Monday, August 31, 2020


As I work my way through the wiki, with some of my focus on shifting over old content and some on making what's needed, I can't help noticing how many things in old D&D are never properly explained in the original books.

Things come up because I am following the guidelines of the image on the right.  These show pages that don't exist, that are yet wanted by pages that do.  Right at the top, "cantrip" is mentioned on at least 8 pages in the wiki (and probably more often, where it isn't linked), yet there's no page for it yet.  Logically, this makes it more important that all the other 1600+ pages that are also linked but less often.  "Clan," "natural abilities" and "progenitor" are just as important, but we're going through this process alphabetically, also.  Basically, I want to concentrate on "what's next."  I like that something mechanical is telling me what that is.

This makes it easier to get things done.

As far as I know, none of the original books explains what a "natural ability" is.  It isn't even called that.  Generally it is used on monster pages to describe powers the monster can perform "at will" ... but there are no strict guidelines established for that, either.  How long does this take?  How often can it be done?  If a demon can gate in other demons at will, does this always mean it will do so?  What if the other demons don't want to be disturbed?  Demons are "chaotic," after all ... and if we don't use alignment at all, where is the acceptable limit for the number of associates a demon can pester?  If we're talking devils, who can also do this, surely there must be rules in hell about it.  There are rules in hell about everything.

Most important of all, how many powers can be performed at will per combat round?  One?  Two?  Ten?  No definite idea.  It suggests a limitation on some monsters in the old Monster Manual, but there is no reference anywhere else about this ability, and certainly no standardization.  As DMs, apparently, we were expected to have gotten this information from our mothers while we were in the womb.

This post isn't about natural abilities, however.  I haven't gotten to those yet.  Instead, I completed something today that there is an explanation for -- which, I have to say, I very much do not like.

The damned idiot notion that a character class is a "profession" and not an education comes straight out of the prevailing 1950s university dictum that people go to school to learn how to do a job.  Different job, different schooling.  This has been proved wrong only about a billion times, more or less literally, but it helps sell overpriced university degrees so here it is, still with us.

A fighter's training ought to be sufficient to perform any of the hundreds of character classes that have been invented in the last forty-plus years that stand side-by-side with the original fighter.  As if learning how to fight with weapons and organize oneself in the military can't be applied to hundreds of professions.  No!  We must have a perfectly individual specificity to every operation that humans can perform!  We can't have all this fluidity!  Stamp that person a teacher when they get out of school and DON'T let them use that degree for anything else!

Exactly why do clerics principally function as "supportive"?  True, priests support people, but they LEAD their churches, they don't stand behind the throne.  This is military speak for doctors, not religious leaders ... which is why we had to eventually gut the class and rename them after doctors.  We never gave the religious profession a chance, because it was too "squicky" for atheists.  And I know of no druids whom the players run as support-staff.  Just because a druid has 2 less hit points than a fighter and less armour, doesn't exactly kick them to the curb.  The description might as well say, "Fighters don't think."  It's all hideously two-dimensional and purposefully propagandistic ... and because no effort to do better was ever really made, the subject of what a character class is or what it stands for became hopelessly and appallingly polluted.

This shit is no better than the kobald crap I railed about yesterday.  It just takes less space and, because it is really, really old, it is venerated more.

We should be clear about D&D design always being absolute shit.  I didn't know that when I was 15; but I know it now.  I may run a game "based" on old AD&D, but I am so far from the original philosophy and approach I can't begin to find any relationship between me and the dreck written by Gygax.

The wiki is forcing me to address these things for the first time in writing.  "Character Class" comes up a bunch of times as I'm writing some other page, and I duly make a link to it, thinking, "One day, I'll have to write a definition of that."

Then, it's today.

The idea is to build a functional concept that expands character understanding and conjecture, not one that narrows it.  Don't tell me how a cleric principally functions.  Tell me how a cleric gets made.

With some game play and experience, I'll probably expand this page over time.  It deserves to be.  Given good reason, it would be worth the effort to delve into the exact procedure of education for every class.  But I don't need that just now, and I have a lot of other topics to write on.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

There is More 5e Content on Kobalds

First, a note.  5th edition's Volo's Guide to Monsters has more information about the kobald.  You can read the whole entry through this site.  Here's a screen shot of the first two pages; there are 8 pages in all:

I have to tell you, I'm still not very impressed.  The exhausting and annoying issue with all this content is the lack of details that would be of tremendous use.  Telling us that kobalds are skilled at tunnelling, and that they make small-diameter tunnels (I thought of that too) does not describe the exact size of tunnel or how much they can tunnel in the space of a day.  We're told it's "respectable." What the hell use is that?

There is this endless litany of where kobalds are and what little skills they have, but none of these produce a "feel" for a kobald's mentality.  Wikipedia does better!  Though, the wikipedia entry will disappoint, if D&D kobald is what you're looking for.  A problem I have with all of the 5e monsters is "splatter design."  We're told a dozen things in a short 260 word passage; and when we have eight pages, do we carefully investigate and expand those things?  No, we add a hundred other things: they're cowards, they loot, they're good with tools, they don't shun arcane magic, they're clever as crafters and strategists, they understand their actions contribute to the group, their plans always include an escape route, they are rarely affectionate, they don't have funerals, they're cautious, they get angry, they fear, they're this, they're that ... and this just goes on and on for eight pages.  Imagine reading a sociology textbook that just gives a long list of what humans sometimes do, believe or think.  It's tremendously boring, it keeps returning to the same theme over and over and when you're done reading it all, you know about as much about using kobalds in a game setting as when you started.

I mean seriously, take the bit about them being good with tools.  When are we going to use that, exactly, as a DM?  Have the party come along to find the kobalds fixing a cart, so we can say, "As you watch the kobalds, you're really amazed at how good they are with those tools."  Or maybe the party has caught some kobald prisoners, and now the wagon is broken, so we can tell the party, "You know what?  Get the kobald to fix it.  They're really good with tools."

You know who else is good with tools?  Humans who are trained to use tools.  Thank heaven that because those are so rare, we have murderous kobalds to help us.

Of course, more of this is to help out a player who is running a kobald, than it is a book about monsters.  The passages are really more to help the player know what to say, cookie-cutter like, when it comes time to "role-play" a kobald.  Make sure that you acknowledge that you're weak, that you're not that clever, and to get personally affronted easily ... and oh, don't forget about that ever-critical tool ability, plus a willingness to loot and find escape routes.  There, fleshing out the character, done.

It's like explaining the character of Willie Loman from Death of a Salesman thusly: you're a man, you're married, you've got a suit and tie, you carry a briefcase, you're a salesman, you have two sons, you talk out loud to people you used to know, that aren't there now.  Got it?  Great.  Start talking.

This is my favorite bit:

There are 20 names here.  20.  Arranged as an alphabetical list in two columns, with plenty of white space and numbered to save us the trouble of having to pick.  I've played this game a long time, I've never needed a name for a kobald; though I think, if I really needed one, I could randomly pick a consonant in my mind, randomly pick a vowel to follow it, then randomly pick another consonant.  Something like, I don't know, "Bob."  Bob the Kobald.  Fits fine.

Later on in the description, we find out that kobalds have cellars and sleeping areas, and mines, and mushroom farms.  Under "mushroom farms," we're told kobalds aren't good at agriculture.  It might interest people to know that underground mushroom farming is "simple" if you don't need to make money and you absolutely do not depend on them for food.  Otherwise, it is labour intensive and frustrating, since one small contamination can spread like wildfire and destroy the whole crop.  Ah, but maybe kobalds can eat anything.  We'll never know, because we spent at least a full page describing how kobalds make and use the same traps that every other humanoid in D&D uses.

