Fare thee well, #rpgaday2015

Two years ago, Game Designer David Chapman launched #rpgaday, an internet hashtag, consuming blogs, youtube channels, facebook accounts, and twitter feeds throughout the month of August. Consisting of 31 thought-provoking questions related to roleplaying games and the people who play them, #rpgaday has been an insightful event, inspiring introspection, spotlighting games and designers some people may not have heard of, and revealing an interesting glimpse into the minds of fans and creators… at least as it relates to the hobby so many of us are passionate about.

2014 was a huge success and 2015 even more so.

While I have generally taken to twitter to address these questions as they’ve come up, as today is #rpgaday2015 Last Day I thought I would expound a bit upon today’s question.

#rpgaday2015 Day 31: Favourite non-RPG thing to come out of RPGing —

I thought long and hard about this one. Tough question, no?

I turned to my son, who is about 40 days shy of turning 12, and asked him what he thought. His rather quick answer was a good one. “Adventure Time!” he said. Hard to argue with youthful wisdom like that…

But, yeah, as cool as Finn and Jake’s adventures are, there had to be something more…

And then I had it.

These guys:


And this guy:


That picture of my son was taken in 2013, the year he began his rpg journey. He was just nine years old, three years younger than I was when I began playing D&D with those guys in the picture above his.

So, yeah, my answer to the question what is my favourite non-RPG thing to come out of RPGing is an easy one — the lifelong friendships and camaraderie that the game inspired and the opportunity to share the game with the people I love and care about… especially now that my son is into the game.

Back in 2013, Conn had written me a note that I opened after coming home from work. It read:

Dear Dad,

Thanks you for teaching me how
to RPG. It’s a fun game, can’t
wait til next time.

Connor Freeman

Yeah, there’s your answer, internet. That bloody trumps any other answer you might come up with.

See you next year for #rpgaday2016.


The Demon Prince of Undeath — Orcus

Oh, Dungeons & Dragons, you get me. You really get me.

abyssHot on the heels of Pathfinder’s Occult Adventures comes something of an occult outing from Wizards of the Coast in the form of Out of the Abyss, the next big to-do conjured up for Dungeons & Dragons’ 5th Edition.

Wizards’ D&D Team describes it thusly:

Dare to descend into the Underdark in this adventure for the world’s greatest roleplaying game! 

The Underdark is a subterranean wonderland, a vast and twisted labyrinth where fear reigns. It is the home of horrific monsters that have never seen the light of day. It is here that the dark elf Gromph Baenre, Archmage of Menzoberranzan, casts a foul spell meant to ignite a magical energy that suffuses the Underdark and tears open portals to the demonic Abyss. What steps through surprises even him, and from that moment on, the insanity that pervades the Underdark escalates and threatens to shake the Forgotten Realms to its foundations. Stop the madness before it consumes you!

So, you’ve got Drow and Demons and the gods only know what else wrapped up in this hellish nightmare of an adventure. Throw in a Beholder and some Mind-flayers and it’s a party.

Speaking of party, check this cat out —


Like that? Want more? Head over to The Escapist for a more in depth preview. And for an even cooler sneak peek into what Out of the Abyss has in store for gamers, Acquisitions Inc will be delving into the Underdark at PAX Prime, tonight at 8:30pm (streaming on their Twitch Channel).

The Duelist

My son is an enthusiastic roleplayer.

He is currently on a kick to have me run a different game in a different genre every couple of days.

I like the way he thinks.

Thing is, his current obsession is to have a more realistic combat simulation. He’s finding the standard d20, round-based combat system too limiting, too nebulous. He wants something more visceral. He wants movement. He wants defined wounds. He wants critical hits and fumbles.

He wants. I deliver. Or try to.


Thing is, has there ever been an RPG that gets it right? Or, at least, comes close?

Jake Norwood’s Riddle of Steel had a lot of potential, I think, but it’s out of print. Harnmaster is another that come to mind.

What I’ve decided to do is take it upon myself to create a new game, with its own rules for combat, in the tradition of Norwood’s approach. I was active in HACA for a few years and still fancy myself a HEMA-Enthusiast and plan to bring my knowledge and training to bear, coupled with a background of nearly forty years of roleplaying.

