Sunday, May 31, 2020

June Schedule

I'm going to try something different for the month of June.  Here is my intended schedule for writing posts for three blogs that I'm running:

The schedule may look a little heavy, but I've been writing the equivalent of this schedule for the last month, and more than this for the last two weeks.  Still, its biting off about the most that I can chew.  I will try to get these posts up as early as I can on each day, often the night before, as I'll consider the start of the day at midnight EST (10 pm the evening before my time) as soon enough to publish.  Sometimes, I'm going to be late; hopefully, never later than 10pm my time the day it's due.

I'm going to continue writing for this blog, the Tao of D&D, and for the Higher Path, reducing both blogs a few posts from my pace in May.

Authentic Adventures Inc. is being introduced publicly for the first time.  For the past two weeks, I have been making it available to my Patreon supporters who have given me a $10 donation or more.  I am adding it as a tier at that price, for those interested in the content there.

I will be using the blog to write adventures and story lines for general reader use.  Yes, I know.  This is a departure from my philosophy, and no doubt some will call me a hypocrite.  I still feel that writing your own adventures is better for you as a DM, and that it will improve your DMing more than any other approach you might take towards worldbuilding.  But ... there's nothing wrong with demonstrating how I do it, or the kind of adventures I design.  I certainly don't create the sort of linear adventure frameworks that I've seen in game modules.  I believe that an adventure and a sandbox can exist side-by-side, and not through some nonsense "give the players three options of what to do" rhetoric.  I believe strongly that the players should always have hundreds of options, and that those options should not be limited by what I can invent.

Authentic Adventures Inc. will try to express this ideal, not as an argument that I'm making, as I would here, or as I would on The Higher Path.  I will actually be designing the adventures, twice a week, including battle and dungeon maps where necessary.  My long-range goal will be to complete the adventure on the blog, and then collect and combine the texts, details and images together as a publishable object for sale through Lulu, like other books I've written.

I also hope to have readers correct or challenge my content, as a way of making it better; and because much of the content is the sort that can be dropped into any game at any time, I hope that some will try things out and playtest them, to further add substance and ideas to the work I'm doing.  I will, given the chance, playtest some of the material, but I must say I haven't had an adventure fail on me in more than 30 years, so I'm not worried.  The key is to be flexible in one's expectations, and build the adventure in a way that it doesn't have to be accomplished in a certain order, or indeed completed at all, in order to be a satisfying, amazing experience.

So, $10 a month gets you inside and provides you with weekly content on Mondays and Thursdays, timed so that you can find it, read it and add it to your game on Wednesday or the weekend.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

What You've Missed

Here is a list of posts that I wrote for The Higher Path during the month of May 2020, that you have not seen for want of a $3 donation, either to my sidebar or to my Patreon.

Finding D&D in the Dark:  the announcement of an allegorical, fictional book embracing the philosophy of D&D through the eyes of players over several sessions, on three levels.  The book presents the players in light of their day-to-day lives, the choices they make while gaming and the fictional player characters they create.  A 6,000 word preview is included.

Mentoring:  a proposal to approach worldbuilding through the blog as a structured, step-by-step process and examination, with an eye to supplying all the knowledge a DM needs to structure the function and behaviour of their game world.  A discussion follows on what the game setting is meant to accomplish.

Foil: an examination of the setting As the adventure, rather than merely a background.  I discuss freeing the game structure from the idea that things "end," while grasping the world being run as something "familiar," like your home, and related to the adventuring spirit you had in your childhood.

Being Bad: discussing the emotional temptation of breaking the usual moral rules of society as a good thing in D&D, and how it exists as a means to motivate the party to action.

And There Was ...: discussing the twin proposals of building a world from the top down or building it from the top up, suggesting that neither is very satisfactory and proposing a better, more practical solution.

Getting Started: a philosophical and practical discussion of a proposed setting's "weirdness" and "specificity," and the dangers presented by each.  Followed by the necessity of the world's structure being one that is designed for usefulness rather than novelty, as this will serve the players better.

Worldbuilding Aspects I: the beginning of a series that outlines the many aspects of the game setting, from the perspective of a DM being aware of how knowledge can produce adventuring opportunities while deepening and expanding the setting's scope.   This post discusses philosophy, religion and history.

Worldbuilding Aspects II: this post discusses geography, linguistics, literature, the arts and sociology.

Worldbuilding Aspects III: this post discusses economics and politics.

Worldbuilding Aspects IV: this post discusses education, communications and general science.

The next post in the series will be published on June 1st.

These, and many more posts, are available for a simple $3 donation.  The price of a cup of coffee.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020


Chasing around for information about milestones, I came across this post from DM David.  I withhold my endorsement ... but the post highlights an element in the game's present design that deserves examination.

I cannot appreciate that the writer felt the need to dredge up graceless player opinions to support the clear, scientifically established presence of what dopamine is and how it works.  This has been pointedly established in the games industry since Farmville and Candy Crush.  Is this still in doubt?  I cannot understand why D&D writers will not go directly to scientific sources for evidence.  This clumsily made argument takes up three quarters of the post.

The breakthrough in the piece isn't exploited (though perhaps it might be elsewhere on the blog; I'm not a regular reader:
... adventure writers hate fitting XP in their designs. Organized play campaigns typically required designers to write their adventures around combat encounters that net a specific number of XP.  Some authors met their XP quotas by adding bandit encounters until ambushed by thugs became a cliché of awkward design. Adventure paths pose an even bigger challenge.
"Designers have to jam in the 'correct' number of combat encounters to make sure the PCs level up at the right pace," writes D&D head Mike Mearls. "Adventure design thus becomes a process of matching up the right flow of XP to the correct tempo of the plot." Designers who wanted fewer fights could add XP awards for accomplishing story goals, but these awards lead to the same outcome as just telling players to level up. Just telling players to take a level skips the math and planning.

While the post linked above from DM David comes from January 2020, the quote comes from 2014.  The original page is gone, but you can see more of the post on Tower of Zenopus, five months after the final playtest packet was released for 5e, and more than four months before 5e's basic rules were released for play.  Zenopus makes many of the arguments that DM David's quotables make, and does it better.

Mearls in the longer quote from Zenopus says, "... a much better approach is to allow designers to present both options ..."

I'd like to know: are both options being presented right now?  Are the adventure writers creating milestone versions AND x.p. versions of their stuff?  I would imagine that if they are, they would hate that much more.  I confess I don't know the answer.  I don't buy modules.  I don't even steal them, though that would be easy.