I don't want to be petty, but eight pages of this content and there isn't one piece of information that isn't rehashed from books 35 years old, that I can use.  Back in the 90s, I could open a splat-book and at least steal some bits and pieces here and there, to fit into some table or redesign into a concept that would expand my system.  But with this 5e stuff, it's just old stuff rewritten, telling me that deadfalls are common traps, that kobalds attack light sources in combat, that they use poison, that tactics include ambushes ... it is just cliche after cliche for eight goddamned pagesIt's a little annoying.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Don't Send Any More Men! It's a TRICK! There are TWO of them!

Shown here is the 5e version of the kobald, evidence that writing out rules in books, even books with 406 pages, can only bring disappointment.  As usual, 40 years of D&D design, and what we get is that kobalds dig tunnels, make traps, worship gods and ... omg, some of them can fly.

This is pretty sad.  But most of it, no doubt, is a lack of space on top of a lack of imagination.  And we should admit it ... kobalds are kind of a lacklustre monster.  They're not very strong, they look a little silly, they're even shorter now than they were in 1978 and they're not even able to come out in the daylight.

I've never liked that -1 penalty in the daylight, frankly.  Kick a weak monster in the gronknuts, why don't you?  And for the most part I don't care what gods the kobalds worship, if it doesn't directly affect how they act or organize themselves in the game world.  It's not much of a story and it takes up 12 lines in a 47-line descriptive text.  Flying kobalds takes up another 11 lines, leaving us with all of 24 lines.  Of these, 4 are used to tell us how a trip wire works; 1 is used to say they inhabit dragon lairs (no idea if the dragon is still there); and 2 are used to tell us that kobalds are weak.  No shit, Sherlock.

It is bad enough that the book format doesn't give much room to talk about any creature in it, or that we've used half the bottom of the page to basically repeat the exact same stats for the winged kobald that a kobald has.  It's the bloody crime of not using the actual space to tell us anything we didn't already know about kobalds.  Hey, guys ... you heard of the Internet?  It's this thing that your entire market of 9-year-olds use every single waking minute of every single day.  Here's a surprise: it was actually around in 2014!  Something you should look into.

I have no great genius to add.  I don't have space limitations, so it isn't really fair.  Additionally, I have a game world about which I can make references that my readers will get -- so again, not fair.  Still, I don't feel that 5th edition is much of a "competitor."  DMs need ... specifics.  Details.  Grit.

As ever, I do what I can.  Read the whole wiki entry here.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Follow Her? I Don't even Know Her.

Running an NPC is a DM's best means of fucking with a party's head, pushing a party this way or that, and indoctrinating players to believe what we want them to think.  An NPC by definition knows everything the DM knows, so unless the DM wishes it, there need be no restraint on the NPC's ability to fortell the future, solve problems, know what other NPCs know and say it all to the players in a careful, dissembling tone that suggests the NPC is as innocent as a little girl fetching a unicorn.  In fact, the most evil NPC may look just like that.

If the players are wary of this, and most of the time they are, we can count on having anything the NPC says be completely ignored or deliberately tested.  Players will do this so openly and candidly that we don't have to guess that they don't trust our NPC.  There are two ways to play this.  The first is to have the NPC tell the party everything, so that when -- ironically -- the NPC proves to be 100% accurate, the DM can smugly say, "The NPC told you so."

The other is to gently poke and prod and wind the players up by having the NPC tell the party to do everything we don't want them to do.  Done in small bits, the party will never guess that it's a case of almost pathetically juvenile reverse-psychology, so ham-handed at times that although any of our players would roll their eyes if they saw it on television, they'll walk right into the trap we set.  Honestly, some times I wonder just where it is that players come from.  Aren't these the trust lessons we learned in junior high school, when we were all still dumb enough to trust our parents?

In any case, because NPCs can be dangerous weapons in the hands of the wrong DMs, there need to be rules that master them.

The standard tactic (5th edition included) is to create a set of tables that tell you the NPC's personality, usually revolving around the NPC's alignment.  Of course, a character with a good alignment can be every bit as manipulative, insistent and threatening as a bad character (since the first thing a "good" character is always ready to do is judge everyone else's "goodness"), but this is never discussed.  The subject material almost always discusses a willingness of the NPC to help the players ... which is exactly the argument I started this post with.  NPCs help players do what what they're supposed to.

5th edition hardly addresses the player's responsibility or respect for the NPC at all.  Certainly, we don't expect the players to respect them.  And yet, as a DM for 40+ years, if there is one thing I can count on, it's players getting attached to NPCs that they like.  If an NPC is good to them, backs them up, acts bravely, makes sacrifices ... then I've always found that players were ready to make sacrifices for them.

In my mind, I began to separate the difference between a "retainer" -- an NPC who appears because a player has reached Name Level -- and a "follower," being someone who wants to join the party because they like the party.  Of course, this depends on the party being likeable.  I challenge anyone to find any word in the 5e DMG that suggests the party be "likeable" with NPCs.  I couldn't find it.

I wrote these rules on followers today, this being the first time I put these rules into words.  The rest of the page can be read here.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

That is So Lamia

Have you seen the wikipedia page on the lamia?  Going back to the source material for this monster, it is a kitchen sink of conflicting explanations for what the beast was, with sources weighing in for centuries to describe what it is.  And none of them are anything like the lamia as it's described in the 5e Monster Manual or Dragonix.  Viewing the source, "lamia nobles" and a "lamia queens" are obviously ridiculous, while the 5e lamia is no closer to the real thing than is the old lamia from the old 1979 Monster Manual.

The 5e version is a true punch-and-play monster, as shown.  Blah blah, desert cities, jackalwere guards, caravan plundering, tons of treasure, scrying, seeks out adventurers with "pure hearts" (I just threw up in my mouth).  Jeebus, we could pretty much scratch out "lamia" and insert half a dozen other monster names, or simply a 14th level mage, in its place.  There's not a shred of originality in this.

Notice in particular what's missing: Kills Children.  Parents using the name "lamia" for centuries to scare little children half to death to make them be good little boys and girls.  Not just another desert queen with a few powers, grotesque disney supervillain, but a voracious, sexualized monster that removes it's own eyes because it can't sleep at night.  But hey, D&D is a childrens' game, right?  We can't possibly include a monster in it that was used deliberately to scare children, can we?

Having run the lamia in the old manual a few times, I never liked it.  The wisdom drain wasn't particularly scary and apart from that the monster does not even do much damage.  The 5e lamia looks like a hodge-podge of desperate.  The source material is a scattered mess, engendering pictures of lamia online that are indistinguishable from medusae.  The lamia is a queen, a lover, a snake thing, a child killer, a succubus, even a dragon and a mother of dragons.  Shee-it.  I had to roll this around for awhile.  Whatever I came up with couldn't possibly be worse that what I've seen and frankly, the only thing that really interested me was the snatch-children-and-kill-them thing.  I've already got monsters that do all the other things.

So this is mostly independent of any other source, except for one artist who offered me a respite from a thousand pictures of women with breasts and snake bodies (sexually ambiguous, anyone?), identifying the image below as a "lamia."  Take this monster or leave it.  I tried to be dark.  D&D is a game for adults.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Baby, I Can Warm You Up, 'Cause I'm Your Weatherman

Today's most excellent wiki page, which I've effectively rebuilt. It looks so much better.

