Friday, February 28, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 28

Day 28: What's the single most important lesson you've learned while playing D&D?

Although I'd rattle off about how all the DMing experience I have has contributed to my craft as a writer, I won't. I have created so many things in the name of D&D... maps, stories, surveys, histories, villains, monsters, encounters, campaigns, outlines, flow charts, tables... the list goes on and on. Nothing I learned in the process of any of my creative endeavors strikes me as the most important.

In "real" life I'm a counselor, and I spend a lot of my time leading small groups - depending on the day, those groups could consist of kindergartners in a circle on the floor, committee members sitting in the principal's office, or parents in a conference room. Regardless of who is there, the skills I learned as a DM help me every day to lead those groups effectively. Side Note: My group therapy class helped me a lot as a DM too. It's a two way street. :-)

While those skills help, though, they aren't the most important lesson. When I started as a DM, my story was so important to me that I don't think I left much room for the players except as monster slayers and puzzle solvers on their way to fight the big bad guy. Somewhere along the way, probably from numerous articles in Dragon or Dungeon, I started seeing things differently. It isn't my world. It isn't my story. It isn't my game. It's ours, and even when I'm at the head of the table, everyone sitting there with me is just as (if not more) important than me. I might be "running things," but it is my responsibility to make sure that my players feel invested, are able to contribute, and have fun.

This lesson plays out in education every day. It isn't about my school, my lesson, or my paperwork. It's ours, and our little corner of the world of education is a much better place if everyone feels invested... if everyone can contribute... and most of all, if we all have a little fun.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 27

Day 27: If you could do it all over again, would you do anything different when you first started gaming?

I would definitely keep a lot more of my stuff than I ever did when I was younger. I've sold books, thrown away copies of Dragon Magazine, and trashed hand drawn maps. It's a shame, really, how few items I still have from my early days as a gamer. Granted, I've gone back and purchased new copies of some of the things I threw away, but the stuff I made personally are irreplaceable. I have spoken several times about how I got into Magic because I started buying them for character sheet art, and I would love to be able to look at those character sheets again. Unfortunately, unless they're tucked in an old 2nd edition splatbook on my shelf, I'll never get that opportunity. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 26

Day 26: Do you still game with the group that introduced you to the hobby?

I was first introduced to the hobby by my dad, and we only talk a few times a year now. However, my brother was pretty quickly added to my gaming circle, and he and I still game together. Even though it's hard to find time for "real" RPGs these days, he's always the first person on my invite list when I'm trying to organize the next game night. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 25

Day 25: Longest running campaign/gaming group you've been in.

Technically, my brother and I have played RPGs for about 20 years or so. However, the longest I've ever had a "true" gaming group was from 2007 until 2009. For two years, aside from family emergencies and such, we played almost every week. That time was split between 3rd edition D&D, 4th edition D&D, and Rifts, but it was always the same guys hanging out every week. Since then, we've added a few people to the list and we've gotten together occasionally, but never with the same consistency that we managed those first few years.

Those were the good old days, and I miss them.

Monday, February 24, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 24

Day 24: First movie that comes to mind that you associate with D&D. Why?

The first movie that comes to mind is the D&D movie. Since that was pretty horrendous, I'm going to cheat and talk about the D&D cartoon instead. While it isn't technically a movie, I loved this cartoon as a kid in the 80's. I only saw a few episodes, but I remember thinking it was absolutely amazing. Having watched a few episodes as an adult, I am fully aware that it is not nearly as awesome as I thought it was. In fact, it was pretty cheesy. However, since it was made for kids, some amount of cheesiness is allowed... even encouraged. I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it so much as a kid if it wasn't cheesy.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 23

Day 23: First song that comes to mind that you associate with D&D. Why?

I don't know if it is strange or not, but this has been the toughest of these 40th Anniversary posts to write. I just don't really associate D&D with music. I have a hard time listening to music I like and concentrating on other things at the same time, so I've never listened to music while writing or while designing adventures. My group has also never played "mood" music for adventures either, so that isn't a music tie-in either.

