Saturday, September 27, 2008


I love books and have found a new way to acquire them. PaperBack Swap (PBS) is a excellent book swapping service. After posting 10 books on their website, any ten books, you get two free book credits. This allows you to request any two books from another member. You pay nothing! Here is the catch, when someone requests a book from you, you pay for shipping. PBS offers a service which does all the leg work for you, you just print, wrap, tape and place in your mail box for pickup. PBS has a huge catalog, hard covers and paperbacks, and lately I have been ordering stacks of gaming materials and novels. It is an amazing service and I encourage everyone to join! You can find the link on the right side of my page. READ ON!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My Turn Behind the Screen, Part II

How did my Sunday game go? It went well, everyone showed up early to finish up character creation and this is our line-up:

J is a War Mage with a fiendish ancestry,
JB is a classic Elven Archer,
W is a Dragon Shaman with a fetish for bronze,
M is a Favored Soul and a fiery eyed prophet of a new god,
B is a Druid/Rogue who is more Rogue then Druid but loves her faithful wolf companion.

Yes, I know I didn’t really stick to my restriction of the PHBII but all the players are happy and seemed to get along well. Did I tell you that my Non-Gaming Girlfriend is playing (insert maniacal laugh). I have gotten her addicted to Travian and now she is playing D&D. To encourage her I bought her a PHB, dice and some female rogue minis. Her character the Druid/Rogue has the bad habit of getting the killing shot on enemies. So much so I started showing one player the HP left on the creature before she attacked it. I didn’t want the other players to think I was catering to her. I guess it is the rogue’s job to sneak around and get that backstab in. I will have to call her my Gaming Girlfriend from now on ;)

I am running a Forgotten Realms Module for 3rd Level Characters and it has shotgun combat feel (a lot of combats one after the other). One of my favorite things is that the learning curve for players, when starting their character at low levels, is a lot faster. In my opinion the higher the starting level the longer it takes for a player to be comfortable with all their characters skills and abilities, i.e. which spells/attacks work best, who needs to be in front and who does what skill in the party. So, just after an hour into the adventure the group was working well together and had started working out some basic tactics. When we decided to stop for the night (total game time was 3 hours) the group felt confident and excited for the next session.

Now we just have to see if their characters can get along. All-in-all they seem to like it and I am having a great time. GAME ON!

My First Dungeon and Borrowing Inspiration

It was the summer of 1988 and I was neck deep in monster guts on my first dungeon crawl. As I mapped it out I noticed that it looked a lot like level one from The Legend of Zelda. Both my DM and I played more video games than RPGs at the time so some bleed over was to be expected. But it was a great dungeon and lots of fun for a newbie. So here are some thoughts for the day. Take any video game/movie/book that uses area maps or descriptions then grab some graph paper and start mapping (With movies just follow the characters). Game designers, set designers and authors get paid to develop interesting areas. Why not borrow them? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. GAME ON!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Let me tell you about my birthday and the S.A.V.D.S +4

The night before my birthday I asked my girlfriend if she would play D&D with me. Surprisingly, she said ok as a B-day present to me she would play (She had sat in on my regular Sunday game earlier that week so she understood what was to transpire) but only if she could play a Half-Elf Ranger/Druid with a wolf animal companion. I hadn't realized her knowledge of the game had expanded that far.

Excited and realizing that I didn't have a DM’s Screen I set myself to cutting up a cardboard box. (Note to self, cutting stuff after a few glasses of wine is not the best of ideas.) After completing the cutting, with no injuries to my person I might add, my girlfriend asked if I was going to put anything on it. Now, I know and she knows I cannot draw, my people are sticks and my cows look like dogs and dogs like cows, etc.

In my wine addled brain I decide to collage it. I take pages of pdfs’ that I have printed out and begin to tape them to the cardboard. As I drank another glass of wine, I decided I need a base coat of pages to begin with, like when your painting something. So, with my handy packing tape dispenser in hand I start spackling on pages. My Girlfriend, at this point walks into the kitchen, (normally her territory) where I have commandeered the island for my “Super Awesome Vorpal DMing Screen +4”, and asks me “What are you doing?” I reply simply “Collaging my S.A.V.D.S. +4” She looks on perplexed. “Have you ever collaged anything before?” she asks. “Sure” I reply, thinking that time in third grade should count. She set down her wineglass, smiled that smile (the one that says “You would be hopeless without me.”) and asks “Why don’t you let me do this” I look to the scissors “O.K.”

She sent me away for more pages, pictures and another pair of scissors. From the Abyss (the room in our small house where we store everything) I hear the sound of paper ripping as she tries to undo the mess I made. I grab a large stack of paper and hurry to help her. She busts me down to cutter duty, where I cut out pictures for her and she then decides the placement. The color scheme is black and white and she decides she wants a darker tone to the screen. I start cutting.

I sometimes forget how handy she is at crafts and things. She is the one in the relationship who owns power tools. I have an all in one tool kit that I bought where everything has the same colored handles and its own carrying case. We spend the next couple hours collaging, well really she spends it collaging, and I just cut stuff.

