The DM’s Oath


You’d think that with a new year dawning and all it would be apropos to have the first post of 2017 be light and positive. Well, that was the plan until I saw this “DM’s Oath” floating around facebook.

I could ignore it. I could look away and pretend it doesn’t exist, but where’s the fun in that?

Let’s dissect this thing, shall we?

I will run the game, not the players or their characters.

On the surface, this isn’t too bad, but I suspect this entire list was written by someone with very little practical Dungeon Mastering Experience. The fact is, sometimes a DM has to prod his characters and keep them on point.

I will coordinate the game with my players in all ways.

No. Absolutely not. Never. I am more than willing to discuss your character with you, to adapt your ideas into character backstory and such. I will even listen to your aspirations for your character, but a Dungeon Master is the storyteller here. Yes, D&D is all about co-operative storytelling, but the DM is the author and the players are the characters. Your characters influence the story and the narrative, but never forget who the Shaper of Worlds is.

I will run the game fairly for all my players.

Nope. I won’t  take an oath to this either. Why? The story comes first. Sometimes rules must be fluid to accommodate the narrative. Sometimes the dice need fudged. Sometimes a monster needs nerfed or buffed. Fair is relative. The only rule I adhere to is make the game entertaining and keep everyone engaged.

I will reward role playing, not punish a lack of it.

Poppycock. If you sit down at my table, I expect you to be immersed in the world. Good role playing will most certainly be rewarded. But if you’re checking out, intent on your cell phone, television, or what have you, chances are your character is going to feel it.

I will take responsibility for the safety and comfort of all my players.

There’s no room for bullying or being disrespectful, but I can see how a rule like this could get out of hand. I consider the people who play at my table members of my family. We look out for each other. If we have a guest, they will be treated with the same courtesy all my players experience.

I will not play my own character.

Ridiculous. Non-Player Characters are a necessary part of the game. Every one of them is my character.

I will remember that this is just a game.

If you truly believe that then you’re playing it wrong   😉

Fantastic Fourth

I’ve got a confession to make: I’ve been revisiting D&D’s 4th Edition lately and I’m starting to think I may have given it a bad rap.

Here’s the deal: I started playing Dungeons & Dragons in 1978. I drifted from original flavor to extra crispy and settled into 2nd Edition for pretty much the long haul.

I bought into 3.0 & 3.5, but didn’t care for it. It was too “super-hero/high-fantasy” for my tastes. By the time 4th edition came along. I just wasn’t interested.

The thing that made me turn my nose up to 4th edition was, primarily, the demand for miniature play and we just never played that way. Ever.

Every group, from junior high through post-college, was strictly theatre of the mind.

Then we had a reunion game in 2013 and began playing monthly and, for whatever reason, I brought out minis and battlemaps. I was all-in on that stuff.


Maybe it was because I had a young son and those maps and minis captured his imagination. Maybe it was just that I had noticed just how good pre-painted minis, maps, and set pieces had become. Maybe it was because I got a thrill out of crafting sets and designing elaborate scenarios with these newfound toys. Maybe it was all that and more…

So now, here I am, looking at 4th edition with fresh eyes. Oh sure, there’s a lot of bloat, and I still can’t stand tieflings and dragonborn and all that… but the game itself, the nuts and bolts and maps and miniatures and all the rest… yeah, I think I get it.

4th edition has a lot to offer. There is plenty to mine for my 5th edition games. Buying used and ONS 4th edition’s all the rage in the Freeman house.

Conn’s DMing now and he’s all about the bells & whistles. 4th edition had lots of that. The maps alone are worth the price of admission. For the rest, your mileage might vary.

I think the biggest issue, looking back now, is that Wizards of the Coast marketed the thing wrong. With 5th edition it seems they learned from those mistakes.

I’m now glad 4th edition existed. I’m even more glad that I’ve found a way to put that stuff to use.

Longsword v Katana

I had a discussion with a young man yesterday about which sword was superior — the European Longsword or Japanese Katana. It’s a common topic among sword aficionados. Both weapons have their pros and cons, but I certainly have a preference.


