completely understand that you don’t understand copyright law. That’s no crime; it’s complicated. However, if you don’t, you should be asking questions, not making authoritative statements on the issue. I don’t know the first thing about performing brain surgery. I’m not ashamed of that, nor should I be, but the day I give advice on how to perform it, please call me out for those ignorant ramblings.

If you’re making an argument relying on the copyrightability of a single word, name, or title, your argument is legally and logically invalid. If your conclusion is correct anyway, it’s mere coincidence.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow Delve RPG @delverpg
Follow Inside the Magic @InsideTheMagic

The Other D&D: Deities and Demigods @SerpentineOwl @Luddite_Vic #ADnD #DnD #RPG #MythologyMonday #MythologyMonandæg #folklore

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

Every now and then, someone posts to a D&D group asking how everyone used Deities & Demigods in your games. The question almost always refers to 1st Edition D&D (“1e”). I suspect the reason for that is 1) many people that used it as kids so (like me) their answers will depend on how long ago they played; and 2) later editions of D&D overtly incorporated combat with divine creatures, or their avatars, for epic level adventurers. I’ve also played 3rd Edition D&D (“3e”), 4th Edition D&D (“4e”), and 5th Edition D&D (“5e”), so I’m going to address all of them.

Yes, there’s a clear pattern in my abbreviations, but this is how lawyers write.

1e

As a kid, I loved reading mythology before I had even heard of D&D. Mythology is what drew me in, so of course I was going to use Deities and Demigods anyway I could. I remember during my earliest days (1977 or 1978), I created a list of 100 (or so) magic items from that sourcebook (e.g., Thor’s hammer, Enlil’s helm), and each PC was permitted to roll a d100 to determine their starting magic weapon. Yes, a 7th-level level character could wield Zeus’s Aegis. As an adult, this sounds stupid, but there’s no wrong way to play D&D, right? We had fun with it.

Hiatus

I stopped playing D&D in 1982 due to the Satanic Panic, so no 2nd Edition or 3rd Edition D&D for me.

3.5e

I returned to the game of D&D in 2005, and 3.5e was the current edition. I never played or ran epic level for 3.5e, so that edition’s Deities and Demigods was nothing more than reading material. I sold off almost all my 3e materials when 4e came out, but when I repurchased some for posterity, I made sure to grab that one (actually, it was gifted to me by James). I love that book, but what stood out the most to me about it was the transition to Horus as the supreme leader of the Egyptian pantheon. Like the real world, leadership switched. But I never used it in game.

Side Note: I really wish I’d never sold Hordes of the Abyss or Tyrants of the Nine Hells. They’re great resources valuable in any edition, but buying them now would be a horrible waste of money.

4e

There was no 4e Deities and Demigods. Divine creatures, or their avatars (DM’s choice as to which), appeared throughout various monster manuals, and they were designed as encounters for epic level creatures. Basically, Wizards of the Coast (“WotC”) surrendered to the notion that a lot of us wanted to face the divine, and it became part of the game. How the monster was interpreted – the actual creature or just an avatar – was a matter for the DM to decide, but they were there. Well, a few of them. I don’t recall WotC publishing gods beyond their own proprietary pantheons. I believe you had to go to third parties for that material, and sometimes it wasn’t right on point (e.g., Soldiers of Fortune had a Thor equivalent, but he wasn’t called “Thor”).

Going Backwards

Now that I’m going backwards, I must decide how to deal with divine creatures. They aren’t baked into the scheme like they are with 4e. In fact, as some have pointed out, it really should be impossible for PCs to compete against the divine on their home plane, which is the only place where they can finally be defeated. Once you leave the Prime Material Plane, many spells don’t work or are severely weakened. The environment itself works against the PCs but is home sweet home for divine creatures. There’s no upper limit to class levels for PCs, so eventually PCs should be able to fight the divine within the rules, but who’s going to level up to level 1,000? No one, and isn’t advancement through adventuring the real fun of the game? I’m not just going to say, “Okay, you’re all 1,000th level. Let’s go fight some gods.” I’m also not going to rewrite the rules in some odd way to make divine encounters more practical. It’s assumed that DMs will tweak the rules a bit, but eventually that reaches a point where we aren’t playing D&D anymore. That doesn’t interest me.

Of course, I don’t have to make my decision anytime soon. In fact, I may never have to make it. Once I sit down at the table, I may lose interest in 1e quickly. We’ll see.

