Friday, February 28, 2014

Have You Learned Nothing???

More Marker Experimentation
The D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge

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

I learned that everyone is different.  They have different reasons for coming to the table.  They have different goals for themselves, and their characters, while playing.  Some want to solve problems.  Some want to avoid problems.  Some even want to create problems.

Humanity is a diverse tapestry of personalities - even the very small subset who play D&D.  Before I started playing, I didn't have much experience with people, and figured that everyone was pretty much like me.

Well, I was eleven when I started to play. :)

The gaming table is a little crucible of life.  It's a social game where you are expected to be acting like someone else.  Actually, what happens is most people just act MORE like themselves - more like who they really are without societal constraints.  People get magnified.

Decades of DMing has shown me a lot of interesting interactions.  Friendships were destroyed simply because a player refused to wake his character up for a fight with orcs.  Well, another player did kick his head in multiple times trying to wake him up.  It escalated quickly.  My own relationship with my sister hit a big bump when I refused to let her take a bag she had in the real world into the imaginary game.

Over the years, I've tried to be an arbitrator - a table-top ombudsman - to help settle differences.  But sometimes, people are so different from one another the best thing is to not to keep them in the same crucible.

The differences are not all negative, of course.  I've seen many people far smarter than I play - and been marveled by their ingenuity.  Wittier people as well who have set me off laughing until my stomach muscles hurt.

It was irritating when I was younger, and people were so far from my point of view that I felt like I'd never be able to communicate with them.  But nowadays, I really like it when people are different.  You know, different almost to the point where some type of calamity might happen if we sat in the same room together too long - but not quite passing that line.

Vive la différence.

- Ark

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Nothing Different

The D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge

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

No, I wouldn't do anything different.  I think tomorrow's question is more relevant, anyway.

In the meantime, over to the left is my third try with Prismacolor markers.  I think I'm getting the hang of them.  The big problem is that I don't have an oranges, reds, or yellows.  If I had to do it all over again, I'd probably grab some warmer colors. ;p

- Ark

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge

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


But here is a picture I drew to distract you.  Okay, not really - just still practicing with those new markers.

- Ark

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Tale of Fire and Ice and Grass and Wood

The D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge

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

That's kind of like two questions in one.  Gaming groups are kind of hard to nail down for me - they grow and change over time.  So it's hard to say where one group ended and another began.  Campaigns can be that way too if you stick with a setting and always play in it, no matter who is around.

So, let's limit this to a campaing with a specific group.  Okay - that's easier for me. :)

It would be the Sea of Tears campaign - lasting from the summer of 2008 to the summer of 2010.  It was (gasp) a 4e game in a world that had been flooded so that only the tops of mountains stuck out of the sea.  I had just returned from a lake vacation - thus the aquatic feel.The campaign focused on a save the world plot, and after two years, the party did indeed save the world - twice.

It was a fun campaign and I met some great people.  Sadly, we lost a player at the end due to cancer.  Give the blog a search for Sea of Tears if you are interested in more about it.

- Ark

Monday, February 24, 2014

What is Best in Life?

Prismacolor marker experiment.
The D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge

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

Conan the Barbarian.  Why?

"To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women."

That's why.

- Ark

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Black Blade

The D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge

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

"Black Blade" by Blue Öyster Cult.

Why?  Why?  Because it was written by fucking Elric of Melniboné, that's why.

Oh, and we whee listening to A LOT of Blue Öyster Cult at the time. :)

- Ark

Saturday, February 22, 2014

D&D Books

Coffee shop patron in a small Texas town.
The D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge

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

Dragons of Autumn Twilight was the first D&D novel I read.  My mother had read Quag Keep years before, but her description of it never interested me enough to pick that one up.  I immediately fell in love with the world of Dragonlance.  Fizban was awesome, and even the Kender couldn't sway my interest.

I even remember fretting all summer long (1985) over the sickeningly sappy love triangle, waiting eagerly for Dragons of Spring Dawning to come out.

Then there was the series that went back in time - which was kind of interesting.  But all the stuff that was printed after that - meh.

A year or two ago I went back and read Dragons of Autumn Twilight again.  Nostalgic, yes, but it definitely fits into that whole YA thing, and doesn't really lift it's chin above that pigeon-hole.

The Boy loved the series - that's all that matters. :)

- Ark

Friday, February 21, 2014

Sad Books

A chat at the coffee shop.
The D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge

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

A couple of months ago - actually.