I tend to believe that Mearls is paying lip-service to an established front being disregarded by the first part of the quote, in favor of the company seeking an easier way to do things While supposedly servicing those players who prefer role-play to combat.  I can't imagine any tech company, anywhere, arguing that they are going to give less options on a device because the coders find it much easier to write programs for, say, text recognition rather than sound recognition.  Nor can I imagine users of devices willingly surrendering features because, while we used to make them, we don't now because it is just too hard.

We do give up features, all the time; mostly because there aren't enough users to make the feature worth pursuing.  Is this what Mearls was saying about those using X.P. in 2014?

That would be strange, because the company hadn't released milestones yet.   Right?

There isn't a sentence in Mearls' quote that I couldn't write a post about.  Progressively, in making published adventures, they had ceased to recognize that the game's rewards were inherent in the system these adventures were being written for; but by 2014, Mearls is talking about how "we," the game's designers, felt it was their responsibility to decide, for us, how best to implement rewards.  He makes it sound like he defaulted to experience points because that was the publishing suite's choice, Not because those were the rules.  He describes writing something that the game doesn't actually need, "pre-made adventures," as "troublesome," as though that shouldn't go with the territory.  Writing this post is troublesome.  Making my dinner is troublesome.  Writing my own adventures for my own game is troublesome.  How in the hell does a publisher expect that something being made for a complex game like D&D shouldn't be troublesome, and how does its troublesomeness justify making an ad hoc change for a minority of writers who are unhappy with it?

This is one small corner of thousands of community-fracturing choices that were made by the company, and are still being made by the company, creating problems for me and millions of other D&D players who can't simply find a new player to run in their campaigns.  Every experienced player I enter into my campaign becomes a "troublesome" hodgepodge of necessary clarifications, negotiations, detailing, training, lines in the sand and potential argumentative blow-outs because the company could not agree on the game's fundamentals.

I asked this on twitter the other day:  how many decades can a company have its head up its ass before its clients decide to look away?

I got likes.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Who Does It Serve?

"Happy endings are just stories that haven't finished yet."
-- Jane Smith, Mr. & Mrs. Smith

For those begging for adventures to have stories ... stories have endings and the last thing an infinite game needs is an ending.  D&D is stuck in the headspace that the characters should somehow get through their times of struggle and reach that point where they will live "happily ever after" ... except they won't, because they will head off to another adventure and another, and die eventually.

The notion arises that players become "tired of this adventure" and perceive that there is greener grass over the hill ... but being tired of an adventure at all is a sign that the "adventure" has ceased to be adventurous.  Now it is just one long slog to the end, with the party duty-bound to clean up the mess like a group of maids who ought to be on holiday but were forced to stay home because the owners were sick.

From a zombie site of its own.
An ending exists to resolve the plot and theme, and all the loose ends, so the audience can go home sated and refreshed from their evening at the theatre or cinema.  This is necessary because the audience can't sit in their seats forever and the actors can't simply continue the same play credibly every week ... unless it's a serial, in which case maybe you haven't noticed it yet but television doesn't have "endings."  Deliberately.  Serials deliberately avoid tying every last thread because they're under an obligation to continue this story, given that the audience never wants to live without these characters.  Naturally, after seven years or so, as the show enters into it's "zombie years" and the writers burn out and new, crappier writers are dragged onto the show for less money, the audience winnows away (except for diehards who will die with their cold, dead fingers wrapped around this TV show).

As a DM, try not to burn out.

But then, "endings" serve DMs, don't they?  Is it the players who are anxious to try a new adventure, or is it the DM, who just wants an opportunity to quit this game and this genre with the excuse that the adventure ended.  I suppose a lot of DMs don't want to contribute a quarter or a third of their present existence to the trudging, accountable work-schedule of having to present the same world with the same features and the same logic week after week for no pay and little perceived appreciation.  Better to end this adventure thing, and thus end my responsibility, kicking off this liability in search of ... well, something else.

Because, shit, after running this campaign for a whole four months, frankly, I'm sick of it.

Monday, May 25, 2020


If you want to improve your performance as a DM, understand how to tell a joke.

A joke is the opposite of improvisation.  The pieces and parts of a joke are designed to be told in a certain order, with exact words, with the right amount of emphasis on each word so as to set up the joke without giving it away.  The pacing must be arranged so that the joke's delivery adjusts its speed in the telling.  To tell the joke just so, it should sound sincere, even if you've told the same joke a hundred times.

There are too many who don't understand what they're doing when they tell a joke.  They speak with the same flat tone throughout, they forget details, and then try to insert them out of order.  They give away the punchline by including the critical innuendo in the telling instead of waiting for the end; and they give the punchline with far too much expectation in their voice.  With such people, we give a half-hearted acknowledgement, perhaps a polite laugh ... and inwardly roll our eyes when this encourages them to tell another joke.

Describing a dungeon room, or an non-player character, or laying out the details of an adventure must follow the same rules.  Know what you're going to say and in what order.  Adjust the tone of your voice to emphasize important things ... but don't assign them too much importance with your voice, or you'll lead the players straight to the answer.  Don't forget details and try to insert them after; this ruins the scene as well.  Maintain a degree of detachment, conveying your indifference to what they investigate, but paint the scene and events with enough emotion that the players aren't sleeping in their seats.

This is not as easy as it looks.  Neither is telling a joke well.  Find a joke you like and practice it.  Explore the different nuances and strengths of the joke; think about why each word in the joke has been chosen from among a thesaurus of other, similar words.  Figure out what you think is funny about the joke and then dwell on that.  Remember, jokes are not intellectual, they're empathic.  If you don't feel the joke, it's a dead fish.

You'll know when you've told the joke well when you find you're enjoying the joke yourself ~ not because of the laughter you hope it produces, but just because you really like the joke, and it feels good in your mouth and your head as you deliver it.  Strange to say, but you may learn that the best part of the joke is not the punchline.

Which reminds me ... this student gets a job with a farmer for the summer, and one day when he's sitting at the dinner table with the farmer's family, this pig comes in ...

Friday, May 22, 2020


All right.  You're bored.  You've had two months and more to diddle around with your game design and try gaming by video ... how is that going?

Making you think, isn't it?  Oh, I know some of my readers are stubborn, very stubborn.  It may take five or six more months for it to sink in with them.  What, you might ask?  Ennui, my friends.  Ennui.

Yesterday, I came across this little screed from Gygax, in issue #16 of the Dragon.  You can find the start on p.15 of the link.  It is dated from July, 1978.  Prior to the passage shown, Gygax wails about the fact that D&D is a game, and games are for diversion and amusement ... and then in explaining what a game is demonstrates he's never read a book about what a game is.  This does not surprise me about Gygax; never was a man so ignorant, and so sure that he knew best.  He was the Dunning-Kruger effect walking.