At this point I would like to thank my girlfriend for her assistance, understanding and willingness to participate in my hobby. Below are some more pictures of our handiwork. Enjoy and GAME ON!

p.s. my girlfriend did play D&D with me on my birthday and I think she had fun...

Hear ye, Hear ye! The Duskblade Spell List is ... Where?

One of my player’s wants to play a Duskblade in our upcoming game. When he produced his spell list I was like “Those aren’t Duskblade spells!” Luckily, I have patient players and he politely corrected me. I must be nuts or blind! All this time I never knew that the actual complete spell list for Duskblades was on page 24 of the PHBII (Player’s Handbook II). All this time, staring me right in the face. I always wondered why they had the Channel Spell ability at third level but didn’t have any touch spells available. If I had tried to play a Duskblade I'm sure I would have found this out sooner but better late then in the middle of a horde of Orcs. GAME ON!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Man Who Made Me Rethink the Survival Skill

I happened to be watching the Discovery Channel when my new favorite show came on. “Man vs. Wild” with Bear Grylls. Just a little bit about Bear Gyrlls, according to his website, which you can find at, “After breaking his back in three places in a parachuting accident, he fought his way to recovery, and two years later entered the Guinness Book of Records as the youngest Briton to climb Mount Everest aged only 23.” He was also a member of the British SAS (Special Air Service) and that gives him some mad street cred’.

Now on with the show! The premise of “Man vs. Wild” is that Bear Grylls drops (literally jumps off moving aircraft into water, or parachutes) into treacherous locations around the world and shows us normal folk how to survive in the wild. Ultimately he achieves his goal and is “rescued” or he escapes to a more hospitable location but not before some interesting displays of his superior survival skills.

Watching Bear as he bit the head off a snake or dug for insect larva in a rotting tree made me re-think the Survival skill in RPGs expressly Dungeons and Dragons. The survival skill says that a Survival check at DC 10 (DC= difficulty check) will allow you to hunt/forage while moving at half your normal movement rate and you can provide food and water for one other person for every two points over ten (the DC) on a successful roll.

Now having seen Bear in action made me wonder about how to add a little spice to the survival skill. Do the players find a water source in the desert or do they have to drink their own urine? (Yes folks, Bear did this) Or, what kind of food are they surviving on. Are they eating grubs and beetles or can they catch an animal and what kind of animal is it? What about gear? Are they adequately supplied with blankets and bedrolls, tents and tinder?

My mouth is watering at the thought of all the fun to be had. GAME ON!

Below is a video of Mr. Grylls in action. Enjoy:)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Notes from a Web Lurker.....

Lurk: definition:
A: to lie in wait in a place of concealment especially for an evil purpose.
B: to read messages on an Internet discussion forum (as a newsgroup or chat room) without contributing

I lurk, I lurk a lot. Not the “outside your bedroom window, peeping tom” lurk. I am a “Web lurker”. I read the posts from multiple websites and blogs, belong to a huge number of online groups and I never post a comment. My new goal is to post more comments even if it is just “kudos to you”. I figure all these people writing great things about Role-playing and Role-playing games deserve a little pat on their back and some recognition for all their work expanding the hobby…..


(p.s. you can find my favorite RPG blogs in “My Blog List” at the bottom of the page)

Monday, September 15, 2008

My Turn Behind the Screen

By some trick of fate I have never DM'd 3.5e. I soon will have my chance. I have decide to run a campaign on every other Sunday for my current D&D group where I am just a player. So here is the guidelines I sent out to my potential players:

Well met and Welcome,

For those of you who plan to join my 3.5 game here are some guidelines for creating your characters.

Ability Scores: Roll 4d6, drop the lowest, place where ever you wish. Please note that no score over 18 will be allowed so watch your racial adjustments.

Races: All base races from the PHB (Player’s Handbook) are allowed.

Classes: All base classes from the PHB and the PHB II (Player’s Handbook II) will be allowed.

Level: All Characters will be Level 3. (i.e. Fighter 3, Rogue/Wizard 1/2)

To avoid problems I expect there to be at least one character from the four basic archetypes: Fighter, Wizard, Rogue and Cleric.

Alignment: No EVIL Characters!

Money: You begin with the basic starting amount for a 3rd level character. Please equip your characters appropriately with all necessary adventuring items, weapons and armor (For the Fighter types, the highest armor you can own at third level is Half-plate.)

Spell books and Components: Arcane casters please contact me and we will discuss spell books, components and your known spells.

Please email me your top 3 picks for Character Class and I will try to accommodate everyone.

I will expect back stories for each character and everyone start thinking about a name for your party.

If you know someone from our regular gaming group did not receive this email please forward it to them.

Our first game will be this coming Sunday, September 21, 2008 at 5:00pm


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday game and Zinthalion Dalgren

I am about to be heading out to my FLGS (Favorite Local Gaming Store) for my Sunday D&D 3.5 game. We have been playing every other Sunday for about 5 months now and I have been known to write extended character back stories on occasion. Here is some of my current character's back story.