I've lost A LOT of gaming books and modules and paraphernalia over the years.  Moving once or twice a year, not being able to pay the storage bill and having the items auction off, just being stupid - yeah - those all took a huge toll on my collection.  But selling D&D stuff?  No - Never - I Never, Ever, Ever would do that . . .

Oh, wait.  Just before we moved back in December I looked over everything that I was going to have to move and decided that my huge collection of books had to get whittled down.  It was actually easier than I thought - and a trip to Half-Price Books later and all of my 4e stuff was gone.  Weeeeelll - I kept the stuff from the Essentials line.  And the Dungeon Tiles.  And the Minis.

Oh, I did keep the Hammerfast.  The module - um, I mean "Roleplaying Game Supplement," is a neat little dwarven town full of adventures.  It is so unlike any other 4e adventures, it makes you do a double-take.  There is a description of the town, places in the town, people in the town, and possible adventures.  And some maps.  And LINE DRAWINGS.  But no pre-programmed overly scripted combat scenario monstrosities that plague every other facet of 4e.  It really feels like an original D&D product - just scrape out some stat blocks and insert your favorite rule-set.  I'd recommend it.

But the 14 metric tons of rules, adventures, and splat books all went splat.  I still see them sitting on the shelves at the Half-Price Book store three months later - along with everyone else's copies of 4e books.  It seems rather sad.

- Ark

Thursday, February 20, 2014

It's a Secret

He really wasn't this sad.  The sketch just turned out that way.
The D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge

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

While I am pretty sure I bought Gamma World before Top Secret, we actually got in a Top Secret game before the mutant-fest began.

As a kid, I really enjoyed James Bond movies, history, weaponry, geography, politics, and foreign languages and cultures - so Top Secret was perfect.  I loved the name of the first module - Sprechenhaltestelle and enjoyed the name of the game author so much that Merle M. Rasmussen became the name of the agent's handler at the bureau.  Oh - and the percentile dice.  I loved them.  The system - to me at least - made so much more sense than the whole polyhedral thing going on with Dungeons and Dragons.

Interestingly, I never got the Top Secret Companion with its rule changes.  Even when I purchased Top Secret/SI - I just didn't like the rules revamp.  I liked the original rules written for the original boxed set.  As far as I was concerned, they were perfect for the types of games I was running - and I ran Top Secret Games from 1981 till 1987.

Gamma World, on the other hand, didn't make sense to me at all.  Hated it.  It was just completely crazy and non-sequitur.  Of course, it was that way by design - and if I had met Jim Ward back then, it would have clicked. :)

- Ark

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Day 19: First Gamer That Annoyed the Hell Out of You

Two of my current players sitting at IHOP.  The topic of this post is merely coincidental.
The D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge

Day 19: First gamer that annoyed the hell out of you.

Early in my gaming career, the family moved from a real city (Houston) to a not-real-city, Stephenville, TX.  Back then, the town had something like 10,000 people, a Rexall Drug Store, a movie theater with one screen, and absolutely no where to buy D&D supplies.  There were a couple of kids there that liked D&D, but Satanic Panic was pretty heavy there, so it was hard to get a game going.  I just read my old D&D stuff over and over again.

Then, about six months after moving, my mother decides to take a trip 80 miles or so to the nearest mall for a shopping spree.  I high-tailed it to the nearest bookstore - and lo and behold - they had D&D stuff.  I saw this little manila book called Swords and Spells, and had to snatch it up.  That's when HE came in the store.

He was this kid - about as old as I was, who LOVED D&D.  Loved it to tears.  He loved his 87th level Thief/Bard/Magic-user/Ninja/Cyborg/Chiropodist too, and told me all about Magnifidorf the Magnificent's adventures.

For like thirty minutes.

I tried to chew my leg off and limp stealthily away, but no, he was too strong in the force, and held me in place as he accounted for every piece of copper his character had ever found, and recited poems in iambic pentameter lauding his talking, singing, magic vorpal sword of freezing annihilation named Brutus.

Eventually I escaped, reeling from the onslaught.

For decades, I abstained from talking to anyone about the adventures of my characters, or the contents of the campaigns I ran, unless someone specifically asked - and then - I tried to be a brief as possible.  Magnifidorf the Magnificent's player/operator really put the fear in me - the fear of being perceived as a boring, obsessed, geek/dweeb with a thin grasp of reality and even thinner grasp of the patience of others.