In the passage shown, Gygax makes the same mistake that every anti-realist makes, with the same arguments and the same supercilious pedantic nonsense about how the game can never be real or represent reality, nyah, nyah, nyah.  And like every other anti-realist, he absolutely misses the point.  He misses the point by a country mile.

Being that this was written in 1978, more than half the readers of the magazine would have gotten their start in wargames.  Early D&D is soaked in wargame rhetoric; it drips from most of the pages in the Dragon and floods their advertisements.  D&D is a new game.  I was deep into wargaming in 1978, had been since I was 10, hadn't even heard of D&D yet; and everyone I played with in those early years played D&D and wargaming, exactly like the picture shown.  D&D hadn't proved itself yet ... whereas the "realistic" games that Gygax carps about in his essay HAD proven themselves.  Realism wasn't a bugaboo, it was functionally proven.  Gygax must have really looked like a dumbfuck worm to those people when he wrote this.  He didn't make any friends with it.

[hm.  reminds me of me.  that can't be important]

How was realism "functionally proven"?  Wargamers did not only care about little figures on fields of green.  They cared about the real thing, too.  They studied, re-read, argued over and lived accounts about Napoleonic battles, WW1 and WW2 ... hell, some of the people I played with had BEEN in World War 2, that ended only 33 years before 1978.  Some of Gygax's readers would have been in Korea and Vietnam, too; and some in the Arab-Isreali wars.  Imagine how Gygax's crying bullshit about realism went down with that crowd!

Realism mattered to them, and it matters now, because whatever may be going on with the little metal figures on the battlefield, or watching my 12th level D&D character die, the feelings I am having ARE real.  Realism is about having real feelings.  And the reason that people work so hard to insert realism into what is happening during the game is so that they will care what happens.

D&D, and the way it is played by millions of people, is unrealistic, silly and infantile.  The sheer magnitude of Gary Gygax's misconception absolutely astounds me!  He tries so hard in the article to sell D&D as a "fun time," as an "amusing diversion," or gambling, or sheer fantasy, or any of the other frivolous ways he chooses to describe the game ~ particularly in the way he tries to hammer home the facetiousness and shallowness of game play as something that should not be taken seriously.  Well, exactly.  The way he saw the game, it wasn't.

And the way that his detractors saw it, then and now, is simply, "If it isn't serious, then why should I give a fuck?"

Checkers isn't all that serious.  It seemed like fun when I was 9, but I don't play checkers now.  I haven't played checkers in 20 years.  And when I last played it, I didn't care.  I played it for the sake of my nephew, who wanted to play.  Right now, I would rather do the dishes, or pull up all the carpets and wax my floors, or carry garbage out to the dump, than play checkers.  At least I'd be doing something I vaguely cared about, where the result was meaningful.  If Gygax, and all the little droids who have followed him through my 40 years of playing, want to argue that I should change my view of the game to make it something insubstantial and pointless, then guess what:

I would quit playing.

And most do.  Most of the people who have ever played this game, quit this game.  And mostly, I would argue, because they ran into this brick wall of a philosophy that said, "NO!  We will not make this game matter!  Damn it, the game is supposed to be fun!  It is just a game!"

Shut up, Rudyard.

I can't imagine what an obtuse, thickheaded self-important little vain, preening egomaniac Gygax must have been, but reading this article with a clear eye ~ and others he wrote in those early days of the magazine ~ sure make it pretty damn plain.  We know from hundreds of sources that he did not make D&D on his own, yet every reference he makes to the game sounds like he's defending his own baby child, which is helpless to defend itself without he himself girding on a sword and going to war.  Given the man's actual experience ~ his minimal success as a student, his lack of ever holding a position of real responsibility, the utter fuck-up he made of his company, basically handing it over to sharks ~ I have no idea where his certainty came from ... but his rhetoric and approach to everything reminds me of another inexplicable "success story" that managed to bloat his way into the highest office of the land.

Okay.  Not bored now, are you?

If you find yourself grumbling after some rough isolation about what the game is to you or what it means, or why video seems like a stillborn birth with the cow's placenta poured out on the ground (thank you, Disney channel), the reason is this.

You've managed to distract yourself with company and babble and jokes and personal social contact.  You've convinced yourself that good company came about because it was a good game.  And now that you're stuck with the game, and just the game ... which you've tried to work on, because hell, you've got the time and you're bored ... you're feeling an inexplicable ennui about everything.  You're hoping this whole covid thing can just end so you can return to your friend's company and escape having to resolve this issue between you and the game as it stands; but that doesn't look like it's going to happen soon.  In the meantime, you're looking at this game, this game you love, and for reasons you can't put your finger on, it doesn't seem to love you back.

In fact, it just sits there, waiting to be played.  Only, you're not having as much fun playing it.  For some reason.  You get online and set the game up with cameras and ... you don't feel anything.  For some reason.

If the game is just a game, then why do you even care?

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Every Wandering Monster is a Plot Hook

I don't understand the hate that online pundits have for the wandering monster, or that coming from common players, particularly of the later editions.  I can only assume it is because the literature did not understand the gift that wandering monsters are, or how to convey the value of this idea to the community.  I suppose that has much to do with the flat, lifeless tables that usually accompany every mention of wandering monsters, and the railroad-like nature of most settings.  Players are anxious to get to their destinations, like travellers who will drive all night because they resent having to find sanctuary in some city they'd rather bypass than recognize as having its own value.

Speaking for myself, I enjoy stopping when I travel.  I enjoy the unexpected discoveries, the opportunities to taste unexpectedly delicious foods being made in some obscure corner of the country ... the delightful views and the languorous pleasantries of some villa or lakeside inn.  I don't see journeys as reasons to rush, rush, rush, turning a blind eye to the landscape as though it should all turn black and therefore be less of a distraction between me and my destination.  And of all the games where rushing to the end makes the least sense, D&D must be first on the list.  The game doesn't end!  What in the hell is all the hurry to get to an end, when the "end" is immaterial?

As a DM, every monster stumbled across along the way is an opportunity to set the hook for another adventure, another interesting find, another wild ride.  No matter what the monster is, there's always a reason to wonder what it is doing there?  What is it's motivation for being?  What trajectory across the country is it taking, so that it crosses paths with the party?

We don't have to see the wandering monster as a thing happening in a bubble!  If it is a mess of giant insects, are they not part of some infestation?  If thieves, perhaps they have some scheme that they're trying to fund by highway robbery ~ a scheme worth considering.  If it is some group of pilgrims, perhaps there's a reason to break off and go to the holy site they're visiting; that holy site might imaginably offer things the party never considered.  What if it is a wraith, threatening the party while camped one night?  What is that wraith's backstory; what horrible series of events ended by the wraith's cursed presence, in this specific spot?  These are all stories, aren't they?  And I am constantly being told how important it is to get the party to listen to a story and get involved.

