Should player character death be a possibility?

Many of you have been writing and tweeting, asking how the Chasing the Dragon project is going.  Well, we’re five sessions into The Village of Hommlet and we’ve got two player character deaths on the books.  In fact, here’s a picture from our last session:

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You can see poor Elder Cunningham (our cleric) lying slain amidst his foes.  You can also see the pain on Patrick’s face (Elder’s player) on the top left, as he grieves his character’s untimely demise.

As a GM, I really feel bad when PCs die.  I want players to have a good time…and having your character ignominiously slain with one attack (RIP Elder Cunningham) just doesn’t seem like much fun.  So it leaves me with a question: should PC death be a real potentiality?  Or should GMs avoid it at as much as they can?

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Learning from Gary Gygax: Gaming Variety

This blog is the second in a series inspired by Michael Witwer’s Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS.

You might be surprised to learn that Gary Gygax played games other than Dungeons & Dragons.  While he certainly enjoyed D&D, he was an avid chess player and war-gamer.  And, of course, he always had new games brewing in the back of his mind.

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One of Gary’s creations, Dragonchess (Photo credit: Zac Dortch)

While consistency is certainly key for a gaming group, some level of variety is necessary to keep players interested.  You need to swap out GMs from time-to-time.  Different games on the table keep people interested.  Even a change in locale can spice things up a bit (hosting can get tiresome too!).

So by way of recommendation, here are the top six games that I think should grace your tabletop, if not as a permanent fixture, then as an occasional change of pace:

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Budget-Friendly Nostalgia: Miniatures

This is the third post in a series on responsible and affordable AD&D shopping.

It was one of the scenes with the greatest foreshadowing in “Stranger Things”: when Mike slammed down the terrifying miniature of a demogorgon smack-dab in the middle of the adventuring party.  They were playing AD&D.  And things just got real.

This thing's no joke: 200 hp straight up (MM, 16).

Demogorgon’s no joke: 200 hp straight up.  3 attacks per round, incl. psionics.  Just run. (MM, 16)   

But a few grognards out there may have taken exception at this point.  “Miniatures!” they might exclaim “We didn’t use no filthy miniatures in AD&D!  It’s was theater of the mind!”  So I’ve heard some say.  But as one who has not only recently read the rulebooks in toto, but has also been recently playing AD&D 1e with miniatures, I think it’s the best way to play the game.  And, for that matter, it’s not going to break the bank either.

But let’s start at the beginning: should AD&D even be played with miniatures?  Is it really going to enhance my gaming experience?

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The Mad Cleric Needs Your Help!

This blog is for you.  I write and podcast week-in and week-out to benefit your gaming and, thereby, your life.  So I want to know how I can help you better.  Below I’ve got a brief ten-question survey for you to fill out.  The first to fill it out and chime in on the comments below will get precedence in online AD&D games later in the year!  So please, give me a few minutes of your time, so that I can be even more helpful to your gaming and your life.

Thanks!

Jason, The Mad Cleric

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Satanic Panic

The topic has come up in almost every Chasing the Dragon podcast we’ve had: Satanic panic.  That period in the eighties when good, virtuous mothers and churchgoers were warned against the dangers of Dungeons & Dragons.  And the edition that brought on these accusations most powerfully was the exact edition that I’ve been reading, re-reading, playing, and podcasting about: First Edition AD&D.

Some of you may not know this about me, but I am a Protestant pastor in the Southern United States.  I’ve been accused of being too conservative…and also accused of being too liberal, which is probably a good place to be.  But as a Protestant pastor in a denomination that uses the word “evangelical” to describe itself, rest assured I lean right compared to a more liberal, mainstream Protestantism.

Why does that matter?  Well, it seems that if anybody would be sympathetic to the Satanic panic of the ’80s, it would be this guy:

Yep, there he is. That evil gamer type again.

Yep, there he is. That evil gamer type again.

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Seeking a Quest in Hommlet

And we’re off!  Session 1 of Chasing the Dragon is on the books.  My home group began playing T1 – The Village of Hommlet.  As I’ve said about the module before, this introductory setting is just that: a setting.  It’s a very good setting, but a setting nonetheless.

I’ve been spoiled by more recent adventure books, where the whole story is laid out for the GM step-by-step.  Even more sandboxy ones, like D&D 4e’s The Slaying Stone or FFG’s Star Wars: The Jewel of Yavin, still had a general plotline to which the GM was supposed to draw the players back.

Not so with Hommlet!  Instead, Mr. Gygax has put remarkably painstaking detail into his setting.  Vivid characters–beautiful buildings–interest-provoking details–all of these with no plot hooks.  Now you could imagine that the details are themselves the plot hooks, but the dots are left for the DM to connect.

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My players were curious what kind of workout these guys did on a daily basis.

Now that I’m one session in, I’m fine with it.  The players are enjoying the intricacies of the adventure thus far.  They like the characters, the village, and the process.  But here are the two things I wished I’d known as a first-time AD&D DM: Continue reading

CtD Podcast, Episode 5: Character Creation

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For our fifth episode, I sat down with my brother in Memphis, TN to discuss character creation for AD&D.  We hear about both of our experiences creating characters for other games and how AD&D contrasts with them.

A few affiliate links to works referenced in the show:

And now, the podcast:

Video:

Audio: