Breathe life into that boring dungeon crawl!

They call it a dungeon grind. 

Not a dungeon frolic, a dungeon jaunt, or even a dungeon struggle.

It’s a grind.  It’s a slog.  An encounter-by-encounter, gear-grinding endeavor that makes even the most experienced player and GM tremble.

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My second session of D&D as a GM was a dungeon freaking grind.  Why?  Well, I had a really big playmat, lots of new miniatures, and I wanted to use it all!  But I learned very quickly that fight after fight after trap after fight can not only kill character, but also bore players.  Is it possible to have a complex dungeon without boring the spit out of our players?  I think you can.  And I’m learning how to do it from Gary Gygax himself:

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How gamers can become readers…which they should!

Reading is an absolute necessity for creators.  And that applies to Game Masters and game players as much as it does to any other creative!

But if you’re like me, a grown-up gamer who is already juggling family, work, and gaming, it can be hard to find the time to read.  And therein lies the problem.  My creative juices flow better when I read.  I feel more engaged and “in touch” with the world when I read.  But when I don’t read?  Well, let’s say it leaves the creative fields of my mind fallow.

Shouldn’t it be easier to develop ourselves intellectually?  Shouldn’t regular reading be a simple discipline to develop?  You will develop a healthy habit of reading if you follow the process that I followed.  I read every day at work (that’s not a discipline…that’s work).  But I also read for myself at home.  And you can too!  Here’s how you can develop the same practice: Continue reading

Should game masters threaten player characters?

It appears that I struck a real chord with Tuesday’s article on player character death.  Why did so many GMs and players respond so passionately to my post?  Because players sometimes get mad at GMs when their characters die.

Not all players and not always.  But it does happen and it creates tension at the tabletop, when players are angry over their characters’ deaths.

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Another final shot of our fallen comrade. RIP Elder Cunningham.  FWIW, the beholder there is actually a giant snake.  I wouldn’t do that to Level 2 adventurers!

One particular response (from @theTinyGM on Twitter) took exception to my use of the word “threat” in relation to PC death.  Her concern was that the language of a threat might set up a confrontational relationship between GM and player.  Of course, nothing could be further from my intention.

But it raises the question: can GMs create conflict and challenges for PCs–can they “threaten” the livelihood of adventurers–without creating a confrontational atmosphere?  I’m convinced you can!  If I can pull it off, you can too!

Here are the three steps you can take to create a challenging situation that will end in nothing but fun and mutual respect at your gaming table:

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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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Learning from Gary Gygax: Consistency

Reading is one of the best things any gamer can do.  Especially GMs.  It’s hard to be creative in output, when you’re not taking in creative input.  Every night when I go to bed, I read.  No more than thirty minutes, sometimes no more than a paragraph.  But I always read.  What do I read?

I’ve been on a real history/biography kick lately, thanks to the Broadway musical, Hamilton (man, you’re really getting a grasp of how geeky I am today).  I finished off 1776 by David McCullough a couple of weeks ago and then in only two weeks’ time (really rare for me), I finished an amazing biography of Gary Gygax by Michael Witwer, called Empire of Imagination.

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Not only was it written in an engrossing narrative style–not only was it written about a current obsession of mine–but it also had a lot of helpful tidbits for gamers like ourselves, who like to sneak away once or twice a week to get a taste of freedom and fun in imaginary lands.

So in this first installment, I’d like to share the first thing I learned from THE Dungeon Master in my stroll through his life story:

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Your PCs Need a Mr. Miyagi

If you’re looking for a new game, you’ve got a problem on your hands.

And the problem isn’t scarcity–no, quite the opposite!  The number of  tabletop games available in 2016 is a bit mind-numbing.  Not only do you have new games coming out quite frequently, but you’ve also got years of old games just waiting at your FLGS and on eBay.

And for grown-up gamers such as ourselves, our ability to take on new games is limited by our schedule.  It’s tough to keep up with your responsibilities, while trying to learn every new game that comes your way.

So as the guy who’s been encouraging you to try out AD&D, 1st Edition, I feel it’s important for me to answer the question:

Is learning AD&D, 1st Edition worth the trouble?

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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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