Well, have a wandering monster meet them on the road, grab them by the collar and give them a good, hard shake.  Even if the players don't decide to stop and investigate, even if they don't think it's their cup of tea, right now ... they won't forget.  That wraith isn't going anywhere.  If it's an obscure enough roadbed, that infestation might still need cleaning up.  The holy site will still be there.  And hey ~ whatever happened to those thieves?  Did they pull it off?

When the time comes, and the party reaches their destination and gets rid of the big bad, what do you think they'll do?  Wait for you to give them another cold adventure?  Hell no.  One of them will say, "Oh, hey, we're not doing anything right now.  Maybe we should check out that holy place and see what's up with that."

There you are.  Another adventure, ready made.  Before you can say Jack Sprat, the party's invested all over again and you didn't have to do a blessed thing, except to pay a little more attention to a good thing.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020


Intrinsic to being a DM is the self-knowledge that we're making stuff up intentionally to mess with the players.  For example, the decision to implement a flood, or catch the party in the open with a blizzard.  It seems difficult to justify the random occurrence of an earthquake, without a pre-created table that allows the DM to say, "See, I rolled it!"

However, we don't hesitate to make something intrinsic to the world that's harmless.  No one says, "How dare that DM arbitrarily place a house here, by the side of the road?  The bastard!"  We expect houses.  They happen every day, unlike scenery-wrecking earthquakes.  And yet arguably, we have much evidence to show that earthquakes are inevitable.  In many parts of the world, a mild earthquake does occur with such frequency that a small one is treated blithely.

It isn't the earthquake itself that produces that sense of unfair use of godlike malevolence, is it?  If the setting takes place where earthquakes can happen (or floods, or forest fires, or whatever disruption you like), then we must assume the event depends on the DM's word, eventually.  Nyet?  The real contention is not with existence, but with timing.  This earthquake seems to have occurred awfully conveniently.  Wasn't it thoughtful of the DM to impose this flood just at the time we have to get across this particular river to reach this particular castle.  Hm ...

Even if we do build a table, to get around this timing issue by perhaps rolling on the table everyday (in game), the chance of something occurring is still arbitrary, isn't it?  And just how small should that chance be?  What is the chance of a 7.5 earthquake in downtown Los Angeles, as opposed to Memphis?  [yes, Memphis]  Is it the same?  What is the chance of a spring flood on the Mississippi, in a time before there were levees?  What about Holland?  No doubt, very high.  But how high?  Are you able to judge?  And what if you say there's a 2 in 3 chance ... is that fair to your players, just because you made the determination ahead of time?  That is still arbitrary.

We can go crazy trying to make sure that floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, plagues, famines and other catastrophic events only occur when they're not a part of the narrative; but in game, when would that be?  Never, I should think.  Which I'm guessing is close to what you've decided, particularly if you've ever tried implementing any of these moments.  A second, or a third big event like this is going to seem, well, a bit coincidental, don't you think?

Personally, if it suits the campaign, I say fuck it.  Have an earthquake.  Wreck the city.  Drown a countryside.  You could start every session by selecting two twenty sided dice, like a big ritual, rolling them both in front of the players and saying, "If they both come up 1s, some pretty bad shit is going to come down."

That's fair, isn't it?

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Rushing to Cliches

It a natural human trait to want things to be done easily.  We search for the simplest, fastest way to do the dishes and still get them clean, we mow the lawn taking the least possible number of steps, we go to the grocery store as infrequently as we can, and if we have to, we dart in and out while touching only that which we've come for (this was true before Covid ~ perhaps we were practicing for these odd times).

Tasks and troublesome errands are best done efficiently.  Efficiency is the watch-word of business.  Efficiency creates more time, which allows us to do more tasks, which increases productivity and makes your boss happy (or you, if you're the boss).  There is an entire scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans, just to optimize human well-being and overall system performance, called ergonomics.  It is very interesting stuff.  It revolutionized industry in the 20th century.

Note, I call it a discipline.  A discipline is about training people to obey rules and use codes of behaviour; it even includes the use of punishment, such as suspending you, docking your pay and firing you, if you disobey the rules [the implementation of dominatrixes in order to maintain authority in your workplace is strictly dependent on the management].

Take note: efficiency, ergonomics and discipline is a great way to get things done.  However, each presupposes we know what the thing to be done is.  They presuppose a plan, a pre-existing design.  If we don't have a design, or even the inspiration for a design, then seeking the easiest way to move forward is a terrible strategy.

You are looking at a blank piece of paper, or a blank word document.  You have to write something.  You need some sort of adventure to run the party through.  This is a time to put all that stuff about hurrying along, finding the easiest way, applying efficiency and trying to contain yourself with discipline on a shelf.  If you look for the easiest way to create something, you're going to create something that is easily made.  And believe me, everything that can be made easily, has already been made, millions of times.

This is why cliches exist.  Writers and designers give themselves too little time, or some management official wants an idea in an unrealistic time frame ... or we're just too damn lazy to think for more than twenty minutes at a stretch ... and boom.  Out pops an idea that only leaps to the fore of our minds because we've witnessed that idea a million times.  But, in the desperation of finding something that can be invented in the short time we've got, it seems like a really good idea.

It isn't.  Stop rushing this.  Don't give yourself such a short time to come up with something.  Tell your boss you'll have an answer when you have one.

Creativity needs time.  It deserves time.  Give it what it deserves.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Change of Approach

Once upon a time I was a good little DM and followed the rules in the AD&D dungeon master's guide, actually charging players for the "privilege" of going up a level.  And then I stopped.  I decided that what mattered was the player being rewarded, not privileged, for having gathered enough experience to go up a level.  I stopped caring about the in-game logic of it.  I figured, really, what difference did it make?

I began to see other things in the rules that way.  I just didn't see why orcs had to be painted with one brush.  Why did all the orcs have to be "evil"?  Just what agenda were we serving?  Was there something wrong with occasionally letting orcs, goblins and other intelligent monsters act with other motives that an incessant compulsion towards cruelty?  Sure, some orcs could be bad.  Some humans are bad.  And perhaps it might be beneficial to have a society where the badness was more influential than the society's goodness.  But I saw no reason why a particular orc should be erudite, polite, considerate, generous or even respectful.  I saw no reason why orcs shouldn't plant farms, herd crops, attend their own form of religion ... and act more to defend themselves against aggressors than be aggressors themselves.

After I had been playing three or four years, I steadily re-examined everything that I was told to believe about the game world the books were proposing.  There was no internet.  This was 1983.  There were few people around with which to debate the issue, and most of those were my players.  I was free of influence.  I was the dungeon master of my own world.  I did not need a consensus of opinion, I did not need permission ... hell, I didn't even need to explain why I wanted to change things.  And my players, as it happened, didn't care.  Once they began to meet goblins and orcs who were ready to parley first and perhaps not attack at all, they shrugged their shoulders and went along.  Because they didn't care, either.

When I stopped asking my paladins to live up to a code, my players seemed fine with that.  When my rangers could focus on relating to the wilderness instead of how good they are, everybody was good with that too.  It seemed there were little bits and pieces in the rules that existed for no good reason at all, not when I looked closely.

Yet how odd it was, 25 years after I started playing, to find D&D blogs on the internet.  I had never been much into dalnet, so I came late to this party.  That would have been about 2004.  And all around were these bitter flame wars going on, about whether or not goblins should be evil, or how much players should pay to go up a level, or when it was right to take away paladinhood from a character.  These wars are still going on.

Isn't it all just silly?

Friday, May 15, 2020

Greater Turkestan

Just a look at my recent mapping efforts of western China, the Tien Shan and the Karakoram mountain ranges, using my new map coloring design.  This has been many hours work, more than 60 on the Taklamakan/Tarim Basin alone.  Much hand drawing in this.  And quite a lot of reading of thin historical sources.

Represents content on four different sheet maps.  Sorry I can't give a better resolution at this time.  If you open it as a link in another window, it will give you an expanse icon and you can see more detail.


If you run a world that suffers from uniformity, where all the countries seem the same, and where one town the party finds is a cookie-cutter semblance of the town before, and the town before that ... then you must invent diversity.  For your first go-round, I urge you to go slow.  Think of the marks you make on your world being like the symbols a tattoo artist adds to skin.  Whatever you do, you want it to be permanent.  You want not to regret it later.

What is diversity?  It is the pattern a society develops because of its land, resources, climate, historical happenstance and moments of genius that have popped up year-by-year.  A region becomes militaristic, idealistic or factionalized because of its relationships to other regions, the certainty of peace and its relevant wealth.  Some countries are destined to be slaves; others, to be masters.  Without Earth's history to sort this out for you, you will have to look at your world map and settle this yourself.  Don't fall into the mistake of thinking every region wants the same things; or values one universal treasure above all things.  Not every country loves money like Americans do; or religion like the Italians do; or solitude like Russians do.  Find a distinguishing, unique personality for every region ~ but like I say, do not rush into it.  Give yourself a great deal of time and thought before making a decision.

There is an old trope called "planet of hats": a condition where all the inhabitants share a single defining characteristic.  I don't encourage this as a solution, but I do urge the reader to use it as a jumping off point.  As TV Tropes explains,
"To some degree, this is unavoidable; you have only so much screen time or page space to develop and explore a culture."

As a DM, you have scores of cultures to create, so to some degree you're in this same boat.  But if you give the matter thought, you can see how the trope can be a short term solution, leading to greater and greater specifics ... in the way that the Klingon culture evolved over different series, as more and more thought was added.

Initially, you can designate a generalized wardrobe for five or six different cultures; perhaps, in some cases, for specific character races.  This wardrobe can be defined by the types of clothing worn, but also by its color.  Perhaps in the country of note, a particular seashell enables the cheap creation of a violet-bluish dye.  Or perhaps orange, or brown, or white.  Coupled with a clothing style, a player character moving down the street can tell the locals from the foreigners ... and we may suppose the foreigners are proud to wear the colors and clothes of their home country.  Just as they've all been trained to use a select kind of weapon, or carry specific charms or types of carry-all.  Perhaps they wear a kind of shoe, or like a particular beverage or food, one that reminds them of home.  Then, if the player stumbles across a bar deliberately made for members of another region, every one is suddenly wearing violet robes with headbands, and speaking in deep accents or another language.  If the players are looking for information about that region before going there, they should look for this kind of establishment.

Don't rush into making a bunch of details for every place in your world.  Make a few; and then as you run these groups in a campaign, let your imagination expand on what's already there.  Within a few dozen runnings, you should have three or four somewhat fleshed-out cultures ... and your players will begin to recognize them, and perhaps ask specific questions about what those people do, or like, or believe.

Thereafter, it can become much easier.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Villains Eat Breakfast

When I think of a "villain" to insert into a game, I do not think of someone villainous.  That is to say, I don't create a melodramatic, pantomime Disneyfied stock character with a single motivation.  Monsters suit that stereotype, because the monsters themselves are built in such a way that nuance is not part of their design.  A lich is somewhat focused.  Beholders, too, are rarely Renaissance-like in their outlook.  But intelligent, humanoid villains, the sort who had a mother (at least long enough to birth them), should not be wooden of personality.  Especially because they don't have to be.

It is supposed that to make a really good villain, or a really evil one if you prefer, it is necessary to fill them up with the worst possible qualities.  Villains are ruthless, cold, sadistic, narcissistic and whatever else we can cram into this empty-souled shell.  But I don't think of villains this way.  Villains eat breakfast, and like their eggs done in a particular way.  Villains can enjoy a good joke.  Villains get tired, and feel the need to sleep comfortably, in a comfortable bed.  It's all very tropey to have villains eat the worst-tasting gruel imaginable, never laugh and prefer sleeping on a wooden plank at night, preferably made of gnarled wood, but really.  A villain is not a monster.

Villains are people who do not think they are villains.  They're quite capable of seeing their choices as reasonable, even beneficial to others.  They've witnessed how the world works and they have a clear insight as to how to make that world better.  Obviously, the villain should be in charge.  Look who is in charge now, and how badly all this is going.

Villains can be generous.  They can make friends.  They can show loyalty to their followers.  They can make a deal and keep it ~ even if it does mean, sometimes, that it is unfortunately necessary to execute a deal-breaker.  I'm saying that, for the most part, a villain can play just like an ordinary person, who happens to believe they're right and everyone else is wrong.

This works so much better in game, because it is so much harder to kill an apparently generous, charismatic, evenly-tempermented person.  It is easy to kill a psychopath who is screaming maniacally.  But if you're not sure the person even is a villain; and you're not sure he or she isn't redeemable, then the response isn't quite so clear.  If the party blunders into a lair, only to discover it's very little like the lair they discovered, because first they must walk past soup kitchens for the poor, a temple where a priest of the character's religion takes a moment to greet them, only to find that the villain is in the process of having the docks of a nearby seaside town rebuilt after a terrible storm, it is a little harder to pull out swords and scream, "Die! Die! Die!"  Even if the players have seen evidence of some unbelievably awful thing going on just five miles away.  The connection, you see, isn't as certain.

Which should give the villain just long enough to release the killer land sharks.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Dead Cat Bounce

Plot armor is a writer's necessary approach when writing stories where the protagonist's life is regularly threatened.  Presumedly, the reader or viewer will like the character; and will not be happy if the character dies.  Bullets, therefore, can hit the character, but not kill the character.  The character can be poisoned, can fall prey to a brain tumor, can be kidnapped by aliens and be dropped down a well ... so long as things work out in the end.

There is a skill in making plot armor.  It has to be invisible.  Once the presence of plot armor becomes glaringly obvious, the tension in the story is gone.  Automatic survival, when it is understood to be certain by the audience, is boring.

D&D is not a writer's script or novel.  It is a game.  And by the rules of that game, stripped of all the rhetoric and self-aggrandizement, no one has plot armor.  Anyone can die.  In recent years, playing to a more sophisticated audience, writers have been moving towards an understanding that a universe with uncertainty is far more interesting and tension-building than one where most of the cast clanks about in their plot armor.

The risk, particularly in television, where an audience is cultivated for months or years before the death of a favored character, is that the viewer will deeply resent the writer killing their favorite character.  People get attached.

The question arises, is attachment a sufficient reason to circumvent the rules of the game and give player characters plot armor?  Clearly, many people think it is, because many games ~ and DMs ~ insist wholeheartedly that "a good game" demands less heartbreak and a corresponding amount of fudging on the DMs part to ensure no one dies, who should not die, unless the circumstances are such that dying seems like a proud, heroic, profoundly emotionally satisfying thing to do.

For reasons I can't guess at, I don't share this morbid fetish for sacrificing one's life for the good of the country.  I've always thought the important thing was to live and thus go on contributing to the experiment, and, like Patton, to succeed by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.  I consider death to be a pretty stupid way to contribute to anything; and that there is nothing sadder than a corpse, no matter what it died for.

Death, however, is inevitable.  And part of the process of moving from childishness to maturity is to recognize the fact of death, without the glitz and romanticism that a fetishist adds to make it palatable.  I'm not glad when a character dies in a film or a book.  I am reconciled to it.  I acknowledge that I can't change it.  In the light of friends and family passing away, at this awful time or any other, I accept there is nothing I can do about it.  I don't look for reason.  I don't ask to be recompensed with rhetoric or foolishness.

I know from observance that the game is a dead cat bounce without the ever-present spectre of death.  I don't like killing a player character; and I don't like having to take a hard stand with a player when they resist that finality.  But being a good DM is not all beer and skittles.  Being a good DM demands the ability to look your friend in the face and say, "You lost this one.  You're going to have to get over it."  And knowing, maturely, that within a few weeks, they will get over it, and appreciate the positive qualities that imminent threat adds to the game, making the game both terrifying and magnificent, because it includes loss as part of its fabric.

It is a very shallow person who believes they're serving their friends by eternally protecting them from harm.  Avoiding happiness is not the road to happiness.  People who are afraid of death are afraid of life.

Monday, May 11, 2020


I'm the first to argue that players should have a say in the rules of a campaign.  This doesn't mean, necessarily, that the DM should bow to the players' whims, and thus undermine the delicate balance that exists simultaneously throughout the game system.  But the players should be heard and their position, if reasonable, should encourage the DM to adjust the rules.

But despite what might be heard, the players should not have a say about the ongoing campaign, the setting or anything about the world's nature.  I recognize that players want to be pleased; and that they very much want to express their personal tastes where the game world is concerned.  But tough tookies.  The game is a struggle for survival.  And we do not survive by negotiating with the maker.

This puts pressure on the DM to step up and provide a game world that will entice the players, without the players' help.  Some DMs will find this relationship troublesome ... and will approach their game like a marketing survey, ensuring that all the players wants and needs are addressed and reflected in the campaign.  Some will argue this produces a game that is satisfying and pleasing to play.  Mind you, a synonym for "satisfy" is "take the edge off."  And that's what this approach does.

We are not selling the player a car.  We are not renovating the player's kitchen.  We don't want the player to feel comfortable.  The lack of comfort is what we expect the player to overcome. 

Yet this approach involves an element of risk, which makes it unpopular.  The DM has to make a world without getting help.  It is much more reassuring to feel the love of one's players directly, by adjusting and reconciling the world to suit their desires.  Where the alternative involves risking the ire of one's players, because the world frustrates their gratification and asks the players to pit themselves against a system that isn't friendly, DMs cave.

This is how you become the players' bitch.

Sunday, May 10, 2020


This wasn't a thing when the game was being run thirty years ago, but nowadays you'll find yourself as a DM coming up against something call "story inconvenience."  This is described as something that happens during the campaign that fails to move the story ahead or engage the characters, largely because they are more interested in doing something specific and your choices as DM are getting in the way.

There is plenty of legitimacy for this perception.  If the DM has sufficiently whetted the players' appetites for an adventure resolution, and is now jacking the players around for no reason, in order to spin out the adventure to keep it from ending, that's a bad thing.  If the DM decides there are going to be three crevasses that need to be crossed, one after another, because three sounds more troublesome than two, that's a bad thing.  Any time players are forced to repeat actions or experiences without acknowledgement by the DM that something needs to be done to maintain momentum through the experience, there's a danger the players will feel "inconvenienced" rather than challenged.  I have seen, and often heard, of DMs who gain gratuitous pleasure from making players fight six or seven randomly generated wandering monster groups between every narrative advancement.  So yes, I get it.  A game narrative should not play like a shaggy dog story.

At the same time, it is a failing to think that an RPG should function like a constructed play, following the strict principles as laid out by Chekhov's gun.  Not every element of game play needs to be necessary.  There is no requirement that every gun needs to go off.  A play, or a film, is constructed in a bottle, where only the cast members of the story exist.  An RPG's narrative does not need to be resolved and wrapped up with a bow in 120 minutes.  Loose narrative threads in an RPG are a positive feature, not a bug, because they will allow the players to pursue other potential adventures without needing the reset button of a particular home base or quest-giver.  Situations that exist for their own sake can be fun, unexpected, terrifying or highly beneficial ~ and can insert themselves anywhere into the player's activities without being either boring or excessively time-consuming.

For no reason at all, once I interrupted a party's narrative adventure by dropping them through a gate into a completely different game world, with no connection whatsoever to the events that had been ongoing.  The players had to adapt to the new world and solve the puzzle of escaping it, while participating in two or three adventures along the way.  This went on for three months, about 12-13 sessions, before they were able to return to Earth, and then complete the tasks that had formerly concerned them.  No one was bored; no one considered the deviation unreasonable.  Shit just happens.  The game's momentum was maintained and the players enjoyed the change of pace.