In AD&D, Control weather is a 7th level cleric spell and a 6th level mage spell that provides a loose organization of weather types with very little exact detail about what any of these conditions will produce.  It was difficult running the spell back in the 1980s, without the sort of gritty information that is presently available on the internet.

It is particularly annoying in phrases when we're told, "obviously," that the spell must meet appropriate climatic conditions, as though we are either supposed to believe the only sort of conditions the players will every meet will be those that occur in Wisconsin, or that we are blessed with perfect knowledge of what storm conditions are possible in conditions like the African Sahel, the Brazilian Caatinga or the Yunnan Rainforest.  In 1978, when the Players Handbook was published.  It's surprising there isn't a note beneath that reading,
* Watch National Geographic, stupid.

In 5th Edition, the spell is described as an 8th-level transmutation.  The duration of the spell is drastically curtailed (from an average of 26 hours to 8), the range is much expanded and the casting time remains unchanged.  Note, please, that I charge the caster only three rounds; I don't see how more makes the spell more powerful, except that it is clearly designed not to be used in a battle.  In other words, the very powerful spell should not help 3rd level druids from casting call lightning or enabling any other caster to produce a spell based on the weather conditions.  Gah.

If at all possible, I want to produce rules related to things like spells that precisely detail what the spell will do.  Control weather has been one of the hardest spells I've had to rewrite.  I'm tremendously pleased that I'm beginning to master mediawiki's layout sufficiently that this spell can look a lot better than it did, when I edited the page six months ago.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Battle at the Snow Gate

If you wish, you can see the new progress on the Juvenis campaign taking place, in a wiki format.  The players are in a locked battle with an Ice Toad that has just exhaled its breath weapon, while a demon fashioned of red mud is forcing saving throw after saving throw.  Already, the combat is strained, with Embla having fallen into negative hit points, while the party has issues fighting a demon that can only be hit by magical weapons, when only two of the party have them.

Monday, August 24, 2020


Frankly, there's never enough description of monsters.  When I see something like this for a doppelganger, it's no surprise that the flavour has gone out of role-playing and that so much energy has to be spent crying out for more of it in the game.  There's simply nothing on the page linked to help a DM effectively run the monster or get into the monster's head.

The original description from the 1979 monster manual was not much better.

As such, we have to turn to other sources to gain insight into the creature.  I can think of two in-depth examples right off, though of course there are hundreds, since making one character that looks like an existing character is an old Hollywood trope.  It is effective, creepy and -- in terms of production costs -- cheap.  But while the T-1000 turning into John Connor's foster parents is a familiar enough motif, there are only two examples I can think of that attempted to dig deeper into a doppelganger's motives and mental state -- and both were "heroes," not villains, while neither ever used the term "doppelganger."

Some argument can be made that Mystique wasn't exactly heroic.  Her character was waltzed back and forth across the line of pragmatism so much that it eventually suffered from the necessity to satisfy the plot rather than maintaining a strict and acceptable character.  Even Jennifer Lawrence got to the point where she didn't want to play the character any more, a fact that was obvious from the way she walked through the part in the last two movies (and the reduction of her make-up quality because either the actress didn't have time to sit in a chair for six hours or agreed to sign on again only if she didn't have to).

But, the question of whether a doppelganger actually likes looking like someone else, or many someone else's, is a good dramatic question.  In D&D, the matter is settled because adopting another persona gets the doppelganger what it wants: power.  Asking a natural shapeshifter if it gets tired of reshaping itself is something like asking me if I get tired of eating, sleeping, writing or going for a walk.  Of course, yes, sometimes I do get tired of these things.  I don't know what to eat, I have things to do and I don't want to go to bed yet, I don't know what to write, I don't feel like a walk today.  But these things are actually so natural, and often filled with such moments of joy and satisfaction, that nothing about them are enough to make me stop.  Logically, a doppelganger could no more seriously want to stop changing shape than one of us would want to stop showering to get clean.

Then again, D&D has lots of doppelgangers, who have a culture and can share thoughts with each other.  There's only one Mystique.  That would have to really screw up a person.  How exactly it would screw up a person is hard to judge, however, which I would count as the principle reason why the character was never really pursued.  We could afford to give her a few minutes of angst in every film, but then the actual plot has to get resolved, so Mystique, if you wouldn't mind transforming yourself into an army colonel now, we could maintain the film's momentum.

A better investigation took place with Odo in Deep Space Nine, though of course now we're talking about someone who was distinctly an anti-doppelganger.  Much of his unwillingness to change shape resulted from the budget of a television show, especially given how much CGI costed in the 1990s to do relatively simple things believably.  His character had to be designed around that reality, so that most of the time Odo did entire episodes where this didn't take place at all.  It was an extreme case of informed ability -- though an understandable one (not like Riker).  We had to be told that Odo didn't like to change publicly, treating his shapeshifting ability as something dirty, like masturbation, that needed to be hidden in his room because it embarrassed him ... and the show established the reason for that by adding backstory that he was treated like a dancing monkey in his early experiences with humans.  We can relate to this and understand it, so it worked.  Saved the makers of the show lots of money.

[I'm sorry that I tend to see films and television -- particularly the latter -- in terms of how much a particular sequence, set or bit of CGI costed.  One of the reasons I enjoy excessive blockbusters is that the expenditure is so obscene that I stop worrying about how much a particular effect cost, because so much of the film obviously involved thousands of people spending a year of their lives nitpicking over pixels.  I can just forget about budget details.  On the other hand, if I watch something like the Umbrella Academy and some vortex opens after we've just spent 35 minutes watching actors shout and mumble at each other, I am immediately struck by how much that little feature must have cost someone; and when the super-intelligent ape character appears on the scene, I feel a little sad knowing that I'm not going to see that character very much because wow, that would be expensive to have Pogo on screen constantly]

Odo worked as a character because he wasn't especially educated, and his back story did suggest someone without much imagination ... which also subverts every argument that Odo could have saved Deep Space Nine single-handedly.  It is one thing to have enormous power -- it is another to have it without possessing much insight on how to solve problems.  This is something every DM recognizes in the 17th level characters drenched with magic items who find themselves stymied by three levers sticking out of a wall, that must be pulled in some sort of order.

It would be hard for a DM to concoct a character as dense and three-dimensional as Odo ... and certainly impossible to do it from the paltry sum of material that we find written under a monster with Odo's powers.  This is true across the monster spectrum.  The books can give us details on how a monster functions, but that is really just the machinery.  The actual motivation underlying the monster is hard to convey, and frankly most "monster books" don't even try.  The pleasant benefit of working online, in a blog or on a wiki, is that space is not relevant; nor is a "final version," which is what the WOTC adopts anyway because surely no one has looked at their monster compendium pages since they were first put in place, probably five or six years ago.  A creative soul can, like a television show that allows a character to be explored episode to episode, return to the original material and keep adding more.  Details that were lacking, an explanation of motivation, a hint as to how a particular power could be used or how to subvert it, can be thrown in as it occurs to the creator and, ultimately, the user as well.

So, today's monster is the doppelganger.  I had fun working it up this morning, using notes from other sources in order to build a better picture.  Found a good picture for it, too.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Go Towards the Lich

Spent a goodly part of today working on this page:

... and I am glad to have it largely behind me.   I need to address the list of a spells that a lich has, picking out from the spell list the "best" choices, those that are most lich-friendly, but as I haven't properly working out the magic spells themselves above 4th level, I think I'll leave off doing this until another time.  I'm not likely to throw a lich in anyone's path soon.