The idea, right now, is to focus on individual formal combat, namely, a game based around the duel. I am tentatively calling it, simply, The Duelist, and will eventually expand upon the idea.

I want to get the particulars right before getting too deep.

I will keep you updated as it progresses.

It’s a Small World After All: My thoughts on #AntMan (with a side of Batgirl)


craigFunny how the world works. Sitting in the movie theater last night watching Ant-Man, Evangeline Lily put me in mind of Yvonne Craig, who, one could say, was my very first childhood crush.

I mean, of course she was.

Yvonne Craig was all over my TV as a kid. She was Marta the Orion slave girl on Star Trek. She showed up on Wild Wild West, The Big Valley, and Dobie Gillis. She was freaking Batgirl, for gods’ sake.

And now she’s gone at the age of 78 after a long bout with breast cancer.

She will most certainly be missed.


As for Ant-Man, which Kim, Conn, and I finally got around to seeing, well, it was, in my most humble opinion, nothing short of spectacular. It narrowly bumps Captain America: Winter Soldier from its lofty perch, but bump it it most certainly does.

Ant-Man had everything I want from…

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Quick DM Tip: Defining Character


Here’s a little something cooked up from a couple of discarded pencil sketches by my pal Joe Strunk. With a little lightbox action, some pencil and ink embellishes, and a wee bit o’ Photoshop for good measure from yours truly, we have a Frazetta-homage, of sorts.

Konn and Sion hail from the midlands of Norfrost on the Island of Drakkarsys. Thought of as Fire-tressed Barbarians by the more “civilized” folk to the south, these cunning warriors are born survivors… but more than that, they live for adventure as surely as they’d die for each other.

Quick DM Tip Time:

There are two types of players in my book — roleplayers and dice rollers. I prefer the former. I want the people sitting at my table to immerse themselves in their characters, to become method actors for the time they’re there.

For that to work, the DM has to be comfortable doing the same, breathing life into NPCs for the players to intact with. This isn’t always easy… especially in a sandbox campaign.

My advice? Keep a list of ‘character’ names at the ready, a hundred should do. Then make a list of movie and tv characters you’re familiar with. These don’t have to be ‘fantasy’ characters. Hell, write Tony Soprano’s name down if you like. Next time your players throw you a curveball and you have to improv a scene in a bar or wand shop or whatever, you have an arsenal of NPCs to choose from.

You keep your players in the game by adapting to the moment.

Adapt and Overcome

For me, one of the most fascinating things about Tabletop RPGs, particularly of the Dungeons & Dragons/Pathfinder variety, is how ultimately different, unique, and diverse the games can be from table to table. There are a million ways to run and play an RPG, and most of them can be successful. There is no right or wrong way to approach the game (sort of), because, in the end, whatever works best for each group is “the right way”.

That is what makes these games so dynamic and exciting.

the_dungeon_master_by_ralphhorsleyI’ve been DMing now for just shy of 37 years and almost from the start I have viewed the games I run as collaborative storytelling adventures. I’ve just never been a fan of adversarial DMing. I used to use the analogy of my games being like a novel, but it’s really more like a television series.

I view my job as being the campaign’s showrunner, director, and lead writer, with the players taking on the roles of co-writers and lead actors. I have the task of intuiting the characters’ desires and work that into my vision, my story, while remaining flexible enough to alter course at a moment’s notice.

Of late, we have been transitioning from massively world-shattering, epic campaigns to more modular stories. Think Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber as opposed to J.R.R. Tolkien. Our group gathers once or twice a month, so this new way of approaching the game affords a more visceral and immediate means of telling a story, usually within a single session.

Not that I don’t run overarching subplots… they’re my bread and butter, after all. I have always tended toward the George R. R. Martin, Tolkien-esque melodrama, intricately plotted campaigns, but a good DM adapts to the players and situations at hand, and these smaller stories set against a bigger world is what serves us now.

And that is the biggest key to being a successful DM, the sort that keeps players invested and campaigns alive for years on end — adaptability.

Look, the name of the game is having a good time. Whatever works, right? A DM cannot be rigid and inflexible. They have to address the game as a whole, being the crucible by which the rules, players, venue, and situation come together, creating an epic game night, time and time again.

But like I said, there are a million ways to run and play an RPG and that’s the beauty of it.