Of course, now I blog about that kind of shit. :)

Oh, and if Magnifidorf the Magnificent's player/operator is out there - I'm sorry.  Follow your bliss.  Talk all you want.  I'll make popcorn.

- Ark

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Them there mobile phone addicts at the coffee shop.
The D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge

Day 18: First gaming convention you ever attended.

My first gaming convention was NTRPGCon on 2011.  My experience inspired a few posts:

NTRPGCon - 2011
Get Thee To A Convention
Gaming on a Harley - The DCC RPG Experience
Why I Am Broke
Not Amused Door is Not Amused
Dungeonspiration: Urutsk
That'll Do, Pig. That'll Do.

- Ark

Monday, February 17, 2014

For Every Dollar You Send Me, God Will Give You Two Dollars . . .

Random people at the coffee shop.
The D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge

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

My grandmother threw a fit as soon as she saw the cover of the DMG. She was one of those old ladies who would sign her retirement checks over to Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Oral Roberts, Robert Tilton, Kenneth Copeland, and a host of other proponents of Prosperity Theology. She had learned - on the PTL Club, I think it was, that the Beatles brainwashed children, Ouija boards held demons inside of them, that the Smurfs promoted homosexuality and necrophilia, and that Dungeons and Dragons was the preferred vehicle to proliferate Satanic worship.

She demanded that I turn over all of my D&D books to her so that she could burn them in a bonfire.  Images of Opernplatz danced in my head.  I refused.  My mother backed me up.  The lady did burn my mother's Ouija board though - in secret.

Yay Texas!

- Ark

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Edition War

Entrance to a local coffee house.

The D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge

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

I think the first edition war I ever had was within myself.  When I first got into D&D, I didn't really understand the distinction between the Basic and Advanced sets.  I bought what I could afford - the Basic - and played that.  But those Advanced books always taunted me on the shelves.  Since they were big and thick and more expensive - they surely were better.  Right?  So I began harassing my mother for money until I could get the first three AD&D books.  I don't think I ever played with the Basic after that - except in the guise of the OSR.  Now I look back on Basic as a better all-around game.

So I won -and lost - my first Edition War. :)

- Ark

Saturday, February 15, 2014

My Lawn - You Are On It

The D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge rolls on . . .

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

All RPGs seem to get on my nerves eventually, so the first edition I eventually didn't enjoy was Basic.  But all versions I've played I liked initially.  Well, except 3.5.

Why?  Well, it was very . . . jarring.  I sat down expecting to play some D&D, and instead, I got this game that used some of the D&D words that I was accustomed too - but everything else was so foreign - and too so damn long - that I didn't have a good time at all.  Yeah, yeah, get off my lawn and all of that. :)

I think that Pathfinder improved upon 3.5, but still, it didn't gel with me.

- Ark

Friday, February 14, 2014

AOL Hell

The D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge rolls on . . .

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

Well, sort of.  It wasn't D&D - it was a watered-down version with no DM that you could play in chat rooms on AOL.  But it was definitely roll-play - electronic room dice and everything. :)

And no, she doesn't play anything these days.

- Ark

Thursday, February 13, 2014

By Mattel

The D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge rolls on . . .

Day 13: First miniature(s) you used for D&D.

Actuall, the first miniatures I used for D&D were the minis that came with the Mattel Electronics Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game.  That is sort of cheating - but then again, it's sort of awesome too. :)

On the art front, I got in a big batch of Japanese art supplies - blue lead, pens, etc - and this is the result of me dorking around with them for three minutes.  Wheeeeeee!

- Ark

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Gemini @ Saturn

The D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge rolls on . .

Day 12: First store where you bought your gaming supplies.  Does it still exist?

I found my first fix of D&D at a Waldenbooks in a mall in Clear Lake, Texas.  There was this spinny rack thing with all sorts of books and modules.  I remember it well, and made many, many trips back.

But no, I don't think Waldenbooks exist anymore.

As an aside - at the time, I lived in an apartment behind Mission Control - you know 'Houston, we have a problem.'  Yeah, that place - at the corner of Saturn Lane and Gemini Street.  Some guys from NASA come to our school when Voyager 1 was at Saturn and showed us raw video of the pictures beaming back.  Then, some NASA scientists organized a summer school class to teach us programming.  In 1981.  I wrote a character generator - of course. :)

- Ark

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Revenge of the Dead Simple Lock & Trap Mini-game

About a billion years ago, the OSR Blogosphere was chewing over a method to make dealing with locks and traps more interesting for thieves in D&D.  Taking all of the good ideas, I taped together a method that my son liked - the Dead Simple Lock & Trap Mini-game.