I have no idea if this is anyone else's idea of a lich or not.  Surely there must be one such creature written about in some truly awful and popular game module with which I have zero familiarity, which every D&D player in the universe bases their lich upon, being so very very fond of that module.  Occasionally, I've tried to dig up such references, to use them, only to find them unspeakably tenth-rate in their quality or attention to detail ... and yet everyone LOVES them to death, because that's the lich they fought in their utterly overpowered game show contestant campaign that they played at the age of 7.

So.  This lich isn't like that lich.

I've dispensed with the word "phylactery," which is a Jewish holy article, and which I do not think is the appropriate article to be used in describing perhaps the most evil creature in the D&D lexicon.  People who want to carp about the abuse of orcs for their ugliness and drow elves for their blackness ought to add this particular abuse to their social justice cause list.  The 5th level spell, magic jar, seems perfectly appropriate.

I play it that the soul never leaves the jar, and that in fact the body doesn't have to be the original lich's body.  But it is all explained on the post.

Key to this is that it remains within the realm of a player character choosing to take their sufficiently high level mage and become a lich of their own free will.  Essentially, there's nothing to stop the mage ... most definitely not alignment, because I don't use it.  If a player character wants to go that route, I have absolutely no problems with it.  Of course, they have to get there first.  Starting at 1st level, as everyone must in my game, means it will take a little time.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Writing the Wiki

These last days, I've been happily plowing through page after page on the Authentic Wiki.  It is still smaller than the old wiki, and there remain a great many dead links, but I feel that the material is better than it was.  I'm rewriting old descriptions, tagging content for correction and addition later, adding many more links to the material to allow for more referencing and slowly adding images to pages to enhance the experience.

A search tells me there are 745 content pages that are active.  As I make a link to anything that sounds like it could be added as a page later, just like wikipedia, I have identified 1,561 pages that are wanted -- monsters, spells, sage abilities, places, features and so on.  I'm adding more all the time.  Naturally, the very idea of this is overwhelming ... and can be disheartening.

The difference between my present management, however, and what was always true about my desire to "get my game in order," is that now I can factually measure the depth of what needs to be done.  These were things I was always going to do, as far back as those first heady days when a map was a dozen kingdoms and fifty cities.  Because I was never going to be satisfied with the simplistic rules provided by basic D&D, I was always going to address writing details about food, freight costs and planes of existence.  It is better that the field of things needing attention is getting straightened out; that now there are reminders that I've never written a detailed description of a dungeon door or the macuahuitl.   Where once, these would have slipped my mind, to be forgotten as projects for years at a time, now steadily there's a knowledge that yes, I will get to everything, eventually.  There's comfort in that.

If we scratch the surface of those wishing for simple games, without rules and with plenty of DM fiat, we'll find a DM that doesn't care that much about anything.  I think most of us have been stuck with such a DM, if only for brief periods.  It falls into the same category as teachers who don't care about education, or babysitters who don't care about children, or cops that don't care about public service.  These people exist in every profession -- and they always have pat answers that explain away their apathy and why they continue in those jobs.  It's the money or the power, or the relative status.  There are plenty of doctors around trading on the prestige of being a doctor, leaving a wake of bodies behind them who did not get the proper treatment or who were treated prestigiously right into the grave.

It probably seems gauche to compare DMing with the responsibilities of doctoring; nothing I do is life-threatening, and there's an argument to be made that I'm just a big ol' man-boy who hasn't grown up yet at 56 (in three weeks).  That argument could be reasonably made about any entertainer who continues to perform, from professional clowns to stage hands, who don't want to give up the theatre even though their most responsible job is to pull the scenery cords on cue.  That doesn't sound very important; but when you're in the seats watching the play, it's annoying as all hell if some hand doesn't responsibly perform that piddly service at the right moment.  A life may not hang in the balance -- but as a culture we abhor people who can't or won't do their jobs well.  It just takes one shitty barista working at a Starbucks to consistently ruin your morning for weeks at a time.
So, though I have taken a step back to evaluate, and question my role, and my writing here, and what this does for my soul and where I mean to go, I do want the reader to understand that I am deeply conscious of the absence of material appearing here, on this blog.  I take this blog as seriously as my campaign; and in my mind, as seriously as you'd like your barista to be in getting your coffee made right ... and even as seriously as a doctor being sure not to mix up your medications.

To my mind, the most valuable service I can provide is to candidly set out rules for things that no one ever considered might be necessary or inspiring; and to set in stone details that have always been fuzzy at best.  It can be tedious.  I am at my best when I put down every other distraction and just write rules.  The wiki can be surprisingly satisfying, though it takes time to build a wave of changes that begins to make what feels like a difference.  I may have 1,500+ pages to write; but I have also written 700+ good ones.  I began codifying my stuff on a wiki only five years ago; and twice in that time I've had to endure an upheaval, putting real organization out of my reach.  My two former platforms were "meh" and "simply awful," these being my options at the time.  Now I finally have an excellent platform, with no memory or use limits whatsoever.  I feel confident and encouraged that whatever work I do, it will last and build over time.  That matters, because the system is as responsible as I feel.

Please continue to put up with me.  Please feel free to offer direction, so long as it's positive and it reflects this same responsibility I've been describing.  I want to continue to provide good, solid material for my readership.  I simply don't want to shout at the wind.  It is the feeling that this is what I've been doing that brought about this present reassessment.

Very well.  I'm good for now.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Setting Up

The campaign is getting off to a slow start.  I haven't heard from either Embla or Engelhart yet; I imagine it is the unfamiliarity of playing on the wiki.  Since the discussions will be going on behind the scenes, so that we don't step on each other's toes while we talk, I'm going to be translating relevant material to the forward page following each day.  I hope it won't be too hard to keep up with that.

Mostly we're chatting about making sure the rules are understood and how the numbers are calculated.  It is truly nothing that doesn't happen at every table as players get settled in.  As far as I know, Pandred and Vafrandir are more or less ready to go.  We're just waiting on the others.

Monday, August 17, 2020

The Coming

I've been thinking about my grandchild, who is due in 9-10 weeks.  We do not know if it is a boy or a girl, my daughter and her husband agreed not to be told.  We live very close to one another, and we are close, so no doubt the child will spend a lot of time with us ... and that will undoubtedly mean the child will grow up watching me work on my computer, and ask, "What are you doing, grandpa?"

To which I'll answer, "I'm writing."  And the child will ask, "About what?"  And I'll probably answer, "D&D," assuming I'm not writing about something else at the time.  And as the child grows up, he or she will get used to me sitting her and writing, knowing that if he or she wants attention, they can come sit on my lap or pull my wrist to get me away from the computer, just like my daughter did 28 years ago.  I don't mind taking breaks, see.

And as I eek into my 60s, and the child eeks into his or her precocious years, they'll start to become conscious and learn to read, and the subject of my playing D&D with come around.  And ten years from now, as I'm still figuring out what I want to do with this blog, being 66, and the child rolls into his or her tweens, they'll start to read me.  They may even one day read this post.  They'll learn to play the way my daughter has, and the way I think is right ... and then the poor child will unfortunately visit some other group of gamers and discover what a horrible, crappy version of D&D that everyone else plays.

It should be understood.  If you grow up and watch your father get drunk every night, as my mother did, that makes you believe things about being an adult.  If you grow up and watch and watch your father build an enormous cabin from the ground up with his two hands, as I did, it gets into your head and you begin to think you can build big things too.  And if you watch your father spend day and night pounding keys, laser focused on something that matters to him, as my daughter did, this makes you think that focus and work is a good thing.  Well over half of parenting is what you do every day.  If that's going off somewhere else, disappearing, to a place that your child never fully understands because you hate your job and you don't like to talk about it, that child is going to grow up with a skewed, corrupted idea of what work is, no matter how many times you make the child eat their peas or sit up straight, or stop swearing.   My daughter never "rebelled" against me, because I was always on her side; something she always knew.  That mattered a lot more than policing her bedtime.

