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Like Being Read To From Dictionaries

The Lighter Side of Pretentiousness

Updated: 2017-09-05T07:46:45.509-06:00


D&D Competition August 27, 2016 at Boise Public Library


I'm running half of the tables of D&D 5e at the Boise Public Library Comic Con.

Check it out:

Can you win Dungeons & Dragons?

Can you hold on to your wits when tentacled horrors want to eat your brains? Can you survive and take home the most gold too? Sign up for a short (two hour) D&D competition and find out for sure. Prizes will go to both the highest-scoring group and the highest-scoring individual player. We welcome new players, even if you’ve never played before. Seats are limited to 24 doughty souls. Characters will be provided. Content may be unsuitable for those under age 13.

Sessions start at 10:30 and 12:45.

25 Month Hiatus Ended!


To tell the truth, I only wanted to post today because I thought it was the two-year anniversary of my last post. But I missed it by a month. I think I didn't even look at this blog in 2015, but that's because I was doing the Tempest Challenge (not really, but I did do the Tempest Challenge).

So, I think I don't want to play D&D anymore. I ran D&D Encounters for about two years and now I suspect D&D isn't the right game for what I want to do with RPG's. I'm going to try out some Narrativist and/or Story games.

What if the rest of this post was just a list of games?

Steal Away Jordan


Seven Wonders (Pelgrane Press)


Cosmic Patrol






Maybe, now that blogging is Olde Schoole, I'll come back and share with you what I learn.

Rest In Peace, David Trampier


Art and illustration are fundamental to a good roleplaying experience, equal to the rules themselves and cooperative participants. And if you're like, mostly ignorant of the basics of drawing and painting, art is the most mysterious.

Hardly any piece of D&D art can claim to be more prototypical of D&D than Trampier's AD&D Player's Handbook cover. I don't even need to show it to you, as it is no doubt a fixture of your imagination, as it is of mine.

Many of his pieces from the Monster Manual are also unforgettable to me, after long hours in the summers of the late '80s spent flipping through that book on family fishing trips, particularly the Rakshasa, which I tried to name a cat after, but had to add a glottal stop to, because of pretentiousness.

I learned about his passing here.

DM School


Five years reading the OSR blogs, though it changed my outlook on games radically from the start, hasn't really made me a better DM. So, this year for both my home game (N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile Gods using B/X rules) and my new gig DMin' D&D Encounters at the game store (Scourge of the Sword Coast using D&D Next), I've taken myself to DM School using a quaint old-fashioned technology called PDFs. I was going to say 'books' but they've pretty much all not been actual books.Before the list of books I should mention The Angry DM, whose series Getting The Most Out of Your Skill System has become, over 4 or 5 parts so far, the best thing I've ever read on running a game. (It has moved well beyond skill systems). I wish I knew how he understood the necessary function of things at the table so well. Those articles are really better than all the books below together, but I read the books before I found out about Angry.Anyway, the best book of the lot is Gamemastering by Brian Jamison. Free in PDF. I think the character creation chapters are pretty kooky (mainly because I've only played dungeon crawls that don't involve much in-character roleplaying), but the rest of the book--and I'm not joking now--really does provide a system whereby you can let your players go wherever they like and do whatever they want and you will know what to do when they get there (with a perfectly manageable amount of prep, that is). Maybe you already know how to do that, but I didn't. Maybe you'd like more specifics, but the whole book is free for you to read, so I would direct you there.The next best is Robin's Laws of Good Gamemastering, which I get the impression is regarded as a classic. It mostly deals with learning what your players what out of the game. Seems like I should have thought of that long ago, but I never did until I read this book. I've seen his system repeated a few times in my reading, so that's another reason I think it's a foundational text. Laws has become my hero, along with Ken Hite (even though Ken can get a little Ted Nugent-y) because of their endlessly intelligent podcast. Ken & Robin Talk About Stuff. It could be the endless intelligence starts right after the name of the podcast.Laws's Hamlet's Hit Points was also eye-opening, if a little dull to read in the beat-by-beat breakdowns.Dungeon Master for Dummies (the 3.5 version) was also worth my time. The most important thing I took from it was the emphasis on bringing excitement to your narration and such. I'm pretty inhibited and hung up about expressing myself, so that could result in being boring to my players. Don't want that. This book also has some really neat encounters in it.And now just a few bullet mentions:The Lazy DM was succinct and all lean muscle. And the title is after my own heart. I want to read Sly Flourish's DM Tips too, but I'm wary of 4e focus I whiff in the air. I'm not edition warring here, it's just that I won't be playing any more 4e now that I need to learn Next. Well, Next is so much like a retroclone that the learning has been quick.Play Unsafe was so great. It led me to Keith Johnstone's books about improv, and those are expanding my mind in areas beyond DMing.I'm also working through Johnn Four's Faster Combat "52 Week Course." It's been released as a book now too. It's probably not necessary. I though I was going to be running 4e in two-hour blocks, so it seemed that speeding up combat would be essential, but with D&D Next, it's not an issuse.Finally, I would avoid these:My Guide to RPG Storytelling by Aron Christensen. It's a bad book.Never Unprepared by Phil Vecchione. Not very good.If anyone has read Gamemastering by Dominic Wasch or XDM X-Treme Dungeon Mastering by Tracy Hickman (or anything else on the subject) I'd love to hear your recommendations or warnings.I guess if I really wanted to know I'd use the internet . . .[...]