Since I am a fan of comedy, particularly self-deprecating humor, I'd probably link that Stephen Lynch song here. Unfortunately, since I'm an educator I have to make sure I keep everything PG just in case one of my students reads this. I tried, but I still can't find a version that doesn't make me cringe when I think of an elementary school kid listening. Still, his D&D song is the first one that comes to mind when I think about D&D, so I've got to give him the credit even if I don't link to the song itself. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 22

Day 22: First D&D based novel you ever read.

My first D&D novel was Dragons of Autumn Twilight. It was just a random purchase in a used book store at first, but partway through the novel I heard somewhere that the characters in the novel were based on characters in a real D&D game, and I was hooked. There was something about the idea that a game of D&D could be interesting enough for the basis of a novel that kept me engaged. Well, that idea and the juxtaposition of pure evil (Verminaard) and comic relief (Bupu).

Friday, February 21, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 21

Day 21: First time you sold some of your D&D books - for whatever reason.

I sold my first D&D books to my mom. How crazy is that? I mentioned a few days ago that she was not a big fan of me playing D&D as a kid. She would never have just thrown my books away, but she did convince me to get rid of them by offering me money in return. I don't recall exactly how much money she offered me, but I used it to buy my first Rifts book. I would eventually purchase copies of all the books she "bought" from me that day at a used book store for less than the cost of a Rifts book, so I'm pretty sure I came out to the good on that deal.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 20

Day 20: First non-D&D RPG you played.

Still one of my favorite systems despite the rules not seeing any substantive updates in 20+ years, the first non-D&D RPG I played was Rifts. The first book I ever bought was the Rifts Conversion Book, which meant that I wasn't really able to play the game immediately. But what 10 year old kid could resist that cover art? I mean, come on... this game has cybernetic dragons, monsters, super heroes, a four armed guy with a wicked spear... and that SWEET hover bike! I'll take one of each!

Rifts would go on to be my fourth favorite nerdy game of all time - right behind Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, and Warhammer 40K. Although we rarely play Rifts anymore, we still give it a spin every few years, and it never fails to disappoint. There are always wacky characters, weird stories, and power creep like you haven't seen since Combo Winter. Our Rifts campaigns never seem to last very long, but they are an absolute blast to play.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 19

Day 19: First gamer who just annoyed the crap out of you.

Luckily, almost everyone who has ever joined one of my games has been someone I knew well before RPGs ever came up. Members of my groups have almost entirely consisted of very close friends or family members, so the ones who have annoyed me were annoying for other reasons. I mean, really... is there anyone who has regularly played a game with a sibling and not been annoyed? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Beyond the natural and forgivable annoyances of friends and family, there have been a few gamers who have gotten under my skin. The first one was a kid that my little brother brought home from school. It was the early days of 3.0, and my brother started talking about a friend he had met on the bus who played D&D. We hadn't played in what seemed like forever, and we were excited about the opportunity, so we rushed to make it happen. As it turned out, we were probably a little too eager to play.

This kid literally started trying to take over the game. I'm not talking about one player trying to steal the limelight... more like a player stealing the role of the DM and trying to dictate how the environment interacted with the PCs rather than the other way around. In particular, I recall a puzzle in a dungeon room that the players were stumped on. There were other ways to get to the objective, and the answer was right in front of them, but they were stuck anyway. He announced that his character had found something in a pile of hay (which itself may or may not have been in the description of the room). I can't remember if it was a magical key, another clue, or what, but it really rubbed me the wrong way. We played a little while longer while I tried to figure out if the game was salvageable, but we ended up cutting it short. Maybe he was just accustomed to a more freeform style. Maybe I was a teenage DM on a power trip. Maybe it was some combination of the two. Regardless, our conflicting views on how a game should be run turned that campaign into a one-shot adventure on the spot. Back then games were scarce, and having one go down in flames was a huge disappointment.

I've encountered plenty of annoying people at Magic tournaments, but D&D has been more of a safe haven for me as far as annoying gamers go. You don't have much control over who you play against in a tournament, but I have absolute control over who gets invited to game night at my house. Since that guy, it has been an unwritten (until now, I guess) rule that anyone who comes to game night needs to be briefed at least some on the group dynamics, and any new player has to get a unanimous "OK to play" vote in order to be invited back again.

