Character Death in RPGs #ADnD #DnD #RPG #TTRPG #1e

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Today, I kick off my death theme for the last throes of my one-year streak of daily posting to this blog, I’m going to reiterate and summarize the content from a couple other posts. More detail on my positions can be found by clicking through.

I’ve spoken about how dumb I feel the save or die mechanic is (though my stance has softened a bit since I wrote that and started playing 1st Edition D&D [“1e“]). Moreover, in that same post I’ve talked about how much I enjoy the way 4th Edition D&D (“4e”) applied their remedial mechanic (“save three times or die”) to one of my favorite creatures, the medusa: slowed on first failed save, immobilized on the second failed save, and petrified on the third failed save. In fact, I’ve adapted that mechanic to my medusa in my 1e game simply because I enjoy it. Even if you prefer save or die, petrification is far more dramatic when the character (and player) can feel it slowly taking over. That’s dramatic and immersive.

Seriously?

All that said, I never understood the aversion modern gamers have towards character death (at least among those that play D&D). I have a friend who refused to kill my character even though he knew I didn’t mind it. He minded. There are two reasons I’m completely okay with character death. First, without risk, the reward loses meaning (at least to anyone with an ego). Second, as with other forms of failure, it presents new opportunities. I can switch to playing a completely different character before having the chance to grow tired of the now-dead character. Moreover, the one time I convinced that friend to kill one of my characters, it was because I wasn’t enjoying playing the character. This character is the brother of two of my other characters, one of whom I played as recently as this year’s Winter Fantasy. His death was not only heroic, but has now enhanced my other characters’ backstories. Win-win. Besides, it’s not as if anyone is actually dying. This is a fantasy world and should be viewed as such.

Now, all that said, we can have overkill. I was in a 4e Dark Sun campaign where, over 9 weeks of gaming, I lost five characters. My barbarian died in week one, so I rolled up a new character that lasted two weeks, then another that lasted two weeks, and so on. Each of those deaths meant that I had to write one of my one-page-or-more backstories. To paraphrase a friend, I shouldn’t have to write that much for you unless the result is money or a university degree. Full disclosure: One of my characters was a reanimated revenant of the one that died the week prior. So, I prefer a balance between the two rather than choosing one at the exclusion of the other. As with most things, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

This streak of daily blog posts is almost dead.

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Online Gaming #Board Games #RPG #TTRPG #gaming

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This is a short one. I really love that there’s technology available for people to play long-distance. It allows you to reconnect with friends or make new ones. It also proved very useful in the pandemic. We all know these things, but they just don’t matter to me. I hate online gaming.

Gaming is a social affair. It’s about sitting around a table, eating pizza, drinking Mountain Dew, and rolling a physical set of dice. I’ve done it online, and at times it was better than nothing, but only barely. I’m forced to do it again this weekend, as a player in my new home game will be dialing in from out of state. Our first session was about a month ago, and I don’t want to put this one off any further, but I just don’t like it. On the other hand, I like having online hangouts with friends. Perhaps the difference is that I grew up with a telephone that allowed for (quasi-)hanging out when not in person, but gaming has always in person. 

Whatever the reason, it’s just how I feel. I don’t expect you to feel the same way. It’s not an objective truth, so as with all things, YMMV. 

And that was your purely destructive post for the day.

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Happy birthday, Alissa. R.I.P.

Bonus Post Today: My Last Lame AD&D Unboxing Video #ADnD #DnD #RPG #TTRPG #1e

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This unboxing is for the very last thing I plan to purchase for 1st Edition AD&D. I have everything I want for sentimental reasons, and there’s nothing left that I need to actually run the game.

Finally finished!

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Puzzles and Cistercian Numerals @dCode_fr #ADnD #DnD #RPG #TTRPG #1e

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It’s been a minute since I’ve written about D&D, and it’s going to be a little while before I do so again. (The next couple weeks of posts have been written.) So, I wanted to get back on track. I’ve talked about how I prefer to play D&D, and why that drove me from the game for a while, and in that post I discussed puzzles a bit. This expands on that.

I like puzzles.

Acrostics, sudoku, crosswords, Wordle . . . you name it, I love to solve them or write them. I also like to be challenged, which means if I always succeed, I lose interest. I’ve noticed that many players don’t like puzzles, and that many who do like them will get frustrated unless they always succeed. That’s fine, of course; play what you like, but it’s part of why I stopped playing altogether, and even now am just running games. I seem to be in a small minority among the nerd circles I frequent. Crafting puzzles is as much about finding the right level of difficulty for the group as it is about the logic of its design.