NPC Roleplaying Info Sheet


Name and Social Circle (adventurer? local authority? bad guy?)

Visual Mark (age, looks, distinguishing feature)

Vocal Mark (accent, diction, voice quality)

Status in Present Company (in charge, under duress, etc.)

Desired Outcome of Exchange (potential conflict with PCs)

Goblin nightmares


Did you know the -mare in "nightmare" meant goblin?

I'll bet whoever came up with these guys did:
(that is a big squig)

The Indo-European roots section of my desk dictionary (AH4) also tells me that the root mer- is also the source of, PREMORSE (an awesome word I didn't know--shame it doesn't mean 'regretting something before you do even it'), AMARANTH, MORBID, and possible MURDER, FOMORIAN, and MANTICORE.

Not to mention MURRAIN and MORTGAGE.

Have I mentioned that I love dictionaries?

Watch this Space for Apes


My name was picked in a drawing for review copies of Evil Hat's Khan of Mars and King Khan.

These appear to be stories of a learned ape known to visit, or to once have visited, Mars.

That is pretty much the raddest thing I've ever heard of. I'm looking forward to reading them and telling you whether I think you should fling some of your ape-dollars Evil Hat's way.

Here's a pretty sweet looking cover:

At first frost the veil between worlds is thin as mist


In Boise this morning the spirits of the dead have left their frozen breath everywhere on the fading leaves.

(Matt Fox, from here.)

Keep your dreams well bottled these evenings, for the elves and witchkin are hungry for them.

House of Thurds


Thurd was a green martian city, enemy of the Torquasian horde. A remnant of an interplanetary expedition of antediluvian date survives in the local wilds and has of late joined with the red apemen and their beast-slaves to menace the defenseless villagers.

Who will stop them? You, and your pallid flabbiness and your rakes and sharpened sticks?

(This is just some half-assed mood setting for my next sesh--but do feel free to read it as political allegory--uh, but it doesn't really match up to anything.)

Here's a Thark as drawn by Mahlon Blaine:

d16 Death Ray Descriptions


  1. classic red with white-hot center
  2. steady blue with high-pitched hum
  3. slow purple dashes
  4. three red fan-shapes
  5. poisonous green ripple
  6. freezing white line with dangling icicles
  7. crackling clear column brightly haloed
  8. jagged & prehensile, perhaps with a hand
  9. looping yellow line
  10. spinning white cyclo-cone (or just a cyclone, if you like)
  11. expanding blue circles going "wump-wump-wump"
  12. silent and invisible (but deadly)
  13. helical green torsion
  14. multi-polychrome undulence
  15. three colors in a bundle
  16. bouncing yellow ball