Zinthalion Dalgren

Being the youngest son of a noble family( 5 siblings, 2 older brothers, 3 older sisters). Zin left home after his eldest brother inherited to avoid a political marriage and avoid his family's constant disparagement over Zin's study of magic. During his travels he found that he had equal skill with a sword and understands that there are enemies that cannot be defeated with only magic or only steel. Zin prefers expensive clothes and has refined tastes when he is allowed to indulge them but these have been tempered by his travels and adventures. Zin also loves long swords and magical wands and will go out of his way to collect them. Often relying on wands or first in battle, before using memorized spells, he will use his sword if pressed or the opportunity presents itself.

(After handing this to my GM he said my character still needed a reason to be there, either he is running from something or running to something. So I then fleshed out the political marriage idea and added the bounty. So now he has a real reason to run)

Zin’s running away from his political arranged marriage has further reaching implications then just an upset bride to be. In Zin’s homeland there is a constant competition between the noble houses sometimes leading to minor skirmishes and at its worst a rash of kidnappings and assassinations. During the last “house cleaning” a number of minor noble houses were all but destroyed or absorbed by some of the larger older houses. During one of these skirmishes one of the royals, a prince fourth in the in the line of succession, was killed by “accident” prompting the King to intervene.

The 10 most powerful houses were selected to give up one son and one daughter to the guardianship of the Royal family to be used at their discretion. Either wed in an arranged marriage to foreign powers, wed to secure a peace between two houses, to become agents of the crown such as diplomats, commanders of the military, ladies in waiting to the queen or kept within the palace to insure the continued peace on tranquility of the kingdom. All the houses complied and many of the lesser noble houses offered up their children as well to be fostered by the crown. That was 5 years ago. Now one may find members of noble houses throughout the military and in the Kings service. The camaraderie bred by working in the king’s service has been reflected by the noble houses, many of the current heirs know each other from their time serving the crown and there has not been an incident breaking the Kings peace in 4 years.

But one problem remains, Zin was offered up and selected to be married to a foreign princess of his country’s greatest rival, she was not in direct line for the throne being the niece of the foreign king but still a princess. A treaty, concerning ample trade concessions and a much contested border, was drawn based on this marriage. Three days before Zin’s bride was supposed to arrive he slipped away during the wedding preparations, injuring two royal guards in the process. He evaded capture twice more escaping from the city and the kingdom.

His bride, which he has never seen, arrived and was presented to the King. The King embarrassed offered another in Zin’s place but this was a terrible insult to the Foreign King and his family. The princess was not to be given way to just anyone who happened by. The Princess would be married to Zin or not at all. For three days diplomats from both sides argued while Zin went un-captured. In disgust both Kings walked away from the bargaining table. Zin’s favorite family member, his grandmother, is known as the Dragon Dowager. She is a skilled diplomat, savvy merchant, and often a trusted advisor to the crown. She alone won concessions from the two kings. The death mark would not be placed on Zin by either King and the treaty would be shelved and left unsigned. Upon Zin’s capture and return, the wedding would go on and the treaty signed.

Currently Zin is branded a traitor to the crown at home and criminal-at-large in the foreign kingdom bounty is at 21,000 gold alive ( 3x level x1000gp) and one third for his body or unequivocal proof of his death.( level x 1000gp) Smaller rewards are often granted for information of his whereabouts. Zin is sure that there are others after his death, which would allow another to wed the foreign princess. There nobles in both kingdoms who first, wish to punish him for his insult and second, to keep the treaty from ever happening. They have ample money to do so. Zin’s evasions have been more luck then skill to this point. Every time there is a border dispute, skirmish or some sort of trade issue Zin’s name is brought up and the search is reestablished.

Note: This is part of the character history I handed to the GM so some of it is purposely vague to allow him room to incorporate it into his campaign.


Gamer's Girlfriend

My Girlfriend is not a Gamer, no RPGs, no video games. This is my continuing mission to change that. She is a young professional, a excellent cook and a very indulgent girlfriend but not a gamer and I being a moderately obsessive gamer saw this as a possible deal breaker. So first I had to explain to her what a Role-playing game is.

G.F: What is Dungeons and Dragons?

B.G.: It's a Role-playing Game

G.F: Is that where a bunch of geeks hang out in a basement and pretend to cast spells on each other?

B.G.: No, Darlin' That is not how it goes.

I could see I was going to need some help so I secretly purchased Shelley Mazzanobles book "Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress: A Girl's Guide to the Dungeons and Dragons Game"

It arrived a few days later and I explained to my girlfriend that I got her a present. I gave her the book knowing that I would have the time to read it before she ever moved it off her nightstand. So that night I quietly lifted her "present" from her nightstand and begain to read. It was wonderful, full of humor and easily accesible to someone whose closest experience to role-playing happens planning dinner parties. Needless to say I was impressed.

Apparently my girlfriend was impressed too. She begain reading and finished it in record time. All of a sudden, she had questions about character classes and the benefits of the different races. I was in heaven:)

There will be more to come...