To this day, my brother will occasionally mention something about "finding something in the hay." I roll my eyes, he laughs at me, and we both say thankya big big for having more discriminating taste when choosing who we game with.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 18

Day 18: First gaming convention you ever attended.

I've never been to a convention. The closest thing to a convention I've ever attended was the Star City Games Invitational in L.A. back in 2012, and that doesn't count at all. It's not that I've never wanted to go. It's that the opportunity to go has always fallen victim to this truism:


When I was younger, I wanted to go but didn't have the money. Now I'm an adult and I want to go but I never find the time. Maybe I'll get to go when I'm old? Eh... I'll probably be too tired. *Yawn* I might be too tired already.

Monday, February 17, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 17

Day 17: First time you heard that D&D was somehow "evil."


I first got this impression from my mom, although she didn't actually come out and say it was evil. She was always more subtle about it than that. "I'm worried about you playing that game," was a pretty common statement. In hindsight, given that we lived in the Bible Belt and considering the imagery on some 1st edition covers (I'm looking at you, Dungeon Master's Guide), it doesn't surprise me that half my family thought the game was satanic.

I think my mom just wanted to just trash my books, but we had a great relationship and she never crossed that line. The whole situation was complicated by the fact that my dad had moved out of state and I rarely saw him anymore. Those D&D books had been a gift from him, and she didn't want to take that connection away no matter how sketchy they looked. Eventually she stopped worrying about it... or if she didn't stop worrying, she at least stopped expressing her concerns. Either way, these days I think my family and friends worry more about me never realizing my childhood dream of writing for D&D than they are about it corrupting me somehow... and that's definitely a step in the right direction as far as I'm concerned.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 16

Day 16: Did you remember your first Edition War? Did you win?

Edition wars suck. In the end, it all sounds the same to me...


No more updates? No more supplements? THEY TOOK ERRRRR GAME!!! DIRKA DURRRR!!!

New editions will be released. New versions will have advantages and disadvantages compared to the old. Some players will move on. Some players will stick to what they've always enjoyed. If your favorite game is no longer going to receive support from the company that produced it, I completely understand the disappointment, and even hurt feelings. I even understand people who are critical of what is replacing their beloved version of a game. What I don't have any time or patience for is the practice of berating the people who support the new version.

Life is about change. Change doesn't have to involve people trolling blog comments and message boards. I don't put up with people who act that way in real life, and it doesn't take much effort to click "block" for people online either.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Hero Forge Customizable Miniatures

I don't know what else to say other than... this looks amazing...


D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 15

Day 15: What was the first edition of D&D you didn't enjoy? Why?

There hasn't really been an edition I didn't enjoy. However, I can honestly say that I loved 4th edition the least. I was so excited about the ideas behind the new edition, and I bought the core books on the first day they were released, and started a campaign the same day.

That campaign lasted a few months, and when it ended, the whole group asked to play something else. I've said before that I love the game, but it just wasn't as exciting at the table as it was in theory. Maybe I just wasn't adept enough as a DM to make the system and our play style meet somewhere in the middle. Maybe it was, as I've mentioned before, that there just wasn't enough content out for the system yet. Maybe my players just preferred older systems. I don't know. I do know that my players have never been as unimpressed with a system despite how pumped I was about getting to run it.

Friday, February 14, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 14

Day 14: Did you meet your significant other while playing D&D? Does he or she still play?



My wife is not a D&D player, although she has been bugging me about doing a murder mystery dinner party. I keep telling her that those parties are just LARPing in disguise, but she doesn't believe me. She will roleplay the crap out of a murder mystery, but won't play Dungeons & Dragons? Blasphemy, I say!

She's awesome, though, even if she doesn't play RPGs. She supports my nerdiness, even to the point of:

  • scheduling weekends around my Magic tournament schedule
  • flying to California with me for the Star City Games Invitational
  • watching both Hobbit movies with me (even though she fell asleep during both)
  • bringing me food at Magic tournaments
  • offering to provide snacks for the crew on game night (although game nights have been rare lately and I haven't taken her up on the offer)
  • probably lots of other things I'm forgetting at the moment, but I'll fill them in later if I remember

To honor her on Valentine's Day, I'm going to bring her into the world of D&D in a very different way... by giving her stats as if she was a monster.