My daughter grew up looking at my back, as I sat in a corner with a computer in front of me.  If she hadn't been able to come over and grab me, and pull me away, that would have been a terrible childhood for her.  But though she could pull me away, she began to understand as she got into her tweens that what I was doing really mattered to me; and because of that she also understood why it was fine to just let me keep working.  She wanted that; because she began to understand that she had things to do as well, and that having those things to do mattered to her.

If you think it's terrible that I'm a monster online, who seems as though he has to be right all the time, who snaps back at people who disagree with him -- the same people who should know by now that I buy ink by the barrel and that I don't do things casually -- then imagine what the intensity looks like to a 4-year-old.  I cannot possibly be the monster that some people online imagine that I am ... else my daughter would be a monster too.  It should be evident to anyone who's heard her speak that she isn't.

I'm dedicated.  I'm in love with my work.  If I seem to be an asshole half the time, it is in part because I think about this work constantly, and study it constantly, whereas most of my critics don't.  If I seem to be crazy, it is because I'm focused.  Children recognize this instinctively.  Children like taking things seriously.  It is adults who want to make everything frivolous and silly, because they've learned to equate "serious" with their hated jobs.  Children have nothing to compensate for; when they play at anything, they play so seriously it hurts.  That's what we all used to do when we cared about things.

What happened to so many of us?

The more serious I am, the more seriously my grandchild will see what I do.  And the more seriously he or she will treat this game, once they come to know it.  More's the pity, because while he or she comes to take the game seriously, the more certain it will be that he or she will butt heads against those who don't.  I'm raised someone just like me; I'm being given an opportunity to contribute to doing it again.

Get ready.  In 20 years, having been raised around my daughter, my son-in-law and me, you people out here in the internet should be worried.  You think I'm a tyrant.

Just get ready.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Game Wiki Good to Go

Hello.  The campaign wiki has been set up.  It is located here:

All four players should have received your passwords and user names.  The wiki should be populating throughout the globe, though I understand this may take between 3-24 hours for overseas, so do not worry if you can't get on yet.

Ask questions here or on the wiki, as you like.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Illumination's Effect on Missile Weapons

This table is from the Authentic wiki, and details the range of thrown and fired missile weapons according to the number of 5 foot hexes.  For game purposes, a missile weapon cannot be thrown at a range of 1 hex, because it is supposed that the enemy would be close enough to foul your attempt, since at that range you would be in hand-to-hand combat.  At a range of 2 hexes, "point blank" (and I suppose I could call it "close" range), the attacker is +1 to hit with the weapon.  At short range there is no adjustment; the attacker is -2 to hit at medium range and -5 to hit at long range.  These are not my adjustments; they were invented for AD&D.

So, for example, if the character were to throw a hand axe at  7 hexes, that would count as medium range.  7 hexes would be short range for a crossbow and it would be long range for a short hammer, which is essentially a carpenter's hammer.  This difference in range is a factor in balancing the decision to take one weapon over another when a character selects their proficiencies.

These adjustments assume the light of day and that has always been an insurmountable problem: what, for example, is the range on a light crossbow underground, when the party is carrying a lantern which illuminates to a distance of 30 ft.?  The light of that lantern does not just come to an end, so that everything is in full dark beyond that distance.  Anyone who has been outside at night, or in a very large enclosed room in the dark, like a gymnasium, knows that as eyes adjust, and as reflection from the far walls begins to affect the scattering of visible light, that the distribution of light is not a fixed distance from a lantern or torch.  Presumedly, there is some light out there; and if there is light, there ought to be some chance of seeing an enemy move, and of hitting that enemy.

[likewise, how is infravision managed beyond the nominal limitation of 60 ft., as described in AD&D?  I don't know if 3e or 5e addressed this problem; but I still question how infravision, which exists in natural light, even if we can't see it, diminishes with distance]

But how is this diminishment of light managed?  For the most part, it isn't; we accept the premise that fighting in the dark will be hand-to-hand, and that if someone is standing outside the range of light or of infravision, that they cannot be attacked with missile weapons.  I'm unsatisfied with this, not least because having stood outside in starlight in the country, without so much as a porchlight in the distance, while conducting amateur astronomy so that I am out in it for hours, it has been perfectly feasible to see across a field of wheat and see someone stepping out of the trees there.

The problem would be to identify individual ranges for each weapon for proposed levels of illumination; such as, "dusk," "full moonlight," "dim moonlight," "starlight" or "full dark," the last of which would be under overcast skies, or in dense forest conditions, when it becomes so dark that one can barely see their hand in front of their face.  I've experienced that many times.

That's a lot of tables and I think would be impossibly inconvenient.  What would be needed is a shortcut of some kind.  Which, insanely, I've invented.

As visible light diminishes, the quantifiable range of missile weapons declines.  The Modifier Adjustment Table, below, provides a proportional conversion for how a given range in combat hexes is affected as the intensity of light diminishes.

The adjustments indicated above are not meant to affect the actual distance that a weapon can be aimed or fired. Instead, the adjustment indicates how the distance should be treated when rolling to hit. All weapons suffer a penalty to hit according to their range, indicated on the missile ranges table. Ranges are divided into point blank, short, medium and long. In full light (FL), weapons thrown or fired at point blank range are +1 to hit; for short range, there is no adjustment; medium range gives a -2 penalty; long range, a -5 penalty.

For example, a warhammer normally has a short range of 3-5 hexes and a medium range of 6-8 hexes. However, if we imagine the combatant is throwing the hammer in full moonlight conditions (FMC), then according to the table above, a range of "3 FL" equals 4 FMC.  The thrown hammer would still be treated as "short." However, a range of 4 FL equals "6 FMC," so that the medium-range penalty of -2 is applied. A range of 8 FL counts as "13 FMC," so the hammer would be -5 to hit.

"13 FMC" refers only to the difficulty to hit and is not a measure of the weapon's actual range! A warhammer in full light has a maximum range of 11 — and so some may misconstrue the Modifier Adjustment Table to mean the hammer cannot be thrown at 8 hexes in FMC. It only means that the range modifier is adjusted, not the actual range. The hammer would still be able to be thrown to a distance of 11 hexes, but would count as being long range between 8-11 hexes.

Where FL indicates a range spread, such as "28-30," then anything in that range is adjusted as shown.

Where a dash (–) appears on the chart, regardless of the weapon's possible range, count any attempted attack at that distance in those light conditions as a miss. The indicator means that at this distance, nothing whatsoever can be seen; this applies as much to the casting of spells as it does to missile weapons.

I trust that's clear enough.  Let me know.

Incidentally, the same chart helps establish details in situations where the party is meeting someone in the dark, or the distance at which encounters under these conditions would be engaged.

Literally Insane


It's important to have a reputation that people online can respect.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Charging Rules

This is my third post today, so do be sure to look down the list to see what else I've written.  In this case, I'm writing to see that I've "mostly" completed my adjusted charging rules.  I'm definitely happier with these than I was with my previous attempt, though the convoluted nature of the rules reflects the convoluted problem of having to deal with fast moving things interacting in a turn-based combat system, without simplifying the opportunity to charge into something that isn't worth doing or doesn't feel particularly special.

Gygax approached the problem by ignoring movement entirely, which has resulted in the number of players in my game world over the past 40 years making consistent use of the charge rule equal to statistically zero.  I don't think I've had any player ever use the DMG rule more than four times, and in some cases that describes an 8 to 10-year-campaign.  It just wasn't very useful.