CRITICAL HITS, CLASSIFIED ACCORDING TO WEAPON DAMAGE TYPE BLUNT WEAPONS (From the Equipment list: mace, morgenstern, flail; see also axes below) 1-Head trauma: save vs. Death Ray or be knocked unconscious; furthermore 1 in 8 such blows will destroy        an eardrum and 1 in 8 of those that fail to do so will destroy an eye; 1 in 20 of those will destroy both eyes.        Those wearing a helm and coif are protected from these effects 3 times in 6; the helm will be destroyed 1 time in  6 after preventing such a blow.2-Bone break, sword arm.3-Bone break, shield arm. 1 in 4 blows destroy the shield instead.4-Gut check: subject is winded, save vs. Death Ray or lose one round in retching.5-Bone break: hambone or shank, 50% for either.6-Broken rib: 1 in 6 of such blows will puncture a lung, causing death in 1 to 6 rounds. Those wearing hard armor (AC 3 or better) will be protected from any of the above effects 1 time in 6; however, those affected by a critical hit from a blunt while in hard armor will have their armor staved in at the point of the blow and will have their fighting capability reduced by one Hit Die. CUTTING WEAPONS (from the Equipment list: hand axe, sword; battle axes and halberds use this table or the one above, 50% chance for either, 1% roll on both tables) Roll on the Blunt Weapons table. AC 5 or better prevents these effects 3 times in 6. Blows which succeed in dealing a critical injury will cause serious bleeding 2 times in 6; such bleeds to the ham (result 5) will cause death in 2 to 4 rounds. PIERCING WEAPONS (arrows, quarrels, spear, double-edge swords, pike, dagger) 1-As Blunt Weapons, but 1 in 4 will gouge out an eye, 1 in 6 will be fatal.2-3-As Blunt Weapons, though there will be no bone break so healing may be faster.4-Pierced bowel: slow, hideous death.5-As in 2-3, though the possibility of death from bleeding exists as in Cutting Weapons.6-Pierced lung: death in 1-6 rounds, with fighting capability reduced. 1 in 8 such blows will pierce the heart. Hard Armor (AC 3 or better) will prevent such effects from piercing weapons 3 times in 6, though only 1 time in 6 if the effect is from a projectile fired from a bow or crossbow at close range.[...]

The Laws of 'Have a Summah' 2013 (updated)


1 Watch Jaws
2 Drink lemonade, even if it's Kool-Aid lemonade
3 Switch to some summah pants
4 Remember the gorillas and keep them holy

5 Breathe deep the boxes and bits of board games every day
6 Listen to Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack on Who Charted?

Supplemental: do choose a summah gum.

You want a quotation from Proust? Here's quotation from Proust (one sentence) (it's even appropriate to the summah theme and timely for the July 4th holiday):

"Whereas before my visits to Elstir's studio (before I had seen in one of his seascapes a young woman wearing a dress of barege or lawn, on the deck of a yacht flying the American flag, who imprinted the spiritual replica of a dress of white lawn and a flag in my imagination, giving it an instantaneous and insatiable desire to set eyes on dresses of white lawn and flags by the sea, as though I had never seen such a sight before) I had always striven, when looking at the sea, to exclude from my field of vision not only the bathers in the foreground but the yachts with their sails as excessively white as beach clothes--indeed, anything that prevented me from having the feeling I was gazing upon the timeless deep, whose mysterious existence had been rolling on unchanged since long before the first appearance of mankind, even the glorious weather that seemed to veil this foggy, gale-lashed coastline behind summah's trite and changeless aspect, filling it with an empty pause, the equivalent of what is called in music a rest--now, however, it was bad weather that seemed to have become the unfortunate accident and to have no place in the world of beauty; and so, burning with the desire to go out and seek from reality what had so stirred me, I hoped the day would be fine enough for me to see from the clifftop the same blue shadows as I had admired in Elstir's picture."

(From In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower,  trans. James Grieve)

Hey, Sci-Fi or Fantasy writer types


Go look at this:

It's a fundraiser for the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' Workshop at UCSD. You set yourself a writing goal and then you ask for pledges to benefit the Workshop.

I'm not involved (other than seeking pledges) with the Workshop or the Foundation, but I thought it might be a fun way to motivate myself to get back to work on what I wrote during NoNoWriMo.

You can sign up too--in fact, they are less than half way to their goal of participating writers.

Do it!