Well, I just got a message from one André LCRJ out of Brazil . . .

Hi, I’m a little late but I only discovered your site now, and I have to say that your idea is fantastic. In fact, I liked it so much that I made a BURP deck for me, in Portuguese (It is a FORS deck actually). But since you were so kind as to share your game I might as well do the same, and I made a deck in english too. The distribution is the same of a standard deck of cards: Four suites from 1 to 10 plus 3 face cards for each suite (Lock, Hourglass & Key). The size of the cards fit a standard card shield. I added a little extra too: At the bottom of each card there’s a “Magic 8-Ball” like sentence, that a DM can use to solve some problem that he might have in the game session. Hope you enjoy.

The deck is HERE.



So thanks, André for the awesome card deck.  Now I need to get it printed out all fancy-like.

- Ark


The D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge rolls on . . .

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

Um . . . I don't understand the question.  I don't think I've ever done that . . . beg . . . that word - no - or splat.


- Ark

Monday, February 10, 2014

First Magazine

On with the Anniversary Blog Hop . . .

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

That would be Dragon #45.  As soon as I found out there was such a thing as a gaming magazine - I was hooked.

Now this dragon over on the left . . . well . . . he needs some work.  Been experimenting with markers.  Apparently I need a heck of a lot more experimentation. :)

- Ark

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Welcome to the D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge!

Day 9: First campaign setting (published or homebrew) you played in.

That one is easy.  I bought The World of Greyhawk folio early on, and everything, by default, happened there until I got around to making my own worlds.

- Ark

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Hardcore Wax Play

Welcome to the D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge!

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

They were in my box, of course.  With a crayon!  We were hardcore back then - rubbing our little no-brand crayons against polyhedral shapes until we got blisters.  I've got some of those dice still - but no, they are too chewed up to use.

- Ark

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Box

Maybe Some Things Shouldn't Be Drawn
Welcome to the D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge!

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

It was the nifty Holmesian box with rulebook, dice, and, the B2 module.  I chucked the box pretty soon after buying it.  It was just in the way and the sides had split with me carrying it around everywhere.  I still have some of the dice, but as for the rest of the contents - well - they are lost to time.

- Ark

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Death Cubed

Welcome to the D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge!

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

I just rolled up another one.  Dime a dozen and all that.


- Ark

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Urlik Banork

Welcome to the D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge!

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

My first character of note, after a slew of hopeless cannon fodder, was a wizard named Urlik Banork.  He was modeled after Gandalf - and I started him as a gray-bearded old man, not some young punk whippersnapper.

He got amazingly high in levels - not from my skill, or even luck, mind you.  Urlik was in multiple campaigns, had multiple DMs, was a Mary Sue NPC sometimes, and sometimes us kids would just narrate adventures with no DM and assign our favorite characters levels on a whim.  Not that, in the early days, we really understood - or cared to understand - all that AD&D had to offer.  We were playing for fun, and all of our characters ended up being '50th level' - whatever that meant.

Urlik was adamant about being Lawful Good and really hated Orcs - so much so that he got his buddies together, raised and army, and wiped the Bone March clean of evil.  At that point, we were only playing with those characters as narration, but still, it was fun to redraw the maps of Greyhawk.

As far as an actual character I leveled up to the tippy-top of the level limit?  Um - never, I'd guess.  At least not the honest way. :)  I was too busy DMing.

- Ark

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Here There Be . . .

Welcome to the D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge!

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

I DMed through most of my early D&D days, and of those characters I played back then, I don't recall ever slaying a dragon. In fact, the first dragon I slew wasn't until WOTC was bringing out the Essentials line, i.e. D&D 4.5.

The Boy and I were playing pre-gens for some sort of demo WOTC was doing. I remember I played the magic user who had the newly revamped magic missiles that auto-hit. And so, our first level PCs went up against a baby dragon.

Okay, now that I think about it, my pre-gen died in a burst of dragon breath. The whole party did, actually, now that I remember it.

So, um, I never did slay a dragon. Dammit.

- Ark

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Tower of Zenopus

Tower of Zenopus with the Stone Mountain in the background.

Welcome to the D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge!