She's also a blogger, and you can find her work over at www.cornwellfam.com.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Elder Scrolls Online Beta

I am definitely going to lose a few hours of my life to this...


D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 13

Day 13: First miniature you used for D&D?


Note: This is not my first miniature - just a cheap one that I
bought years later.
The first miniature I used for D&D was way back in the late 80's. I have no idea what brand it was, but it was a pewter human fighter that never actually got painted. It wouldn't be until much later, around 1995 or so, that I even knew miniatures could be painted. Back then I was purchasing elf miniatures and painting them all as drow, mainly because we were playing an underdark campaign and we had drow PCs as well as drow foes... but also because the drow have been one of my favorite D&D races in the game since I first saw them in my 1st edition Fiend Folio.

Ironically, it wasn't until well into the 3rd edition years (probably 2006 or later), that we ever used miniatures with a grid - and even then, the first few runs involved Mage Knight figures. The D&D Miniatures line really opened the world of miniatures up for me... no longer were minis just a glorified way of keeping up with party line order!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hire Me, WotC! Part II - Doing Some Research

I hate to admit that, while I did spend a Saturday evening a few weeks ago getting ahead on the D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge, I let work creep up on me and missed a week in my "Hire Me, WotC!" series. It can be really difficult to balance "work life" and "fun life" sometimes, and fantasizing about working in a field where the two meet is a big part of why I'm doing this series in the first place. As much as I love the kids I work with, the bureaucracy of public education doesn't allow for as much "fun work" as I would like.

Side Note: If this "working in the gaming industry" idea doesn't pan out, I wonder if there are any charter or private schools that emphasize learning through games? I would probably enjoy that too... maybe I should start my own school if I can't find one somewhere.

Before I get too sidetracked, let's get back to the matter at hand and put my guidance counselor hat on for a while. When I talk to students about what careers they want to pursue, the first question I ask is, "Why do you think that would make you happy?" I think I've already covered that answer in previous posts. The second question is, "What do you already know about that career?" Regardless of their response, I always suggest that they do some research. That's where we pick up the journey today.

Side Note #2: I keep referring to this series as a journey. It might be cool to structure this series as an adventure. The childhood dream post may have been the "Background" and "Getting the Players Involved" sections of an adventure. The path I take could be represented by the winding corridors of a dungeon. I wonder how a Wizards of the Coast interview team would feel about being cast as the boss monster at the bottom level of the dungeon? Knowing how many of them have probably been DMs themselves, I bet they would like it!

Research is an important part of the job hunt for many reasons, but the most basic is finding out what jobs are out there. Luckily, I subscribed to the Hasbro job notification emails a long time ago, so I have a bit of a head start, but for a list of all Wizards of the Coast jobs, just click here. As of today, there are 18 jobs listed. A quick glance at the list reveals that while there is a lot of overlap, most of the jobs fall into three categories: art, marketing, and digital resources.

Unfortunately, for any of those categories I would need either another degree or a lot of work experience in areas I've only dabbled in thus far. Would I call myself an artist? Maybe, but I'm an amateur at best. Have I done any programming? Does HTML count? Have you had any experience in marketing? I once got a job at a magnet school in its first year, and our survival depended on recruiting students, so I guess you could say I helped market the school. Still, that's only one facet of the marketing field, and I was a fringe contributor at best.

So what can I do? Is there any job on the list that I qualify for already? It looks like there is only one...

One key phrase that I tell my students to look for when they are job hunting is, "entry level position," and this job listing has just that. That phrase means that I'm less likely to be hindered by my lack of experience in the industry, and any related experience I may have from other fields may actually make me look like a stronger candidate than a recent graduate. Another interesting point I noticed as I scanned the job description is how many communication skills listed are skills I've had explicit training on as a counselor.