I began my foray into sword study with multiple bokkens and a shinai practice sword, graduating to a couple of inexpensive katanas and a ninja-to. I was a child of the 70s and 80s after all. Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris movies were on steady rotation and I devoured books on various martial arts and Japanese Swordsmanship. Then Highlander came along and cemented the deal… Like everyone else, I believed in the superiority of the katana. Books, movies, and television hammered the point home often enough and I bought into the hype.




Despite all that, I was still enamored with the European Longsword and in the early 90s had the opportunity, by pure accident, to watch a demonstration by early Historical Armed Combat Association enthusiasts. This led me into a more thorough examination of the weapon, studying historical fighting manuals and, eventually, crafting my own longsword and training with wasters. I spent a bit of time as a longsword instructor, teaching modified Liechtenauer techniques to friends.

Now that my son is older he has taken up the longsword as well and after many years away from serious study, it’s felt good to be back to training.

Anyway, here are my thoughts on these two weapons. These are just my opinions, but having studied and trained with both weapons, I think they have merit.

Cutting: Katana

The katana gets the edge here due to the curvature of the blade. I believe both swords generate plenty of cutting power, but the design of the katana favors cutting.

Thrusting: Longsword

Again, it’s all about design. The longsword, being a double edged weapon can thrust much deeper than what the single edged katana can.

Speed: Katana

This is a tricky one, but I think the smaller design in conjunction with the sword’s scabbard and in unison with the overall emphasis on quick draw and definitive single strike maneuvers, this is the katanas wheelhouse.

Guard and Defense: Longsword

No contest. The longsword’s crossguard is far superior to the katana’s tsuba. All things being equal, the longsword’s superior reach is also a crucial factor.

Versatility: Longsword

Again, the longsword is the clear champion here. The katana has a singular purpose, with its single hard and sharp edge being a clear and present danger with its cutting prowess. The longsword is the ultimate multitasker, with its double-edged assault, being both a cutting and thrusting dynamo, and the ability for half-swording.

Verdict: Longsword

Two equal opponents facing off, one with a katana, the other with a longsword, the clear winner is the longsword. The katana is typically 24-28 inches in length while the longsword ranges from 36-44 inches. I can tell you from experience, even as little as a 6 inch difference in sword lengths is a critical advantage.

Rock & Roll20


Exactly one year ago today, the 8th of November 2015, the Oak Hill Dungeons & Dragons Club played our first game via Roll20. Since then, I have logged about 500 hours on the site. There are lots of pros and cons, but it has grown on me.

Being able to get together from the comfort of our own home has been a godsend. Mike, who lives in Louisiana, can now play regularly, and Steve can pop in from Chicago far more easily than making a round trip eight-plus hour drive down twice a month.

Roll20 could never replace all of us getting together around a table, but it’s a terrific substitute. Yes, there are technical glitches and we stumble and fumble about generally for 30 minutes to an hour every session just getting the communication square, but once the audio gremlins are vanquished the world falls away and we’re in the game.

I really appreciate the Fog of War and Dynamic Lighting effects. The online record sheets are terrific from both a player and DM perspective. The built-in music and sound effects are transportive. And let’s face it, digital tokens and battlemaps really do elevate the game in an affordable fashion.

Would I prefer an unlimited budget and a weekly in-person game complete with painted miniatures and elaborate Dwarven Forge sets? Yes. Yes I would.

Roll20 is so much more than just the ‘next-best-thing’ though. It’s magic at your fingertips… and that’s enough for me.



An idea for a T-Shirt up top and an announcement below it.

I’ve been trying to run three blogs and various other social media accounts for a while now. It’s really not been working out as I’d hoped. I’ve been proud of some of the things posted here on Dice Upon a Time, but as more and more of my focus drifts toward the creation of OCCULT DETECTIVE: The Roleplaying Game, it seems that those things would be better addressed at

I will still use this blog for #RPGaDay in August and other industry related events, like Tabletop Day and the like. I’ll also make periodic announcements here.

This is all to say that, yes, this site will be addressed less frequently and a lot of RPG content, especially as relates to OD:TRPG, will appear on the mothership from here on, but Dice Upon a Time is not being abandoned.

I’ll just be more scarce… which, I suppose, you’ve already noticed.

As we close out 2017, let’s see how the world turns and adjust accordingly.