Shameless Plug

This isn’t much of a plug, but here it goes. Luddite Vic and I are designing our own RPG. It’ll never see the commercial light of day because we don’t meet frequently enough to get it done. However, the system so far is, unsurprisingly, exactly what I want from an RPG. One of our design schemes relevant here is to make sure that PCs can emulate characters from mythology, folklore, or literature even at first level. I’ve never seen that in an RPG.

For example, how might one emulate Thor in 5e? One less-than-ideal option would be a hammer-wielding human tempest cleric, but that cleric would barely be distinguishable from any other cleric build until 3rd level, and even then, it’s going to take a while before it’s obvious to other players what you’re trying to do. You could just tell them, but if you need to do that, you’re not really playing Thor yet. What about Tarzan? How long would a half-naked, dagger-wielding barbarian last in a game of 5e?

In our system, everyone would know from the get-go exactly what you were doing with your lightning/thunder-based, hammer-wielding, human tempest, or a half-naked, dagger-wielding barbarian, even though those characters wouldn’t be any more or less powerful than any other 1st-level characters. That’s the real solution, but I know of no other game that does that. One game was mentioned to me where the PCs are the gods, but from what I understand, they don’t start as anything resembling 1st-level for other RPGs. That’s not bad, but it’s not the same thing. I want to start as first level with that character concept and earn divinity.

That’s how I’d prefer to “use Deities and Demigods.” I shouldn’t need to. I should be able to make the PCs and NPCs exactly what I need them to be. But in 1e, they’re just avatars.

Maybe someday Vic and I will finish our game.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow James @SerpentineOwl
Follow Luddite Vic @Luddite_Vic

Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)


Genesis is in Danger! @PhilCollinsFeed @tonybanksmusic @officialmatm @genesis_band @StarTrek #music #StarTrek #Genesis

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

Sundays now are lazy days for me. I either post something silly or other people’s work. Usually both. Today, it’s about a recent conversation. Strangely, a coworker asked me just this past week whether I enjoyed the Genesis concert from 11/18/2021. I told him . . . yeah.

But as you know, I also love Star Trek.

A perfect mashup.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc  
Follow Phil Collins @PhilCollinsFeed
Follow Tony Banks@tonybanksmusic
Follow Mike (+ the Mechanics) Rutherford @officialmatm
Follow Genesis @genesis_band
Follow Star Trek @StarTrek

Responsibility #HomeSweetHome #Caturday

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

A while back, my friend, Josie, asked, “Why don’t you have a cat?” I responded, “I’ll get a cat as soon as I grow up.” Now that I’ve bought a house, does that mean I’m an adult?

Probably not, but I may still get a cat. There are some advantages.

All I have to do is find one that looks just like me.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc

This Day in History, DC-Area Broadcasting Legend, Glenn Brenner, Dies @wusa9 @SteveBuckhantz

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

As I start this post, it’s 1:33 pm on October 7, 2021, so this post has been on hold for quite some time. It’s not quite the type of post I publish here, but screw it.

There are still some stories trickling in regarding the recent death of comedian, Norm MacDonald, and the specific message of one story sent me down an internet rabbit hole. I asked myself, “During my lifetime, what was the most significant local celebrity death for the Washington, DC area?” My answer: Glen Brenner, sportscaster with WUSA (a CBS affiliate).

Editor's Notebook: Still #1 in our hearts - Sun Gazette

On this day 30 years ago, January 14, 1992, DC lost the most popular broadcaster in the area at the time. Glen died of a brain tumor at only 44 years old. He had run the Marine Corps Marathon just over two months prior, fell ill, and never really recovered.

See the source image
This worked because he wasn’t cool at all.

It took about a week for local stations to stop covering the story, with networks interviewing broadcasters from rival networks. I remember his best friend (though I forget his name; Gordon, maybe, but not Gordon Peterson) then on the ABC affiliate, breaking down in tears as he said a public, posthumous goodbye. Steve Buckhantz of the relatively new Channel 5 (not yet a Fox affiliate) had the last one I saw in which he said (paraphrasing from memory), “This will probably be the last we discuss this on air, but it’s unlikely we’ll ever forget him.” I certainly never did. I remember some of his broadcasts. When he reported that the Boston Marathon demanded Rosie Ruiz return her medal for having cheated to win it, he said matter-of-factly (paraphrasing), “in a great showing of humility and sportsmanship, she said . . . no.”

See the source image

I don’t think his humor would translate 100% into today’s world, but some of it was timeless, and even as a child in the late 70s, I got the jokes.

R.I.P., Glenn

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow WUSA 9 @wusa9
Follow Steve Buckhantz @SteveBuckhantz

I Have a Temper @stateauto @WeAreFarmers @progressive #family #HomeSweetHome #Temper #Insurance

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

I don’t want to drag things down, nor do I like airing dirty laundry, so I’m going to give you a quick, unsupported description of me, then move on to the funny part.