Only one potential position might sound discouraging, but there is more to the story. There are other positions that are close.
  • Content Manager - While I wouldn't label Outsyder Gaming as wildly successful, I do have experience creating and managing online content. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to get some experience working for another fan-focused site and then using that experience as a selling point on my resume. I do think this is a job I can do, but I will probably need more experience proving that I can do the job before Wizards would ever consider hiring me.
  • Human Resources Business Partner - Counseling and human resources have a lot of overlap in skills, and given the list of job responsibilities, there are only a few that I feel I would need a great deal of training to do. However, getting certified might take more formal schooling than I want to deal with right now. As I've said before, with eight years of college under my belt, I'm a little burned out at the moment!

Fortunately, I have some time before I actually apply for positions, so the list of jobs available right this second is not as important as knowing what kinds of jobs can be found at the company and what kind of skills they're looking for. 

Next time we'll continue the journey with some research of a different kind...

Look out, Wizards. I'm coming!

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 12

Day 12: First store where you bought your game supplies. Is it still there?

The first place I ever bought gaming stuff was at Amazing Heroes in the Valley Hills Mall in Hickory, North Carolina. The store has been gone for years now (this is the most info I could find on it), but I have some good memories of that place.
  • It was the place my dad took me to buy my first miniature, for that human warrior I talked about earlier this month.
  • It was the place where I purchased my first Rifts book, after I convinced my mom that even if she was convinced that D&D was of the devil, this RPG had a warning label on the inside cover, so it was safe. To this day, I'm not sure how or why that argument worked.
  • It was where I purchased each of the core 3rd edition D&D books when they were released.
  • It was where I went at least once a month to see if they had the newest Dragon and/or Dungeon Magazine... and I was always mad when somebody had picked up the last copy right before me. Sometimes I'd get lucky and Media Play would still have a copy left, but it wasn't often.
Amazing Heroes closed sometime during my college years. I didn't go for a while, and then one day I stopped in and the only thing left of the store was a set of super hero murals on the wall outside. Even those didn't last too long. Now there is a First Health Center in the mall where the comic shop used to be. 

Does it make me a bad person that I for a long time I wished a medical facility would go out of business so a comic store could take its place? Luckily, my wish didn't have to come true, and The Dugout opened just down the street from the mall. True, we've had some other local game stores in between, but none ever lived up to how cool Amazing Heroes was until The Dugout opened... and I don't think anyone would argue that The Dugout has stolen the show in the Hickory area.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 11

Day 11: First splatbook you begged your DM to approve.

I've never begged to use a splatbook, and no player has ever had to beg me to use one. Although a lot of people complain about splatbooks, I am a huge fan, even as the DM. The first one I ever used was the The Complete Book of Elves, which I allowed in my campaign without having read any of it except the text on the back cover. This was quickly followed by The Complete Book of Dwarves, The Drow of the Underdark (still one of my favorites), and The Complete Fighter's Handbook.




Lots more followed. The only one I ever shied away from was the psionics handbook, but I think I had just heard bad things about it and had a fear of the unknown. By the time rules for psionics were released for 3rd edition, I wasn't worried about them at all, and 3E psionics were (arguably, at least) a lot easier to abuse.

Monday, February 10, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 10

Day 10: First gaming magazine you ever bought (Dragon, Dungeon, White Dwarf, etc.)?

Dragon #225 was my first gaming magazine, and it led to a steady stream of magazines over the next few years. My allowance in middle school kept me too poor to purchase real supplements more than a few times a year, and I was never much of a patient gamer. Dragon and Dungeon gave me the option of getting new game content without having to save up as long, and I was hooked.

I don't think there is much in that issue that I still use these days, but I remember seeing this episode of Big Bang Theory and thinking back to David Clarke's article on using celebrities as models for character personalities.



I just can't believe it took them until season six for a Dungeons & Dragons episode...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 9

Day 9: The first campaign setting (published or homebrew) that you ever played in?

I don't remember many setting details from the first campaign I played in. I was in 1st grade, after all. But the things I do remember, I remember quite well. We were playing in the Greyhawk campaign setting, and we were close to Iuz. To this day, I don't know much about Iuz, but whatever that place is, it must be really bad.

It was the map that fascinated me most, though. My dad didn't have any of the setting material - only the double-poster sized world map. I think I still have it somewhere. It would be cool to get it back out and frame it.