My last attempt at the rules never received any interest from any player.  I blame lack of trust or interest.  I don't imagine this one will get used much either, unless I start using it all the time.

This was brain-breaking to write.  I yearn for easier rule problems.  I will have to put together a page on attacks of opportunity, specifically to deal with the reality that an 8 ft. pole arm and a 13 ft. pike would be recognizeably able to commit an AoO against an opponent that was 2 or 3 hexes away.  Something to think about when moving into attack defenders armed with such weapons.  They've never been given their due in the D&D combat system, but I think that is seriously about to change.

Hm.  It isn't even noon yet.

Design for Choice

I received a terrific comment today, unfortunately from an anonymous reader.  As it was made on a post I wrote in 2011, I felt it needed to be reposted where more people would see it:
"I've been using this [advice from the post] for a while now and XP from damage dealt & received has changed the tenor of my game. Additionally XP for treasure instead of plot, the norm by the time when I started playing, really makes a different game. XP for plot points tethers players to the railroad. I've found my group more creative and empowered. The XP helped solved a persistent issue of players refusing to flee when outmatched by bad rolls or unbalanced encounters. Their logic was that all encounters had to be defeated in a railroad like fashion and if they couldn't win then they never could.
"Anyway from all the rules I've adopted this has had the greatest effect."

However I'm re-evaluating the purpose and point of my writing at present, I will continue to argue that adverse changes to the game, such as denying experience for gold or providing experience for plot, makes the game worse, not better.

When making rules for game play, the goal is to shape the player's options so that they have MORE choices, not less.  Experience for hit points caused and taken increases the choice of fighting or running, and when its right to do so, while experience for solving plot points excludes all possible choices except one.  This is bad game design, no matter how many stupid DMs insist that it isn't.

More Planning

Next Question, regarding "The As-Yet Unnamed Campaign."  I am offering three options; I will break any ties but won't vote.
1) Pick up where the Juvenis Campaign left off, with the present party (logic be damned) facing an ice toad in front of a gate in the snow.
2) Explain the resolution of that adventure and restore the party back to Stavanger.
3) Explain the resolution of that adventure and begin the campaign somewhere else.

Please vote.  I'm good with any of the three.  Regarding somewhere else, please give a general indication of where you'd like that "else" to be.

With regards to the proposition of DMing, you'll never find an easier opportunity to take the reins and get experience.  With an online campaign, you have many minutes to think about what you're going to say; you have players in this venue who will understand, better than any other players you'll ever have, the uphill climb you're facing, who will be empathic with your situation; and you will have help, not only from me, but most likely from the players.  So when you say, "I'm not ready yet," this is a Big chance for you to be ready, like you've never had and you won't ever have.

Think about it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Online Campaign, Proposed Again

Let's seriously discuss an online campaign.  At present, I have two volunteers, Engelhart and Pandred, who have already agreed to play, both of whom have characters already.  Obviously, I would like to make a shout out to Embla, Rob, Lothar and Mikael, to learn if any of the other established players would like to take part.

Following that, I'd like to hear from others who feel they have the time.  I am only interested in persons who spend a lot of time on computer, and are willing to check and update their interest in the campaign on an hourly basis, specifically during those times when we are reasonably expecting to communicate with one another.  D&D is a collaborative game.  Online, it cannot be played in a fashion that the participants check into the campaign once or twice a day.  If we were to regularly play between 8 a.m. EST and 4 p.m. EST, then I would expect players to check on their phones or computers on average every 30-45 minutes during that time.

Alternatively, we could agree on a set period of time, 3-4 hrs per week, when everyone involved gave 90% of their attention to the game.  I am not set up for visual contact, but at the same time I would be fine with people playing music, watching something or playing a video game while we played at these set times, so long as one eye was constantly on the game, so that no question asked needed wait more than 30-45 seconds for a response.  Even in text, such a turn-around time could get a great deal done in a few hours.

At this time, I am ready to set up and run just Pandred and Engelhart.  I would expect that others would be likely to join in once we were started, and I'm quite able to run two people.  A third, obviously, would be Much better.

Take note; while I would expect participants to willingly read the Authentic Wiki, to understand the rules, I would also be more than willing to teach.

On another point, it's been suggested to me that I set up others to act as DM in some capacity.  I see it as promoting the idea of advising others while they run players in the online campaign.  That would be interesting, but it would involve trust and quite a bit of bravery, since it would still be on the internet and public and all.  I'm open to exploring that possibility as a means of teaching people to DM better.  Write and let me know what you think.  Could you run a small, agreed upon sequence of dungeon rooms with me whispering in your ear in messenger, while you actually performed as DM, knowing that you could rely on my support behind the scenes?

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Attack of ... ech, I can't say it.

Ages ago, back in December 2019, I ran into a frustrating problem with my combat system, in that the combatant's movement was ridiculously slow (the post was not on this blog) compared to the actual speed with which humans walk or run.  I had considered fumbling around with the length of the round, but that created other problems, so I shelved the problem.

I believe I have a solution now.  And gawd help me, it involves using parlance from 5th Edition.  I know!  It makes me a little sick.  Worse, it is to solve the same sort of problem that the 5e rule is intended to solve ... except, of course, 5e makes such a hash of it that no one knows when the rule applies and when it does not.  I hope to do better; which is why I'm parading it here.  I've just been adding it to my Authentic Wiki (on a page that needs more work); but I'm hoping that people will tell me: (a) that the language makes sense and doesn't need more correction; (b) that is still isn't clear enough, and where the language is clumsy; and (c) if the notion is stupid and unworkable.  I expect honesty.

I'll skip republishing the first part, which can be read here.  If you find the writing too small, increase the zoom on your page; the wiki's print will reformat so you can read it more easily.

I've increased the speed with which characters can move by adjusting the number of hexes per action point cost.  Here's a link to action points (AP) you can follow if you need to.  You will probably also want to understand the melee rule as well.  These rules all mesh together to provide the best possible tactical movement freedom for players I can provide.

From the wiki:
"Prior to movement, the player announces their stride as "stride-n" or "S-n," with "n" indicating the number of hexes per AP they wish to move. The stride used in the previous turn is not considered. Characters may adjust their stride mid-turn one time."
Essentially, the character has 1 AP.  If they move warily, they will travel 1 combat hex (5 ft).  If they hurry at a walk, they can travel 2 or 3 combat hexes.  If they run, they can travel 4 or 5 combat hexes.  And if they sprint, they can travel 6 to 8 combat hexes.  That really lets them zip around the combat map, while coming much closer to real speed.  A character with 5 AP can move 40 combat hexes, or 61 meters/67 yards in the space of 12 seconds.  Not the Olympics, but I intend to add sage abilities that would let characters move faster still.  This would be an "ordinary" 17th c. healthy person running.

Here's the section featuring the 5e rule using a parlance that I tried hard to sidestep, but the English language offered me no alternatives:
"A Wary stride allows a combatant to travel freely within reach of an enemy without provoking an attack of opportunity. However, if any combatant indicates that they are travelling at a walk, run or sprint during combat, then after the expenditure of 1 AP in travelling, that combatant must pause after having moved that number of hexes while the DM assesses whether or not there are any enemy combatants who are able and willing to attack that combatant by missile or hand-to-hand. This attack does not allow the enemy to travel from one hex to another; nor does it subtract from the enemy's ability to attack in the enemy's next turn. It is a "free attack," and thus an "attack of opportunity." No enemy can attack if they are at that moment engaged in melee. If the travelling combatant is not within one hex of the enemy, the enemy's attack must be a missile attack. Each enemy is allowed only one attack of opportunity. Attacks against walking combatants are done at +1; against running combatants at +2; and against sprinting combatant at +3. This reflects the moving combatant's lack of awareness due to their speed of travelling.
"Once the attack of opportunity is resolved, the travelling combatant then continues their move, using the remainder of their AP.
"If a combatant finishes their move at a walk, run or sprint, then during the enemy's turn, all attacks against that combatant receive the attack of opportunity bonus as already described (+1, +2 or +3)."

Horrific, ain't it?  But damn it, I have to call the rule something.

Saturday, August 8, 2020


This past week I have been deep in thought.  I am concerned that I am giving over a lot of energy towards the agenda of teaching others a deeper philosophy of DMing and D&D.  I am concerned about how much time I am spending doing this.  I am concerned about the lack of enthusiasm I am feeling towards creative writing, or working on my game world, or completing much larger projects that really matter to me.  I am concerned about the lack of back and forth between my "students" and myself.  I am concerned that blogging and writing has become about money and not about the things I love.

I have been unable to express these concerns I'm having, even to myself.  I have been turning these matters over in my mind, guessing at whether or not I am having doubts about nothing; or that my doubts have more to do with the stress of these specific times, what with disease, isolation, worry about my family, concern for my pregnant daughter or the eye surgeries my partner Tamara has had to endure (two so far, and there will now be a third).  Perhaps none of this has to do with blogging, or my relation to the internet, or with my writing.

Watching what's happening to America is distressing.  I'm married to an American, who is glad she is not in America right now.  She feels like she is safe in a life boat, here in Canada, watching the Titanic sink ... and hearing the screams and twisted metal of the ship as it sinks.  We were so lucky.  She received her permanent status here on February 25th, after 14 months of legal processes, just weeks before the March shut down.  We feel sick at the thought that if we had started just a little later, or if matters had dragged out a little more, she would be in Canada now without any expectation of medical services.  Instead, she's been able to have the cataracts in both her eyes managed at no cost to us except medications.  It took two surgeries to complete the work on her first eye; the doctor said he hadn't seen anything as bad as that since he had done work in Vietnam in the 1960s.  For us, this was the result of having to wait so long until the work could be done.  But at last, it is done, and she can see again, clearly, for the first time since 2018; since a year ago, she's been clinically blind.  Yet thank gawd she is here, in a civilized country, where we are battened down with government support and all our bills paid; with no threat that we'll be evicted, where we're relatively safe from Covid as we barely leave our home.

There's simply no way not to look at the disaster south of the border except with alarm.  Every long phonecall and videochat consists of an hour-long conversation in which friends and family express their stunned horror and bewilderment, at the government there, the stupidity, the utter indifference, the rolling outrage at how science and hospital personnel are treated, the deaths.  We watch and comment on the tallying of deaths like football scores and the ludicrous voiced imaginings that the tolls being counted are actual numbers or that they'll somehow go away.  Even as vaccine trials prove promising, very few will say with honesty that an available vaccine for millions of people is still probably 9 months to a year away.  And jeebus gawd.  The president.  The fucking president.  I took a vow not to talk about him, but what an unholy fucking mess of a human being.  It's exposed every crack and flaw in the political system, which careens towards a failed election that is sure to be full of fakery, fabrication and perfidy.  It's gone beyond anyone "winning" ~ as it's now impossible to obtain truth from the number of votes cast and counted.  There are too many crooks, too many swindlers and racketeers and miscreants who do not believe in the system for anything except villainy to thrive.  This is what comes of repeating that such is the greatest country in the world, while mercilessly pursuing selfishness, racism, graft and ego over the common welfare.  My country, whom no sane person here describes as the "greatest" anything, welcomed my wife, a foreigner, and undertook to care for her because one of its citizens cared for her.  America has undertook to care for no one, not its children, not its people, not even its dead.  It is impossible to stand outside and watch, and not wonder why the people in the streets do not shoot back at the cops.  Or why there are not hundreds of thousands surrounding the White House and kicking down the fences.  I'm old enough to remember a million people on the lawns in Washington protesting the deaths and murders that resulted from the Vietnam War.  What has happened to America, that even its starving and destitute no longer care enough to fight evil for the sake of the country?

I have the time to flip on Twitter and the News and watch this lurching brigade of lies; and because I don't want to bury my head in the sand, I want to be informed.  It is nevertheless soul-rending to watch ... and to see Americans furiously wave their flags and do nothing.  To see ten thousand messages urging other Americans to get out and vote while pretending those waters aren't already muddy, making clear the denial, the desperation, the sad praying, wallowing, bawling conviction that American values will somehow save the day and come November, everything will suddenly revert itself and be all right.  The pretence that this is all the fault of one man, and not a million "citizens" who have rushed to exploit the system, so that when that one man is gone, the sun will shine again, sickens me.  Sometimes, hope is not a good thing, nor the best of things.  It seems to me that stubborn, blind hope is the worst of things, if it keeps a defender's hand from taking up a gun while "hoping" the bear tearing apart the child will yet change its mind, and stop without being driven off.

I'm not able to push these thoughts out of my mind as I settle in to explain, again, how best to dungeon master a game.  I'm not emotionally free as I tell DMs to stop cheating the dice, knowing that cheating has become a raison d'etre for people, not for the reasons they give, but because cheating is everywhere in the culture arguing with me.  I can't forget that when I tell players and DMs that they need to follow the game's rules, that I'm speaking to people who live in a civilization unable to keep itself from pointing weapons at children or embracing the principles of ratfuckery in what should be a sacred exercise.  I feel ridiculous, knowing people who agree wholeheartedly with this shift in principles are reading my blog, laughing at my absurd notion that a 17 should be read as a 17 and not a 15 or a 4 as it would be convenient to do, for the sake of "story."  Why should they care?  The underlying principle of justifying any deceit, because gawddamn, "We need this die to swing this way right now," trumps any contrary position.  Yes, "trumps" it, as in, what I selfishly need right now is more important than any other thing in the universe, including any self-respect I may have had before deciding to treat double-dealing and false-heartedness as virtues.

In the face of it, what am I accomplishing when I write about D&D?

I don't know.  I've been promoting my patreon for a couple of years now and I honestly can't tell if I'm taking money under false pretenses, as I've apparently failed to convince anyone of running a D&D game properly, or if I'm not charging enough money to compensate for my time and frustration.  I pound a drum and present fifty arguments for why a particular game rule or strategy will cripple and distort the playability of a campaign, discussing point-by-point why it is abusive to players, and not in the spirit of the game, only to visit the blog site of some long-time and supportive reader to find them making an extensive new version of said piece-of-shit game rule.  What am I doing here?

I heard last night that people do not approach problems like scientists, searching for evidence and then arriving at a conclusion based on that evidence.  Instead, they approach problems like lawyers, having already decided the conclusion and then seeking specifically that evidence that supports that conclusion.  This sounds accurate to me, describing virtually everyone I know.  Yet, while a scientist can easily work alone, a lawyer expects to argue with another lawyer.  Furthermore, the lawyer must submit to a judgment, in which a judge will say to the lawyer, essentially, "You're full of shit."  The lawyer must then accept that judgment, and move on.  No philosophical lawyer ever has to submit to a judgment; they are free to go on forever with their treasured cause, gathering more and more shit in piles to defend that cause, explaining virtually everything that is said by everyone on the internet.