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

The first time I ever player D&D, I DMed - as explained in my previous entry.  I just turned to the back of the blue book and began running my friend through the Tower of Zenopus.  I don't actually recall reading the adventure beforehand - and for years after, I couldn't figure out why there was a giant skull at the top of the tower, and an ancient domed city down below.

There was a lot of confusion about the rules - but we pushed through.  I seem to recall the most horrible monsters were the Green Slime and a randomly rolled Gelatinous Cube.  There was a lot of pc death.  We didn't realize that the party should contain more than one adventurer.  But it was tons of fun.

It's funny how a simple little game could grab my attention and never let go - even after all of these years.

- Ark

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Horror Noir Bayeux Tapestry in the Works

Our gaming group is continuing to play GURPS.  The players seem to like it - it's simple enough to not get in the way of a good story, but complicated enough to handle all of the really weird ideas we come up with.  Oddly, we are still running with the game that I only set up as an experimental venue - that of Horror Noir.

The characters are agents of the Directorate of Esoteric Affairs, a British agency founded to fight and contain weirdness of all shapes and forms.  They've fought zombies in London's Chinatown, undead ghost babies and evil cultists in Scotland, and protected an ancient Egyptian Mummy from a Parisian Gargoyle over the skies of France inside of the Hindenburg.

The party is made up of a tough-as-nails British police investigator, a kung-fu master from China, and a wiley South Afican monster huntress.  Also included in the mix as a Brazilian Mati Hari who was turned into a succubus after interrupting a demon summoning spell, a black-and-white horror film starlet who got waay too intimate with an actual, real life vampire on set, and an American gumshoe who tussled with a werewolf a bit too closely one night.  So, yeah, half the monster hunters have turned into actual, real life monsters over the years.

This time out, five DEA agents vanished on the way to Transylvania, and our intrepid heroes have been sent to Romania to find out what happened.  Below are the visual notes from one of the players.  She plays the South African monster huntress, and has done a great job.  I am fully expecting a complete Bayeux Tapestry workup of all of their adventures soon. :)

Awesome, eh?

- Ark

Fezzes are Cool

Merlin never looked so suave.
Welcome to the D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge!

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

So from the last post, my introduction to D&D wasn't incredibly informative.  But I was in love with the idea of what Dungeons and Dragons might be, so I acquired the Blue Box from the book store in the mall and dove in.

I guess you could more accurately say that Doctor John Eric Holmes introduced me to D&D.  It was his words that flowed into my brain, telling me finally, really, exactly what D&D was.

After perusing the blue box rules, I decided the game was definitely something I should be doing.  I arranged a sleepover with my friend Chris, determined that we could figure the whole thing out.

Hats.  We were sure hats were an important part of the D&D experience.  After all - every hero in the blue book was in a hat, right?  So he both made wizard hats out of construction paper and tape. You have to have your priorities straight - right?  Then we sat on the floor in his room.

Chris rolled up a character, and I began to DM - and play D&D - for the very first time.

Honestly, I have no recollection of what his first character was.  There were a lot of them.  And a lot of death.  Glorious, limb rending, flesh melting death.

Can life be any more enjoyable than that?  I think not.

- Ark

Saturday, February 1, 2014

First One's Free

Dude Whose Name I Can't Remember
Welcome to my first entry in the D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge!

So here is the first topic:

Day 1 : First person who introduced you to D&D.  Which Edition?  Your first character?

I don't remember the name of the guy who introduced me to D&D.  It was back in 5th grade, and he came into class clutching a freshly minted copy of Deities and Demigods.  Yeah, the version with Elric and Fafhrd and the whole gang.

My best friend Chris was in the same class, and we kind of knew the guy, but he was a self-important ass.  He was very much the Major Charles Emerson Winchester the Third to our Hawkeye and B.J. Hunnicutt.  However, I was absoluelty facinated by the book and convinced him to let me take it home to read.

I had no real idea what D&D was - and the book certainly had no explanation as how to play.  But here were gods and goddesses and mythical beasts all transcribed into some sort of classfication system that enabled combat between them.  Wow.

That night I sat down and began writing a game around what I thought the book was about.  I figured the game was something like chess, and each character had different moves on a chess board and dice were used to determine which piece won a battle.  I refer to that game now as 'God Chess.'

Eventually I learned more about D&D, but this was my murky and confused introduction.  :)

Oh, my first character?  Zeus, of course.

- Ark