Another D&D movie. Will it be as good as the last one?


(Here's where I learned about it, on The Nerdist.)

It seems someone decided the Dungeons & Dragons brand wasn't degraded enough by that movie in 2000 (that somehow starred Jeremy Irons and Thora Birch), or the one after that (that I saw on the Sci-Fi Network among its peers in quality), so they've sold Warner Brothers the rights to make a new D&D movie. Maybe they're timing it to remind you exactly what you're going to get with D&D Next?

The Screenwriter: David Leslie Johnson, whose name is on Wrath of the Titans, which Leonard Maltin described as "a film that uses CGI as a substitute for good writing," and Red Riding Hood which is an adaptation of Red Riding Hood, so who gives a shit? But Melissa Silverstein had this to say:  The film reminded me a lot of Twilight except that there were no sparkling vampires. So, that's everything you need to know.

The Producers: Courtney Solomon who directed the 2000 Dungeons & Dragons picture and--WAIT A MINUTE--Roy Lee, who was a co-producer of How To Train Your Dragon, which is one of my favorite movies ever. I honestly enjoyed it more than Star Wars. So, there's ample reason for you to ignore anything I saw about movies. (Lee is also a producer of a bunch of  horror movies I know nothing about.)

I'm sort of interested in Roy Lee, but other than that this whole project reminds why I don't want anything new from "Dungeons & Dragons"  and why I'm not at all interested in D&D Next.  Dndclassics is lovely and brilliant, however.

I'm still going to go to the movie, though. If you're like me, we're all doomed.

Go support the Cartoon Action Hour Kickstarter


Lords of Light! Spectrum Games is doing a Kickstarter for Cartoon Action Hour Season 3!
(Read about it here.)

This is my favorite game concept in all of role-playing: emulation of '80s animation. It's what goes on in my head AT ALL TIMES.

Hey, why not pool a few pesetas from your whole game group and go in for the high backer reward levels and have Spectrum Games immortalize your own series concept. I'm considering doing that myself, which means there might soon be an "animated" series about tickle arms and double bear-bataurs. (And that's nonsense to you, which means I need to write something about it soon.)

A replacement for read magic


It's Swords & Wizardry appreciation Day! (Like you didn't know, you cheeky monkey.)Here's a spell:Black CandleSpell Level: Magic-User 1st levelRange: as candlelightDuration: as candle (depending on material)This spell creates a halo on unlight that only the caster can see. The unlight makes some invisible writing visible and makes magical writing readable while within the halo of unlight. This spell will require some rules for candles (how far their light illuminates, the different properties of wax and tallow, etc. because I seem to enjoy that kind of very granular nonsense).Is it the candle itself, the wick or the flame that is black?The material component is a candle that is lighted behind the caster's head.(I seem to have strayed into Hot Topic Pop Music territory here, but that really wasn't on my mind.)This spell is intended to replace read magic, but it started life as kind of magical light that could help adventures see their way through darkened depths without broadcasting their location to the slobbering blood hungry denizens therein.It also reminds me of the time I somehow wound up at a concert for this Goth-looking band called Wick (I can only assume my band or a friend's band was also playing that night--there's no other reason I would have been in that place). One song featured the singer coming out into the audience for a sort of shout-along where he'd jab the mike at you so you could shout along with one particular word.Naturally, when he got to our table (of course I was sitting down at a rock show--I hate rock shows!) my girlfriend and I just stared at him stupidly. We didn't know what word they were shouting (earplugs) and hadn't really been paying attention (though we were positively squinting with the effort of willing him not to come to out table).So he threw us the mike and we gave him the cow eyes and he walking away, saying over his shoulder "all you had to say was _____."  That's all I remember--I don't remember if we left right then, or what happened after if we stayed (I was probably drunk)--and I don't even remember what the word was we were supposed to shout.That's what this spell reminds me of.There's also a coupon for you:And one for the d20pfsrd shop :SWAD252013[...]

Do you remember Thool's horrible moth people?


Way back in the oughts, The World of Thool blog featured a picture of a terrifying moth man that was some kind of replacement for elves. I would love to show you a picture of it, but I haven't been able to find it for a few years now. That could be because I don't remember any names connected with it. I might have been an illustration from an Arthur Machen story.