But ... inconvenience arises if I ever did it again to the same players.  Once is fun.  Twice is sadism.  The cruelty does no lie in the form of the adventure, but in its repetition.

We should beware thinking that inconvenience is anything more than the identification of some DM's tactic that was simply a bad idea.  To generalize all "actions for their own sake" as inherently wrong, because they suspend the pre-determined story line, is to misunderstand the artistic foundation of RPG-design.  Some car-chases inserted into movies are bad.  Some car-chases are awesome.  The determining factor is not "all car chases in movies are bad," though some think so; but that "only good car chases should exist in films."

An inconvenience is whatever the players think is inconvenient.  This has nothing whatsoever to do with what actually happens, or how relevant it is to "story."  We should not suppose that by implementing Chekhov's gun restrictions on adventure-planning, that we will rid our games of bad moments.  Many, many people react to sitting through a Chekhov play as an "inconvenience."

Friday, May 8, 2020


The ambitious DM may want to add an over-arching narrative based around historical upheavals.  Here it is best to think in terms of the Four Horsemen: War, Famine, Pestilence and Death.  But before we get into specifics, allow me to caution you: don't introduce a gigantic narrative of this type unless you understand how events like this trend and function.  If you know little to nothing about war, and the influence it has on society; or if you cannot fully grasp something like the Covid pestilence that is gripping the world right now; then you are out of your depth and your world will be better without your lack of knowledge minimizing the potential impact these events can have.  Nothing hurts a campaign than to have a narrative fizzle from lack of imagination or competence.

Additionally, when introducing these concepts, do not have them surprise the party.  A huge event produces an underlying, ongoing tension ~ as many readers are learning right now in real time.  This works enormously in your campaign's favor.  Knowing that there is a war going on two or three hundred miles away is enough to capture a party's imagination.  Having that war break out in different districts, perhaps one where the party intended to go, will send a chill.  Add to this the various incidents that accompany such events: assembling soldiers, seizing war materials, increased taxes, encounters with battlefields long after the battles have taken place, the unusual appearance of hundreds of crippled ex-soldiers, etc.

We may apply the same logic to famine.  A famine builds slowly; a poor harvest raises prices, week by week.  Certain foods are no longer available.  Incidents occur where people steal food.  There are hangings of such thieves.  Starving people begin to appear everywhere.  There is no food available in this town, at any price.  Resentment builds towards anyone who looks well-fed.  Crowds of people appear on the roads, moving towards places where they hope food is available.

There are many forms of death that are not included under war, famine or plague.  Natural disasters; horrific weather; political repression; predation by monsters or wild animals; and accidents.  An unusual number of these events can portent some unnatural power at work.  The death of a king or someone important can spark resentment, rebellion, the appearance of competitive factions.  The momentum from such events can build over months; and the aftermath can require months to overcome.

Each of these large narrative arcs can be ongoing while the players are wrapped up in simple mundane things, such as proposed in the last post.  It is one thing for the players to be immersed in following up clues in a book that will lead to the location of some large magic ruby; it is another when that adventure is set against a completely disconnected background of a pestilence ravaging multiple villages in the neighborhood, giving the players reason to pause before simply heading off to the next dungeon or ruin.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Simultaneous Plotlines

The traditional background for characters in literary novels will almost always be something banal and mundane.  This is because the novel's story begins when things get interesting; it is presumed that before things got interesting, they weren't.  Thus Pip in Great Expectations does very little before helping an escaped convict, Edmond Dantes is just a good sailor in The Count of Monte Cristo before being found guilty of a crime he didn't commit, Ishmael has never done anything of note before climbing aboard the Pequod in Moby Dick and so on.

Allowing player characters to make backgrounds out of whole cloth tends to encourage the creation of interesting and complicated stories, which we don't want.  The characters should embark upon their first adventures in D&D as empty vessels, waiting to be filled with memories of their earned exploits and deeds; they should not be old hands at this adventuring notion yet, particularly in a fashion where they can simply invent their purported expertise.  The practice downplays the value added by the game and puts pressure on the DM to provide real game events equal to the delirious fantasies of the players' imagination.  This puts the DM's foot in a bucket, right off, compromising the game.

If the players have no background of note, they must focus not on themselves, but on trying to make sense of the world they have been thrust in.  This heightens their attention towards details they are given; as yet, they have no goals.  They must find them.  The DM is thus free to effect a series of opportunities, which the players may freely grab because they have nothing "going" at the time they start play.

These opportunities need not be part of a single story ~ in fact, I would argue they absolutely should not be.  The world is a complex and vast place, with millions of stories going on at any time; the campaign is not a play or a movie intended to amuse an audience in the space of two hours, but a rolling narrative that is expected to last for 20, 50 or 1000 hours.  We have all the time in the world to insert hooks that lead to multiple storylines, which can then converge, or not, as we design.  While being pursued by an absurd number of bandits, the players stumble across an ancient book that explains the disappearance of a nearby island.  While passing through a village towards the island's location, still eluding bandits, a member of the party stumbles across a thief breaking into a house.  One of the residents of the house, a beautiful girl, falls in love with a member of the party.  The next day, now in the process of getting out of town, avoiding the girl, and the thief's brother, who is angry now that the thief has been arrested, the party stumbles across two of the bandits.  They escape the town, thankfully extricating themselves, and stumble across a travelling troupe of actors.  There they stumble across the author of the book about the missing island.  He's a drunk, and to get information of out him, they must help him get sober.  In the process of doing that, the girl in love shows up.  The player gives in, makes love to her, then tries to send her back home.  She goes, unwillingly; but is then kidnapped by the brother of the thief, to force a confrontation with the party.  And so on.  There is no one "story" ~ but rather, a narrative in which one plot line naturally enfolds into another.

The involvement of the characters is therefore catch-as-catch-can.  To follow any one course, they find themselves dragged into multiple petty difficulties, any one of which may offer an unforseen opportunity or bit of knowledge as the DM is able to provide.  There's never any chance for a lull, because while some one thing might be wrapped up (a deal is made with the bandits) there is always something else that is still ongoing (the thief's brother gets away).

A new plot hook can be introduced at any time.  Events can be significant or not, just so long as they remain interesting.  They don't need to be world-shaking.

But we can talk about those, tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020


As an opener, we should be clear that running a game world without walls and passages, where the players can go where they will and initiate their own adventures, does take a level of skill.  A world that functions like "a real place" will not come about of its own accord.