I think I found the basis for a puzzle that many people can enjoy. I present to you the Cistercian numbers.

If you have a group that doesn’t like hard puzzles, then simply writing a number can be the puzzle itself. To make sure you get it write (intentional typo, because I think I’m funny), here’s a converter care of @dCode_fr. If you have a group that likes hard puzzles, this can throw a wrinkle into the mix. If they need to calculate or otherwise decode a number, make them read the puzzle, or write the answer, in this system. You could also provide a hint that the characters must add the appropriate markings in the order in which they appear in the Arabic numerals (i.e., if the number is 12, add the horizontal line running left first, and then the one running right second — 10 than 2). Perhaps a Cistercian clock could be counting down, so that you don’t know how much time you have. That would probably require some software engineering on your part, but if you can code and you like puzzles, why not?

I like puzzles.

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Bonus Post Today: Yet Another Lame Unboxing Video, but This One Is Worth It #ADnD #DnD #RPG #TTRPG #1e

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Okay, I know I burdened you with a lame unboxing just 5 days ago, but this is a good one. This is without a doubt the nicest collectable I now own. Behold, the unboxing of a 1st Edition D&D Wilderness Survival Guide with James Ward’s signature in the inner cover.

So nice.

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What’s Old Is New #DnD #ADnD #RPG #TTRPG

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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 an image shared in my social media stream. The title of this post serves a double meaning. As any reader of this blog knows, I’m running my first 1st Edition D&D campaign in 40 years, and I have no idea what I’m doing, so what’s old is new. The meaning I infer from the image below is to say that even something trite can shock the players.

As always, if you can translate the signature, I’d like to point people to the artist. EDIT: The artist is Miles Tevis. You can find his work here.

Bon appetit.

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Juiblex: The Nerdiest Example of the Mandela Effect in the History of Sociology (Maybe) #DnD #ADnD #1e #RPG #TTRPG #gaming #Juiblex #sociology #MandelaEffect

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If you’d rather listen to this blog, you may watch the video here.

I posted this on social media in the past, but never on my blog.

For those few that don’t know, the Mandela Effect is an effect popularized by a “paranormal consultant” (i.e., a kook) to describe false memories shared by a large number of people. Some famous examples are the misremembered movie, Shazam, starring Sinbad, which was memorialized in an April Fool’s Day joke; spelling errors like “Fruit” Loops and Oscar “Meyer”; and, of course, the alleged 1980s death of Nelson Mandela in prison from which the phenomenon gets its name.

Eats Froot Loops for breakfast and hot dogs for lunch.

Enter Juiblex, the grotesque demon lord of slimes first introduced in the 1st Edition D&D Monster Manual. Whenever I mention this, there’s always someone that chimes in that, even today, they thought JuIBlex was spelled JuBIlex. That is, many people, myself included, switched the ‘i’ and ‘b’ in the word. This might be — and I say “might” because I’m neither a psychologist nor a sociologist — because a few people made that mistake, and then it cascaded through nerd society (i.e., the Mandela Effect). It might also be because “Jubilex” is easier to pronounce, so everyone making that mistake did so independently based on some psychological effect (i.e., not, as I understand it, the Mandela Effect). I prefer the former hypothesis. It supports my premise.

Now there’s some psychological bullshit.

But wait! There’s more!

Earlier this week, I published a post on Atlas. As originally written, I pointed out that Atlas carried the world on his shoulders. I was reminded that this is, of course, wrong. Atlas held up the sky. This common mistake has changed the way Atlas is portrayed in art, and may be the origin of the phrase, “carrying the weight of the world on one’s shoulders.”

It appears this may also be an example of the Mandela Effect with an interesting impact on art and language.

Considering how cold the South Pole is, you’d think he’d wear more clothing.

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1st Edition D&D, Form-Fillable, Auto-Calc Character Sheets #DnD #ADnD #RPG #TTRPG

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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 neither.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I took the Mad Irishman’s character sheets and automated them. You can find my automated forms over on my 1st Edition D&D Resources Page. Don’t forget to visit the Mad Irishman’s site, though. He’s got far more material than what I’ve modified.

Game on!

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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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Help!

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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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Help!

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