It's probably in the man cave, buried under tons of Forgotten Realms supplements.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 8


Day 8: First set of polyhedral dice you owned. Do you still use them?


The first set I owned was a hand-me-down from my father. They were clear with black ink in the numbers, and I honestly have no clue what happened to them. However, years later I got this little d20 in a Chessex Pound o' Dice. While I know it wasn't from the specific set that I had back then, I have wondered if perhaps it was made at the same time. I doubt it, but you never know.

Friday, February 7, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 7

Day 7: First D&D product you ever bought. Do you still have it?

This is actually tough to answer because I started playing so young that it's hard to differentiate between what my parents bought me and what I purchased myself. I do remember, though, a time after my mom convinced me to throw out my D&D books but before I bought a new set. I missed D&D, and I bought the DragonStrike board game. It came with this video:


Oh, that was terrible, wasn't it? I wonder how Alan Blumenfeld feels about having this on his resume?

I thought it was cheesy even then, and I think I was in 5th grade. Still, the game itself wasn't bad. I rather enjoyed the adventures, and it did serve as a good intro game for some of my friends. 

Note that I didn't show them the video. They likely wouldn't have played the game if I had.

WizKids to Produce D&D Miniatures

According to an announcement on wizards.com, WizKids will be producing the next line of official Dungeons & Dragons miniatures. This is exciting news, as I have long been a fan of Mage Knight and Hero Clix (though admittedly, I haven't played either in years). You can find some images of figures on the announcement page, as well as at the WizKids site. Personally, I think they look great. I recall seeing early images of D&D Miniatures about five years ago and thinking, "Man, these are going to suck." I don't get that impression at all this time. The figures I've seen so far could probably use a little more shading, but honestly, I actually like how clean the flat colors make them look. Maybe clean isn't the right word... but I like them. I've been critical in the past of some D&D Miniatures paint jobs, but I would use any of these miniatures on my tabletop and I wouldn't think of criticizing their quality.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 6

Day 6: First character death. How did you handle it?

As morbid as it may sound, I usually find myself a little relieved when my characters die. Part of the reason I like being the DM so much is that I'm never restricted to a single character, and when I do find myself on the players' side, I suffer from character ADHD. I might really like this character concept, but as soon as something new and cool catches my eye, I really want to give it a shot. Even though a lot of people complain about splat books giving too many options, I find that I can never get enough. Gamers like me are the reason splat books are a thing... we consume every crunchy bit that Wizards of the Coast throws us, and we still wish we had more. In fact, I got bored with 4th Edition early on because we started playing it the day it was released and there weren't enough splat books for me! I am always on the lookout to try a new character, and losing an old one is a great opportunity to explore something new.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 5

Day 5: First character to go from 1st to the highest level possible in a given edition. (Or what's the highest level character you ever ran?)


Since I have usually played the role of the DM, I rarely get to run characters for very long periods of time. The highest level character I ever ran was back in the 2nd Edition days. My dad was running a campaign for my little brother and me, and Eric was playing a dwarf. My character was a drow earth elementalist (a specialist wizard from Tome of Magic) named Ranaghar the Houseless. He was an outcast, but not the Drizzt type. He had dreams of conquest. Specifically, his long term plan was to build a castle in the underdark and then use the Estate Transference spell to move it to the Elemental Plane of Earth. From there, he would conquer the plane, turning it into his own personal (and endless) underdark.

Yeah, he was ambitious.

His plans never panned out, of course. Ranaghar's story was left unfinished just after he attained 5th level. The last thing I remember doing with this character was despairing over the fact that the coolest 3rd level spells had nothing to do with the earth and therefor seemed out of character for him. As a player, I really wanted to hurl fireballs, but I just couldn't bring myself to put them on his spell list because it didn't seem like what the character would want. It really changed the way I thought of D&D characters - more as independent works of fiction than simple extensions of myself.

In the end, what spell he learned for 5th level didn't matter. He earned every point of experience he needed to sling a fireball, but his tale was left in limbo before he ever got the chance.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 4

Day 4: First dragon your character slew (or some other powerful monster).