We are encouraged to begin campaigns with a dungeon, which is all walls and passages.  We are encouraged to set up a "home base" for the players, which ties them to a single place which, as DMs, we can control.  We're encouraged to provide the characters with a region "backstory," which is designed to prime the players, getting them to respond to the stimulus we select.  Many DMs write out this backstory, and other "essential" details about the surrounding area, so that it can be read often by the players, cementing the information we want the players to concentrate upon in their minds.

These methods work because they allow the DM to motivate the party.  I can persuade you to follow a course of action by putting the idea in your head.  I can adjust your thinking indirectly through phrases and incidents that cause you to think you're making up your own mind about things, where instead you're being influenced.  Clever DMing does this so seamlessly that players believe they're really pushing the boundaries of the world, when in fact they're locked into a predetermined format.  I've done this hundreds of times.

Players will often say that they want plain, direct adventure modelling.  Here is a quote from reddit, where yesterday someone linked one of the earliest posts on my blog (which received much criticism, still, all these years later):
"... I like to have some shiny hooks dangled in front of my face. Give me a nudge towards something enticing and I'll take it. It doesn't take much, but I need a little something. If I'm a Cleric, give me something to cure or banish. If I'm a mage, give me something to research or recover. If I'm a big beefy barbarian, give me something to smash. Don't hold my hand but let me know it's there, and I'll do the rest."

Essentially, he's asking to have his hand held, he just doesn't want it called that.  The reaction is familiar, and comes from experiences with DMs who try to present a sandbox, but do not understand that priming that sandbox is essential.  You cannot just drop people in a setting and expect them to locate an adventure; if you try that, you will get players standing around without anything to do.

At the same time, you don't need to be as bald-faced as the commenter puts it.  You don't need to limit your game world to dungeons and homebases, curing, banishing, recovering and smashing.  These tropes are indicative of a lack of imagination; and the commenter's embrace of them only reflects his preference for cliche over sitting, talking, waiting and indifference.

A game world has to move.  Players have to be moved.  But the hooks don't have to be blatant and shiny, they don't have to be dangled in front of the player's faces, we don't always need to satisfy the crying need for momentum with a dungeon and we don't need to saddle the players with a homebase to ensure a setting that is manageable.  There are alternatives.  Seeing these alternatives needs training; the individual needs coaching to see how priming works.  Blatantly obvious adventure hooks are fine for young, inexperienced children; but adults really do want more.  I want us to see that single-adventure campaigns are juvenile in outlook.  Like a film that includes three or four  plotlines, players should be able to experience three or four adventures moving along simultaneously; so that even as one ends, there are others ongoing.  This eliminates the possibility of boredom, or the post-adventure lull that so often destroys a campaign.

We can talk more about this tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

A New Direction

I have been giving several matters much thought.

This blog has become something as a dump zone for random musings these last ten months, since my decision to take my principle D&D writing behind closed doors.  That experiment has been both productive and moderately disappointing.  On no account did I expect a rush of subscribers to the closed blog, given that most of those who are able to tolerate my authoritarian, slap-handed way of writing were already supporting me through Patreon.  Nor do I think I pushed the agenda of driving new viewers to that other blog as aggressively as I might have.  I believe that is because I continue to see writing a blog as an enjoyable pasttime and not as a business model ~ and as such, I do not vigorously apply myself every day towards pressing for more money from my readers.

That is a good thing.  That is also a bad thing.  In this time of Covid, with the expectations I have for the economy and my chances of finding work (since I am unemployed), more and more I begin to wonder if this blog, and my writings about D&D, are my only chance of survival.  If so, then in these last 12 years I have made an awful mistake of every allowing my personality to show through the content.

That bridge is burned, however.  That horse has escaped the barn.  Which means either I must invent something so outrageously genius that even my detractors will be interested in donating more money towards my continued welfare, or I must lower my standards in order to create content I know people will pay for.

At this time, I don't know who still reads this blog, who isn't among my energetic and loyal supporters.  Even some of those supporters have drifted away in these very unpleasant times, which is understandable and believe me, they go with my blessing and my best wishes.  Nonetheless, who may yet be reading or no, it is my responsibility to produce content that can and will be read, both by people who do not like me and by people who do not yet know me.

To this end, I have a plan.  Three plans, really, affecting different parts of my online presence.  The plan for this blog is to return to regular Dungeons & Dragons content, rather than once a week or less.  Unlike others who might have ceased writing on their blog, only to come out of the darkness and announce they're going to write more (and then don't), I have been writing this whole time.  Just not here.  That will now change.

I expect to write smaller posts.  I feel very strongly that I'm not going to write about the gaming community or company.  My personal feeling at this time is that popular D&D has been ruined and destroyed beyond all redemption.  What further I might say or write on that subject would be a waste of my time and yours.

I shall, therefore, suffice with writing mundane material about rule-making, philosophy, game structure and DMing methodology.  As far as worldbuilding is concerned, I will reserving that for the closed blog (costing $3 per month through Patreon), which will go on.

I thank you for your patience in these troubled times.  I will commence writing ordinary material for this blog tomorrow.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Famine vs. Pestilence

The New Jersey Governor is saying that he's going to leave the parks open, so long as people respect distancing protocols; but if they don't respect those protocols, by god, he's going to close those parks again.

This is like saying, I'm going to leave the barn door open when I go to bed tonight, and if the horse is gone in the morning, then by god, I'm going to close that door again. I'm warning you.

Here's how famine works. If you are meant to be planting crops, and you don't, because you think you don't see any value in the work you are doing today, the day is going to come when you realize how wrong that thinking is. And now, there won't be a harvest; but at the time you realize that, you're not in trouble yet. There will still be berries to pick and herbs to forage for, and animals to hunt. You know, however, that months from now, you're going to starve. It will be slow, and it will be crippling. And it will be too late come spring to plant another crop, because by the time that crop ripens, you and your family will almost certainly be dead.

This is not how pestilence works. If you are hiding out, avoiding the plague, and you start thinking there's no value in all this avoidance you're doing, you might convince yourself it's better to go outside. But if you do that, pestilence is going to hit you like a bus. Just like that, bang. It will hit you, and you may last days, but then you'll be dead. So no matter how much you convince yourself that everything is fine, because you hid out to where you couldn't stand it any more, remember there are buses out there. There are buses everywhere.

Friday, May 1, 2020

A Short Post

A short post.  I'm working on some large projects which I hope to unveil in May.  In these strange times, I hope to come back to Earth in a better position than I was when I left, as CGP Grey describes.

It is no doubt easier to be a writer and an artist at this time than it is to be a pipe-fitter.

In the meantime, my daughter is with child and I am set to be a grandfather.  Good news all around.