I had an exceptionally rough childhood, and my emotional conditioning had me tolerating a lot of shit from people. Of course, even my mind could handle only so much, so eventually I’d snap (which was always disastrous), but for the most part, everything was bottled up until it exploded. As an adult, I still am very much that way but not nearly as bad. I’m more prone to snap at people than I was, but my preferred method remains to simply cut them out of my life.

Enough of that.

Now here’s the context for what happened recently. I bought a house. I shopped for homeowners’ insurance, which included my current auto insurance and renter’s insurance carrier (Farmers). I found a much better deal from another carrier (State Auto, A- rating) with the same coverage, so I decided to go with them. However, when I asked the agent for a quote on car insurance, he inexplicably went silent. I didn’t have time for any of this shit. I didn’t have time to haggle, and I wanted everything cleared up quickly. The time to give me an insurance quote had passed; I wasn’t going to go back and forth between them. So, I decided to go with State Auto for homeowner’s insurance and stay with Farmers for car insurance.

My Farmers agent wasn’t happy. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. After telling him how much of an ass he was being several times over, I stopped responding to his emails. He eventually changed his tone and acted as if he’d accepted reality, agreeing to provide only car insurance. However, he tried to manipulate me by insisting he needed information about my new homeowner’s policy to cancel my renter’s insurance. Why? Because he wanted to compare quotes. In other words, he hadn’t given up yet, and as I said, the time for quotes had passed. (Besides, his rates were almost twice the rates others were charging. Seriously. $1600/year v. $880/year for car insurance, with a lower consumer rating. What was I thinking?) His behavior was ridiculous on its face, and it gets worse. He charged me a renter’s insurance premium on the day after he knew I moved out. This could get him into a lot of trouble with the Maryland Insurance Administration. You can’t charge a premium for insurance that’s unnecessary or useless. The fact that he’s doing all of this to me, both an attorney and insurance agent, is risky. But hey, no need to ruin the idiot’s life. I just want him out of my hair.

In theory.

Now onto the funny.

He sent an exceptionally rude email that a vendor should never send to a client, which made me instantly decide to get car insurance from another carrier that night. Here’s the only important excerpt from the email:

You seem incredulous. The information in your e-mail below is ostensible.

He then shifted the goalposts so that he could pretend to back up those sentences. When I got home, I got a new car insurance policy with Progressive, cancelled my policy with him by going through Farmers corporate, and sent him this email.

Well, you’ll never have to remonstrate against my incredulous, ostensible, insolence again. I’ve abrogated the policies.

And that’s how I roll. I have no time for bullshit, and I also own a thesaurus. Do what you’re supposed to do or leave me alone.

Why progressive? Because who doesn’t love Mittens?

I don’t know about you, but that made me laugh.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow State Auto @stateauto
Follow Farmers @WeAreFarmers
Follow Progressive @progressive

My synDCon Dungeon Delves @Luddite_Vic @flashedarling #ADnD #DnD #4e #RPG 

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

I know you’re all sick of hearing about my new house, but hear me out. This is a D&D post. During my move, I found some things I had lost. Sort of. I have the original Word and PDF versions, but I found the bounded hard copies. First, some context.

Luddite Vic and I ran a gaming club called the Gamers’ Syndicate, and ran a convention about a decade ago called synDCon, playing off the association with the Syndicate. It took place in the DC area (Rockville, MD, to be precise); hence, the odd capitalization in the convention’s name.

I’m like a free agent: Unrestricted.

The current edition of D&D at the time was 4th, and one of the marketing efforts for that edition was the “dungeon delve.” These were 30-45 minute (if I recall correctly) collections of three or four combat-only scenarios. They were great at conventions for giving gamers something to do if their adventures ran over. In many cases, there were minor prizes for completing the delves, which wasn’t always easy.