Do you remember it? Could you help me find it, pretty please? Thank you!

Oh, here's what I plan to do with it:

"Elves" in their natural state are horrid (to human eyes) moth people who want to EAT YOUR DREAMS. They appear to us as fair, graceful and musical because each and every one of them (it's an ancient cultural tradition--and 1000-year-old people can be so conservative) projects a narcissistic image of their idealized self through a kind of glamour stored in a (very carefully secreted) charm, which is of course fueled by moonlight and mortal dreams. Should the charm ever run dry, you'll catch a glimpse of the elf's true appearance, and things will never be the same.

These horrid moth predators are creatures of Morpheus, god of dreams (so elves may very well choose to look like Cure fans), and as such are able to walk in mortal dreams and pillage them for whatever they like. Dreams themselves are priceless unique jewels, obviously. This is why elves are immune to sleep spells--they just step back out of the dream world like nothing happened.

They explanation for their immunity to ghoul paralysis is similar--a ghoul's attack can only reach the projected image, leaving the elf themself free of the old eaten-alive waking nightmare. They prefer to be on the other side of that equation . . .

This plays on an idea in that Cugel story "Eyes of the Overworld," although it came to me as I was thinking about who it is you talk to when you talk to yourself, and The Last Psychiatrist's writing about our own cultural plague of narcissism. And I should also credit the way my friend Adam played a very haughty elf in my Mutant Earth campaign.

Not bummed about Dwimmermount after all


Turns out the announcement of ACKS-only release was a mistake; furthermore, I learned from Jeramy Deram's comment on my lamentation post that ACKS and LL are mostly the same, so for both of those reasons let me say that I am thoroughly restored in my satisfaction with Autarch's plans to finally release Dwimmermount.

(Although, the Kickstarter update does specifically mention that ACKS is ascending AC and I don't like that. I'm a Delta's Target 20 man.)

While I'm retracting things, I'll mention that I was totally mistaken yesterday about OD&D's wording on read magic, so my whole motivation for writing about it was off base. It was still a worthwhile and edifying mistake, so there's that. I'll have a read magic Through The Ages thing later today. I learned, for example, the value of actually reading the piece of text you feel compelled to comment on. I'm reminded of a red-pen note my 12th-grade English teacher wrote on an essay exam about Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood: I quote in full from memory, "Did it ever occur to you to write about a book you thought you understod?"

Here's something else not even children still need to be taught (though it might be germane to D&D):

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="420">

It's pretty quiet, so here's what he says: Rules are only meaningful if people agree to follow them; otherwise they're just words."

And he says words like it means "flatulence."

P.S. (Not related to He-Man) Do you think there's any chance Angel's son is named after O'Connor?

What's the deal with read magic?


So why read magic? I have to admit I've never seen it used. I never played a magic user as a kid, because I'm a bonehead and only wanted to play minotaur barbarians (and, yeah, I was a teenager during the Dragonlance years, at least when I played on Krynn).

I don't even know if it exists in 3.x. Let me check the SRD. It's there as a 0-level spell that's used to "decipher magical inscriptions on objects—books, scrolls, weapons, and the like—that would otherwise be unintelligible".

What started me thinking about this was, not surprisingly I guess, the way the spell is presented in OD&D (which I really should quote here, but I don't have my booklet with me) because it implies that magic-users  will need to have this spell on hand for any spell-reading they want to do, say at memorization time. That could be a welcome brake on the power of higher level wizards, but it's hamstringing to the 1st level guy, isn't it?

Here's what my copy of Swords & Wizardry White Box says: "allows [you] to read magical writings on items and scrolls. Magical writing cannot be read without . . . this spell." And the duration is specified as "2 scrolls or other writings."

Do these magical writings include your own spell book? What do you suppose this spell was originally intended to do? How do you use it? Did you piledrive it too? (If you haven't read those posts at Monsters & Manuals, I'd say they're worth your time.)

I have an idea for a variant--which is really just a re-skin, but I suppose I'll save it for Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day (April 17), in case I don't think of anything better before then. It'll even give me time to write it.