I am sick of arguing with lawyers.  I can handle some shyster at my table, as he or she must submit to my judgment.  But some boob on the internet who has only the argument that "Holmes wrote this" only exhausts me.  Who is this Holmes and what did he accomplish outside of writing a cheap, second-rate version of an already existing game?  I've also written such versions; I've run the game longer than Holmes or Gygax did, I've written more and better words than either of them ever had and I've worked in other fields beyond game design.  I'm a cheap hack, but so are they.  That's why, when I support my arguments, I turn to legitimate, recognized experts in other fields and apply their expertise in game-design, psychology, learning and problem-solving in their words, then translate this to D&D.  I am not pulling arguments out of my ass.

What good does it do?  I change someone's mind about this or that specific thing, but that's about all.  People want to be lawyers.  They want to hedge and prevaricate, resisting the implications of how any one thing ought to affect everything.  All right.  They can do as they wish.  But then, what I am doing here?

For nearly 30 years, I worked on my game and designed scenarios for naught but me and my players, a very small audience.  I had stepped out of that bubble briefly in the 80s, only to find rather a lot of ignorance and incompetence, along with adult people who played what I thought to be a silly, childish game.  Where my players in my campaign were playing out scenes that could have been written by Dumas, Hugo or Dickens, these runnings had all the depth of The Famous Five and Tintin.  I lost all interest in communicating with these people, so I quietly returned to my game and my world and continued to work happily for the next 22 years.

I spend a lot of time on this blog, and on others, teaching people how to run and how rules work.  These things do not afford me anything.  I already know how to run.  I already know how the rules work, and why they do.  The time I don't spend rehashing old arguments and finding new ways to outline them is time I could spend working on my game world, my creative writing and myself.  I teach myself new things just about every day, figuring out some new rule, measuring some detail, or sketching out a useful and practical application.  Teaching is fun and its useful, but it is a waste of time if the students can't learn or won't learn.  A teacher in a classroom expects a student to raise their hand once in awhile to ask a question.  I'm lucky if I get two or three questions a month.  That's well and good, as I expect no one to change their behaviour on my account ... but I can certainly change my behaviour on my account.

It offers me very little to go on as I have been doing.  To date, I know of no person who is running my ruleset as is, or is interested in doing so.  That is a piss-poor record for a teacher.  When I encouraged people to come help me with my recent wiki, I had eight people who rushed forward to "help."  I was not treated like a teacher, or like the source of the knowledge being manipulated.  Volunteers bulled their way in, tried to push me into doing things their way, grew upset and hurt when I smacked them around for their lack of respect for the person who had worked on the material for decades ... and then evaporated rather than submit to a subordinate position.  Each of them, I'm sure, feels very differently about how those events played out, but none of them opened a dialogue with me to properly settle upon a division of labor and none of them stayed with it.  They're all gone now, with not a word in months.  And mind you, these are people who continue to support me on Patreon, some with a rather expensive tone.  So, I'm patiently working on the process alone, as I have done for a long time, marvelling that people who proclaim my genius and wherewithal haven't the willpower to endure my direction even a little bit.  The work is tedious, exhausting and most of the time, apparently useless, as I haven't any knowing of whether or not anyone ever goes there.  Worse, I'm unable to tell if a stranger to this blog could find the wiki and even understand it.  There are so many holes in the work, so many flaws, that it will probably be three or four years before the grammar and layout is sufficiently edited and made useful for game play.  That is very distressing and disheartening; yet it is at least one thing I feel does contribute to my personal sense of value.  My game and my players will use it, even if no one else does ~ and though it takes years, my players will never carp at the wiki's insufficiencies.  They will ask me to work on a particular thing, and because I want to provide service to my players, I will work on that thing if asked.

On the whole, rather than go on blogging, I'd like to renew the process of running online.  I enjoyed that, and it felt like D&D.  Those people who played were seriously engaged ~ the connections were real and purposeful.  I had the ability to be creative and to be a DM, rather than merely writing about it.  The audience was negligible, apart from the actual players, true enough.  I suppose it has to be that way.

I'm not interested in writing about D&D for entertainment's sake.  If the goal is to write posts that can be read over a cup of coffee, only to be forgotten, then I might just as well write about film or politics, as there is a much larger audience for those subjects than for D&D.  I could write a ten-part series on The Umbrella Academy, nitpicking every scene and discussing the relative merit of the players, explaining the tropes being used, the plot-stealing elements and taking screen shots of character expressions, then go and do the same for Fargo, the Watchmen and Billions, all popular shows with millions of fans, who could argue and bitch at me about my opinions in the exact same way that D&D fans do ... with as much actual purpose being accomplished, if we're talking entertainment and the possibility of my raising money for patreon.  I'm a good writer, and I'm observant, so some people will hate what I write and some people will love it ... and to the point, more people, if my goal is to be an entertainer or a money-maker.

No teacher teaches to entertain.  But teachers do quit and decide to do other things.  This is in my mind and I am concerned with these thoughts.

I can't go on doing this.  There must be more fulfilling things I can do with my energy and my talent.  It is all very well for another D&D blogger to think, "What makes him so special?"  This is not the only content I know how to write.  D&D is not the only substantial thing I am knowledgable about.  I wanted to write about D&D because I wanted to teach, to make people see that there are better ways to view this game than to lapse into the same old crappy original books written 40+ years ago.  Whenever I read someone holding these books up as examples of credibility or direction, I am unable to see anything except willful, stubborn ignorance.  I am tired of arguing with it.  Nothing related to official D&D, in any capacity, can ever be said to have been of quality.  We play as best we can by cherry-picking bits and pieces from upteen sources and our own personal experience ... and it has become such a habit with us that we're unable to recognize a legitimate answer when we see or hear it.  I'm done discussing it.

I'm not sure just now what I'll do with this blog, or any of them.  For the time being, I'm disinterested in writing any "observational" content about D&D.  I think I'll suspend advice posts, though the advice is remarked upon occasionally.  That leaves posts about what am I'm doing with my world.  Those posts have never been very popular.  I'm willing to answer questions, which I like doing, but I'm not getting them much.

That doesn't give much reason for anyone to continue supporting me on patreon.  Frankly, there is so little contact that I receive from my supporters that I wonder sincerely why anyone supports me there.  Look at this:

On December 2, I was ranked 656th.  My present rank doesn't show a drop in support, only a comparative drop with others.  I have very loyal patrons, and very few compared with others around my status.  I also have the quietest, most humble patrons on the planet.

I have to assume this is a combination between my being (a) an asshole, ready to argue my position so vociferously that even my supporters are afraid to approach me; and (b) I am so absolutely "out there" with my writings that even my supporters have no idea how to even address what I say.  For 12 years I have written post after post discussing this issue, trying to convey what it is like to communicate constantly inside a bell jar ... even one that is supported as well as it is.  The stats above are terrific.  There are 174,634 patreon pages with at least 1 patron, at the time I'm writing this.  That puts me in the 85th-90th percentile.  That's really something, particularly given that I'm not writing about the latest video game or pop culture, but about a nerdish 40-year-old game, about which I hate almost everything.  I look at these numbers and I don't see failure; I see spectacular success.  Just imagine how well I'd be doing if I wrote about something popular.

I don't think I want to.  At least, not presently.  I'd rather just play the game, on or off-line.  I'd rather work on the wiki, or maps, or some other part of my game.  I'd rather work on longer, denser efforts, such as either of the two books I have in the works, projects I've abandoned ... or new ideas I have bounding around inside.  I'm really starting to hate this dynamic of shouting into the voice in the hopes of receiving two comments.  Or none at all.

I'm hungry for more than that.