Well, I took that idea and ran with it for synDCon II. It was my pet project because I was able to combine a couple of ideas to make it worth my trouble. I created delves based on iconic encounters in 1st Edition AD&D adventures, added in pregens created by Galen, and named the event synDClash (shut up). Here’s the rundown:

  1. Return to the Borderlands (easy): The Mad Hermit, the Owlbear, and the Minotaur, all based on Keep on the Borderlands.
  2. Giant Problems (easy): The kitchen encounter from Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, the frozen tomb from Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl, and the children’s barracks from Hall of the Fire Giant King (they were actually “Fire Giant Tweens”).
  3. The Ruins at Inverness (medium): The chessmen, the medusa and “strange apes,” and the fire giant from my favorite D&D adventure, Ghost Tower of Inverness, which I’ve converted to 4e and 5e (only characters were published).
  4. Erelhei-Cinlu Rises (difficult): A troglodyte, wyverns, and piercers in a cavern from Descent into the Depths of the Earth; the statute of Blibdoolpoolp and some kuo-toa from from Shrine of the Kuo-Toa, and the married couple Belgos and Silussa (the succubus) from Vault of the Drow.
  5. The Great Metal Dungeon (difficult): The mind flayer and vegepygmies, the combat-based robots, and the bulette from second favorite D&D adventure Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.
  6. The Pit of the Queen (very difficult, by which I meant impossible): The demonweb maze populated by various giant arachnids, the two drow clerics sitting on towers, and Lolth herself from Queen of the Demonweb Pits.

We also allowed DMs to run the Fool’s Grove Delve, which was published by WotC. For synDClash (shut up), it was medium difficulty.

As you might guess, the Pit of the Queen was completely unfair. For those of you that have knowledge of 4e, here are three features that stand out for the final encounter with Lolth. First, the encounter begins with a lot of space between the PCs and Lolth, but with spider swarms near the PCs. The swarms have a close blast 3 basic attack(!). That is, if one PC provoked, the spider would execute a blast that could affect multiple PCs, and considering the cramped space and the range of the attack, there were always multiple targets. Oh, and of course that attack went off the moment the swarm was destroyed. Second, she had some animated statutes that kept PCs prone. Third, Lolth had a power that made her appear as “artillery.” However, the moment more than one PC at a time was adjacent to her, it became clear she was a “soldier.” No one saw that coming. They thought that once they got nearby, they’d have her, but that didn’t happen. There’s no way PCs could win this encounter if the DM played it as written, but that didn’t stop PCs from trying.

Josie, if you’re reading this, you’re credited on one of these as a playtester under the name, Jamie Morgan. I have no idea how that happened. 🙂

I was happy to see how popular synDClash (shut up) was. There were some people playing multiple delves for an entire slot, and not because there weren’t seats available at regular games. They enjoyed the nostalgia as well. If we had run a third synDCon, my next plan was to make a bunch of delves based on fairy tales, but it wasn’t meant to be.

I also found this gem from 1986.

One of these days, I’d like to run these again, and having hard copies for the adventures and the pre-generated characters makes that easy.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow Vic at @Luddite_Vic
Follow Galen @flashedarling

Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)

I’m Here! #HomeSweetHome

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

Friday, it was legally official. Today, it’s logistically official. The movers came and moved in all the big stuff. I’m 100% in my new house.

Again, absolutely no lawn to mow.

A few points:

  1. Why didn’t anyone tell me I’d be spending so much time at Home Depot? I guess my Realtor did by implication. Among other things, he (Jeff Ganz, Century 21 Real Estate) gave me a $100 gift card to Home Depot, but that wasn’t blunt enough for a dolt like me.
  2. I’ve lived a rather simple life; one without things like cabinets. For the past 8-1/2 years, do you know where my frying pan was stored? On the stove. When I wasn’t using it, I simply moved it to the back burner that I never used. Now I can put it away. Fortunately, my childhood memories told me that there’s often a drawer at the bottom of the oven for that sort of thing, so I have that covered, but you can imagine how little I have covered.
  3. It doesn’t help that I have so much cabinet space that trying to store things is like perusing a Cheesecake Factory menu. If anyone would like to come over and organize everything, please do. I could use a nap anyway. Wake me up when you’re finished.
  4. I’m happy to say that a handful of people have offered me free furniture, one of them more than the others. This will look less like a wasteland and more like a home soon enough.
  5. Yes, I own a frying pan.

If you have a better word for it than “logistical,” start your own blog.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc

Household Goddesses @MythsExplained #MythologyMonday #MythologyMonandæg #folklore #Frigg #Norse

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

By now, you must have caught one of my many posts announcing the purchase of my first home. It seems appropriate, then, to post a video on (among other things), Frigg. She’s the goddess of the household (among other things) in my favorite pantheon, that of the Norse.

Go to 1:02
See the source image
Not her!

As for the Greeks, they had Hestia. I’ve already written about her in a roundabout way, but here’s a video directly addressing her place in that pantheon c/o my favorite mythology channel, Mythology & Fiction Explained.

Very much underappreciated among casual students of mythology and among the ancient Greeks themselves.

I already posted about Bes/Bastet last Caturday.

All that said, I’m neither religious nor superstitious. This is just for fun.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow Mythology & Fiction Explained @MythsExplained