It was hardly the accomplishment of a lone adventurer. Rather, it was the combined efforts of a barge full of travelers crossing Whyestil Lake. A pair of mercenaries, one experienced and the other with a blade that had tasted naught but the blood of goblins thus far, were seeking treasure in the Vesve Forest. Alongside a dozen or so other passengers and the scant guard detail that the ship's captain had hired for the journey, the pair successfully fended off the fearsome attack of a dragon turtle. Though they were unable to slay the beast, it only managed to eat half of the barge's passengers before it fled below the surface, and the ship arrived at its destination otherwise unmolested. They were heroes for the day.

I'm not sure how that happened exactly, except that my dad was rolling for a lot of guards who were attacking it at the same time my character was. Rolling that many d20s was bound to produce some critical hits, right? Honestly, he probably fudged the dice a bit as well, or at least had it retreat earlier than it needed to. Still, at the time it was a huge accomplishment. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 3

Day 3: First dungeon you explored as a player-character or ran as a DM.

Strangely enough, I don't remember exploring a dungeon at all in my first campaign. My dad must have had a thing for wilderness encounters, because I remember a tavern brawl, goblins and stirges in a forest, pixies that were probably in a forest too, and fighting bugbears on a hill... but nothing underground at all.

I believe the first real dungeon I ever used in a game was the sample dungeon from the 1st edition Dungeon Master's Guide. While the first few rooms were described in the example of play included in the book, the rest were free for me to populate however I wanted, and I did just that! Regardless of what I added, the best part was having a giant spider fall onto the shoulder of one of the PCs the same way it did in the book. There were more spiders in my dungeon than there were in the original, and I recall a conversation about how many the players could try to stomp on in each round of combat. One even demonstrated how he could fling one giant spider from his shoulder while simultaneously jumping on and squashing one more with each foot. I think I even gave him a roll to see if it worked, but while I don't remember the results, I doubt I'll ever forget that demonstration!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 2

Day 2: First person you introduced to D&D. Which edition? Their first character?

I don't know if I can completely take credit for it because his older brother also played D&D, but I introduced my neighbor to D&D back in 6th grade. I'm going to claim this one because I doubt he would have ever played with his brother if I hadn't been involved. In fact, to this day, I still can't believe he played at all, much less every other week for a year or more. Most of the guys I played RPGs with back in middle and high school don't play anymore, and they didn't really fit any "gamer" stereotypes back then either. My interests were split pretty evenly between basketball and gaming, while most of them were much more interested in being athletes than rolling dice. Still, they humored me, and I like to think there was enough nerdiness in them to actually enjoy most of it. If they didn't, they were even better friends than I thought!

His first character was a dwarven fighter named Gimli. How original, right! Back then we were playing a 1st edition/2nd edition combination. Even though the style changed quite a bit between 1st and 2nd edition, the basics were still similar enough to run material from either one side by side with very few (if any) modifications. I had to save up allowance money for weeks to buy a new book, so we started with a 2nd edition Player's Handbook and everything else 1st edition (because my dad had already given me those). Somebody bought a new Monster Manual, and I borrowed it from time to time. After a while, we almost transitioned fully to 2nd edition, but I clung to the 1st Edition Dungeon Master's Guide for a lot of things even though I owned the new one as well.

Those were good times.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Day 1

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons, D20 Dark Ages started a blog hop challenge. Well... challenge accepted. Here goes! 


Day 1: First person who introduced you to D&D. Which edition? Your first character?
The first person who introduced me to D&D was my dad. He had played Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition in college, and I bugged him to death with questions about the books on the shelf when I was little. When I was in first grade, he started a campaign for me. It was pretty simple - I played a human fighter, and he rolled up a higher level DM PC to get me out of trouble if I did anything stupid. He even did character sketches for both characters.

The character never died, but we stopped playing right after I made it to 3rd level. My parents split up, and I didn't see much of my dad over the next few years, so I didn't get the chance to play again for quite some time. Still, even though I didn't play D&D for years, I spent quite a bit of allowance money on random supplements just for reading material and to imagine what it would be like to play again if my dad ever came back around.

Spoiler: I did get to play D&D with my dad again years later.
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