Dungeons & Dragons Cartoon Action Hour


What you should do, in your next game at 1st level, is send the PCs through a portal to a room where they find several powerful weapons: an Invincible Shield, a Club of Thunders, a Cloak of Invisibility, a Hat Full of Spells, an Energy Bow and a Stick. That sort of thing.

Then they can spend the session striding like colossuses through the Realm of Dungeons & Dragons (maybe they need to find a pretty flower to defeat the beholder with) before being shunted back through the portal to their workaday perilous adventuring lives. It might be a kind of April Fool's joke--just not a very good one.

This idea comes from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode ("Remember Me"--4.5) where Dr. Crusher gets trapped in a warp-bubble universe, or any of the other stories in the world where you spend some time in another world--like when Jack Tripper was going to win the lottery and, as a kid, I was very worried that that would destroy the show and I wouldn't get to watch it anymore (though I guess that's more the threat of an alternate dimension, and only sort of). Did you ever worry, when you watched TV as a kid, that if the world was destroyed in the show you yourself would be killed? That was the best.

It's funny to me to play Dungeons & Dragons--the animated series--as a Cartoon Action Hour series. You should do it too.

Oh jeez, don't forget the bleating unicorn foal!


Now I'm bummed about Dwimmermount


The latest Kickstarter update says Dwimmermount will come out only with ACKS rules, leaving the Labyrinth Lord version for Maliszewski to do, should he decide to. So, that's not the product I wanted. My other option is a refund.

Before this the Dwimmermount situation didn't bother me much at all. I'm weird I guess--I waited five years for 17 Lone Wolf books and would have waited another 5, but never mind that. The hook here is that I didn't blame Malszewski for any of it, but I'm unhappy with Autarch's decision here. I don't want an ACKS product, not because I dislike that system, or even know anything about it, but because I already have a system I prefer and Labyrinth Lord is pretty close to it. (I got as far as "Bladedancer" on the list of classes in the RPGnow blurb and decided it was not anything I was interested in. Dumb I know, but as dumb as the name "Bladedancer"?) I did just now notice that their system is pronounced "axe" so I like that at least.

But honestly, I would assume the ACKS version will be pretty easily usable with OD&D, I just don't want to do the work of looking into a different set of rules. Am I lazy enough that I'd rather have the money than the beautiful artwork and a book I can hold in my hands? I guess not, and that's why I'm unhappy about it--I'm going to get the book, but it's not going to be quite what I wanted. It's like a Joss Whedon story or something. At least nobody had to die.

Ripper R.I.P.
(image from

Cartoon Action Hour Season Three is Coming!


I have a tradition here at The Like of mention Cartoon Action Hour (the RPG of 80s animation) every year or so--it's about how often I check

Today I learned that a new edition of Cartoon Action Hour is threatening release (as mentioned here at the end of January), so please allow me to launch the first broadside in the CAH Edition Wars:

Season Two Forever! O! S! R! O! S! R!

I kid. I'm looking forward to the new edition and I hope it becomes a thriving, community-building hit for Spectrum Games.

My new series shall be called Under the Heel of Pharaoh Chewbacca and new eps. will air on Saturday mornings on the My House Network--as soon as the pilot is ready.

Can your band of scrappy misfits survive on an Iberian peninsula colonized by Egyptian religious zealot carpet monsters from space? Even if they can, what'll they do about the Hawkmen?  I have a bad feeling about this . . . 

Mongoose's Lone Wolf line has been terminated


Just go here and read about it.

It's lovely timing, as I have an event coming up on my calendar called "5th Anniversary of the Magnamund Mega Deal."

Five years ago I paid Mongoose about $660 for a full line of reprints of Joe Dever's Lone Wolf books, up to about number 30, many of which had never been published before. Or something.

They managed to deliver, in those 5 years, 17 books and now the line has been terminated. Oh, there were also two novels in addition to the game books. So that's about $34 per book. Subscribers are being offered credit in Mongoose product, which is somewhat generous to those who can imagine any product they'd want from Mongoose besides Lone Wolf.

Oh well. I haven't even read any of the books in these 5 years--well, I read Flight From the Dark through once last year and hated the stuff they'd added to it.

I wrote 50,000 words this month


That is all.